Sometimes overlooked despite its obvious advantages, CNC machining remains a traditional – and necessary – manufacturing method.
The CNC process suits prototyping because it enables real material parts without the need for tooling or mimicking it in another method such as 3D-printing or vacuum casting,” explains Sebastian Stanley, Managing Director, Complete Fabrication (Compfab).
“If you’re developing a component that’s going to be machined in polypropylene or nylon and you want to test it in that material, we can only simulate that unless we actually manufacture it in nylon,” he continues. “So, if you want it in nylon, then the only options are affordable CNC machining or the expensive and time-consuming injection tool and mould method.”
Suzanne Boyce (‘Suzie’), Compfab’s CNC manager, further explains how CNC machining is usually a necessity rather than a ‘cheap option’: “In the development process, it’s more cost-effective to use the CNC process than commission injection moulding. And, for low-volume production, it’s more about functionality than cost because the test model may need to be a strong component or load bearing.”
Sebastian adds that the process also means a fast response to customer’s orders, with the automation allowing for high precision and increased production speed, making the process efficient and accurate. A CNC-machined prototype will also perform the same way as the production piece, providing a reliable, solid test.
He says that while the company’s prototypes support world-class design consultancies, the team is equally happy working with customers to find creative solutions for small projects.
“It’s a rapid way to achieve actual material parts without the need for tooling for real-life testing,” he explains. “One of the advantages of fit-for-function parts is being realistic to the moulded production intent rather than using 3D-printing for destructive testing and troubleshooting. The actual material part can used for a destructive or lifetime test instead of trying to simulate it with a 3D print.
“We don’t compete on technology as our flexible approach uses out-of-the-box thinking to achieve the machine parts. Some companies don’t try to cut new ground or find innovative solutions. Collaborative design development gets results – that’s our competitive edge, reflected in the attitude of our team and the people behind the technology.
“Our reputation as creative problem solvers is one reason we’re thrilled to have Richard Leeder on the team as our Senior CNC Engineer,” he continues. “Richard relishes the work diversity, ranging from large anti-terrorist device components to tiny parts for an auto-injector. For example, we created some CNC-machined prototypes with tight, tiny tolerances the client hadn’t managed to get done elsewhere. It was quite challenging to get it to where it was, and they were super happy.”
Suzie adds that the company’s collaborative approach includes inviting clients to visit onsite to fine-tune parts to find the optimum results, which is another reason to value Richard’s expertise.
“We have clients come in and sit with the team, and the parts get fine-tuned in real time by Richard to work efficiently,” she says. “We’re always happy to welcome customers for an onsite team meeting to iron out designs with Richard, and get advice on what can be achieved. He has a unique way of thinking that combines traditional methods with innovative design.”
While Compfab’s teamwork is an essential factor in the company’s success in consistently providing results, Suzie adds that the CNC machining’s reliable product quality also helps her ensure the smooth running of the department: “After programming and proofing the test piece, we can then run the same part repeatedly, with guaranteed accuracy each time. It’s a repeatable, measurable process that gives us a competitive edge in helping solve our customers’ challenges.”
Sebastian concludes: “As always with Compfab, teamwork gets results – so challenge us to find your creative solutions!”