Posted on: July 25, 2018, | By Candy, WayKen Marketing Manager
Current industry is becoming more and more specialized for a single buyer. It means that a certain product is created for the sake of one person. The initial product may have some standard base features but it is still customized for a single client. This is the result of an overall increase in manufacturing technology development and brings about the increase in service. Everyone would agree that we are all different and something made specifically for you would suit your needs much better than a standard product made generally for anyone.
Take shoes, for example. A lot of people have different shoe sizes for the left and on the right foot. Consider the fact that modern industry can make shoes to suit your feet exclusively. When we mention industry, machine shops are at the top of the list in regards to custom parts. They are the ones where a single client can come to have a single part machined especially for him. Sure, the price for such service is quite high right now but it is decreasing as new methods are being implemented. There may come a time when every product will be customized for every client.
What ways exist for product customization?
There are a number of ways for a client to get a customized product:
- Self-development. For example, a client already knows the part he needs and so he can create a drawing or even a 3D model of it and come to the machine shop and just order it to be manufactured.
- Collaborative development. This is a good way for people to get their custom designed and machined parts when they are not completely clear about the design or its outlook. This poses certain requirements for a machine shop, such as a designing department. The customer and this department interact and create the custom design together.
- Adaptive customization. This method makes the job easier for manufacturers but creates a number of restrictions for the customers. The method involves creating a base part, which can be modified according to customer needs. By using this method, the manufacturer is capable of producing large amounts of product with some degree of customization without losing much time on readjusting the manufacturing process.
- Cosmetic customization involves creating a standard product and a number of different “styles” for it. Such as, for example, different colors. This is the easiest way to create customized parts for mass production but it offers only a cursory ability to customize the part.
Machine shop requirements
If a machine shop aims at manufacturing single customized parts for their clients, they have to adjust their production in a certain way. First of all, custom machining involves low volume high number of different parts production. This means that the manufacturer will have to create a new manufacturing process, CNC program for every part from scratch, which make CNC prototyping for a new product easier.
Considering the fact that there are thousands of part types and every part has its own requirements regarding material and geometry, the task for decreasing lead time is the main and the hardest one the manufacturer will have to solve.
In order to lower the time required for finding materials, the manufacturer must have a supply of standard stocks for the most widespread materials.
The shop must also have as many different machine tools as possible. Losing orders just because you have two lathes and no grinding machines is a bad strategy. Same things can be said about tooling and cutters.
The manufacturer must be ready to produce as many different types of parts as possible. In other words to be ready for anything.
CNC machining of custom parts
Modern low volume production is very different from mass production. This type of manufacturing is becoming more and more popular with an increased demand for custom parts, so a lot of research and development is aimed at increasing the efficiency of flexible manufacturing systems.
CNC machine tools play a large role in the flexibility of part creation. Only 10-15 years ago, in order to create a part with some complex surfaces, a lot of additional manufacturing had to be done (i.e. creating a pattern for the machine tool to follow required manual labor) so complex parts were mostly produced for mass production or using manual labor, which was long and expensive. Today, a CNC program replaces all of those things. In addition to that, specialized computer-aided manufacturing systems have been developed that greatly decrease the time required to create such a program.
Modern tool mechanisms allow the manufacturer to install a large number of tools on the lathe so that the time required to change them during the machining processes is minimal.
A range of standardized fixtures and jaws has been developed to cover most of the current machining needs. Those fixtures usually consist of a number of single elements that can be assembled together on the working table of the machine tool in order to secure the part during the machining phase. Sure, they have lower precision than specialized fixtures but this disadvantage has been canceled out by modern measuring systems.
Almost every type of modern CNC machine tool can be mounted with a special touch probe. This probe is then used to measure the stocks actual dimensions and position after fixing it, completely negating the error of locating. It can also be used to measure the actual dimensions of the part at certain stages of the manufacturing process to ensure that if any error takes place, it is found and corrected early on and there is as little loss of time as possible.
Recent achievements in regards to manufacturing automation and computerization have greatly decreased the lead-time that is required for the part to be manufactured. The peak of current industry development is a flexible manufacturing system, specifically designed to create a large number of single unique parts. All of that makes it possible to lower the prices for custom parts to be manufactured for single customers and consumers. It can be said that machine shops can finally manufacture unique products for everybody.