Posted on Sept 9th, 2019 | By WayKen Rapid Manufacturing
When Henry Ford invented his first automated line to manufacture automobiles, he actually created a whole industrial revolution. In a matter of years, we could see perfectly identical high-quality products in the shops made by automated assembly lines. And people were happy about the cheap goods that would otherwise cost them a fortune if ordered personally. Nowadays, the modern consumer is tired of being just the same as his neighbor with his stock car, iPhone and clothes. People have become richer and they are in a dire need for individuality. That's where custom prototypes come in. Without further preamble let's look at why custom prototyping is going to overcome mass production in the future.
Customization Highlights Your Individuality
As I've said before, the public is tired of stamps. Modern banking and lots of accumulated fortunes allow us to get even expensive gadgets and cars relatively easily. That's why everyone has anything. If you buy a new model of a Lexus, I'm sure, not even a day will pass that you see an exact copy of your car.
However, let's imagine that you've ordered custom prototype lights for your Lexus. No one will have the same lights and what's more, you can participate in the design and make them as fancy as you wish, add light guides, for instance. Customization is that way. You can make any object to be unique or modify it to be that way.
The Result Fits You Perfectly
I'm sure all of you have bought anything: let's say, clothes, boots, furniture, etc. just to see that it doesn't fit as perfectly as you would like. Same things can be said for phones, cars, and appliances. Perhaps there is a feature you'd like to have but it wasn't accounted for in the mass production. Up until now, all we could do was simply choose one of the mass products that could fit us better or we would just bear with it.
Modern custom manufacturers can fit any product for you perfectly. Just look at 3D-scanning technologies. They allow the engineers to take your measurements in a matter of minutes and fit the designed part to fit perfectly, whether it is your foot, an installation hole for a car light or a prosthetic.
Rapid Product Development Makes Automated Lines Less Efficient
When mass production was first introduced, you could make one automated line and manufacture the same model for years to come. Modern society wants more. A new iPhone is issued every year, a new car modification every couple of years or so. There is just no more time for designing and manufacturing complex mass production lines. The industry needs rapid prototypes, rapid manufacturing, flexible equipment and a greater deal of customization to satisfy even the most demanding customer.
The Newest Technologies Are All Aimed at Custom Prototypes Development
As we know, modern industry develops at a tremendous rate. New techniques and equipment appear to increase the efficiency of manufacturing according to the wishes of the customers. And what do we see from this analysis? The unmistakable trend towards custom prototyping, individual orders, small-batch manufacturing of highly customized products. The proof of that trend is visible in the recently invented and perfected manufacturing techniques. The majority of them relate to flexible, rapid prototyping methods, rapid machining manufacturing. Generally, each method is aimed at increasing the customization of the product the consumer will get.
Additive manufacturing or 3D-printing is the ultimate method for rapid manufacturing of plastic prototypes and metal prototypes. Its unique layer-by-layer technology combines the most advanced developments of the 20th Century: lasers and computer programmed movement. Not only does it make plastic prototypes with a large variety of material properties but it does so without any need for special tooling, instruments or blanks.
Custom prototyping is the perfect area for 3D-printing since it has nor regard towards geometry complexity and it doesn't need setting up before each type of parties to be manufactured (like it is with CNC machining). The pinnacle of customization in 3D-printing is making artificial bones of titanium, prostheses, and metal teeth implants.
Vacuum casting is the advanced version of silicone casting - a method for manufacturing plastic prototypes by pouring liquid polymer into a previously created silicone mold. Right now this method is perfect for small batches of prototypes for small groups of people that want custom goods or conducting live condition tests for previously developed prototypes. Silicone casting has always been a hobbyist thing but with the development of vacuum casting, Prototyping shops have adopted this method as well. Just don't forget that you'll need a master model for that. I suggest ordering a metal one from a CNC machining shop for longevity. Then, you can just make a lot of silicone molds and your small batch may become medium-sized or even large.
Machining has always been and is still considered a very fundamental, complex way of manufacturing. When we mention machining, people think large plants, sturdy machinists standing at complex-looking contraptions making parts by the thousands and putting them into boxes for further transportation. Modern machining shops are nothing like that. A place with just a couple of CNC machine tools can now manufacture a gigantic variety of products. And it has all become easier. You don't need a technical degree anymore. Just bring the sketches of your customized vape, car steering wheel or even a sculpture. Pick any material or ask the shop, which one will suit better depending on the material properties and how the part will work and leave everything else in their capable hands.
Modern machine tools are programmed with computer numerical control. The cutter moves according to a program with extreme precision so it's possible to manufacture even very complex parts fast and with a small cost.
Custom Prototyping Speeds Increase Drastically
All modern technologies have drastically decreased the time required to manufacture rapid prototypes. For example, a 3D-printer can make a middle-sized part in two days. Silicone molding a batch can take a week and so can CNC Machining. With such speeds, it is possible to get custom products almost as fast as mass-produced ones. Especially since the shipping cost and time are the same.