The machine tool seems to have taken backseat these days in the world of prototyping, research, and product development.
The latest solutions in rapid prototyping (RP) certainly have their place - delivering a quick facsimile can really help to sell a design and get marketing people motivated.
However, after the initial excitement wears off, the problem of product engineering remains. Real product testing requires real products. Not aesthetically correct presentation models, but objects made of production materials built to manufacturing tolerances; not the limited materials and tolerances of the RP technology at hand.
Until recently there has been a tremendous gap between the desktop tools of the engineering office and the behemoth CNC tools of a production machine shop. The size, cost and complexity of big CNC machinery generate a cash flow demand that can only be fed by a constant workload.
To make economic sense, the machines need to be in a production environment. They’re simply not suitable for R&D.
What design organizations need is a tool they can afford to keep at-the-ready which is smaller and easy to use, but can also deliver prototype parts that are identical to the future production parts.
The solution is a concept called Personal CNC and is the design philosophy of Tormach’s PCNC 1100 mill. Dimensional accuracy is essential in prototyping. With a rigid cast iron frame, precision ground ballscrews and a 5,000 RPM spindle, the PCNC 1100 can deliver the same accuracy you expect from a production machine.
Typical factory precision is an inherent feature of Personal CNC but a characteristic that continues to challenge RP technologies, even though their price tags can be much higher.
Whether parts are aluminum, plastic, steel, titanium or even composite materials, the days or weeks waiting for outsourced parts can be reduced to a few hours with a personal in house. Your team is more nimble and your project development will be quicker.
The personal CNC is a machine tool right-sized for engineering development. At 1,500 lbs, this is no desktop router, but it’s still easy to move with a pallet jack. It’s simple to operate and easy to maintain because it isn’t burdened with typical factory features like an automatic tool changer. There’s no need for three-phase power or compressed air, and you don’t need a rigger to install the machine.
Versatility is a key. When combined with a simple CAM program, the CNC can perform as an Subtractive Rapid Prototype (SRP) system to make quick plastic models. Combined with a conventional CAM program it can cut tool steel for making production molds. The functionality of a PCNC 1100 can be extended with accessories like a fourth axis, duality lathe, and even a digitizing probe for reverse engineering. Whether projects are simple or complex, a personal CNC brings capability and agility to product design teams, breaking development barriers without breaking department budgets.