From Design to Market: Metal Prototyping in the Modern World
Rapid Prototyping can be the difference between a contract and a failure.
With advancements in technology and computing, production has surged with the ability to create what once took years in only days or less. With CNC subtractive methods and 3-D printing now available to the home consumer, even the hobbyist now has the ability to prototype his designs without waiting for a machine shop or plastic injector. New products are tested and fitted within hours of the beginning of the design process.
With this new race to completion, manufacturers now compete in days instead of years, and minutes instead of hours. Tools become more and more specialized as production finds individual niches to occupy.
But what comes after prototyping? How do you make the jump from a single laser-cut or CNC'd part to production?
Initial stamping tooling costs are prohibitive for small business. Laser-cutting doesn't scale well without becoming extremely expensive, and intermediate methods become necessary. Often manufacturers will fill this gap with money instead of searching for an economical solution, or just give up all together and switch to plastic or an easier medium.
However, this need for a solution led to the introduction of chemical etching. A CAD-based system, etching allows for the rapid prototyping adjustments without reaching overly extreme tooling costs associated with stamping. By using acid instead of a laser, multiple sheets of parts can be cut simultaneously. This advancement allows substantial growth to fill the void between stamping and single-part methods such as CNC and laser-cutting.
It may be the matter of only a few thousand parts, or a few thousand dollars, but when it comes to escalation of service, chemical etching provides the opportunity to make quick changes without the headaches of stressing over stamping costs. When 24 hours can make all the difference, flexibility and quick revision often save the day you need.
About Northwest Etch
Since 1978, NW Etch has provided precision photo chemical milling services in Tacoma, WA. for a wide variety of metals. Fabricating custom metal parts for a wide variety of industries allows us to proudly state:
"We machine components for the coolest projects, on and off the planet."