Best Methods to Create Metal Prototypes

Last Updated on October 11, 2023 by assistant

Metal is a popular material for innovators to create prototypes, which have a wide applications in automotive, aerospace, and medical. But why it gets so popular?

-Precision Metal Manufacturing

1). Excellent properties

Metals offer greater strength and durability, which less susceptible to extreme environments. Metal prototypes have a longer lifespan compared with plastics,

2). Surface finish

The machined metal parts have a uniquely smooth and textured surface finish, and we can apply different surface treatments to make these metal parts present various visual effects. The popular surface treatments for metals include oxidation, electroplating, passivation, painting, sandblasting, etc. For plastic parts, the options for surface treatment are relatively limited.

What are the popular prototyping and manufacturing methods for metal parts?

The common metal fabrication methods include CNC machining, 3D printing, sheet metal fabrication, die casting, and aluminum extrusion.

1. CNC Machining

If you are particularly concerned about the precision and surface finish of your metal prototypes, CNC machining is undoubtedly the best choice.

The working principle of CNC machining is that the engineer puts the programmed machining program into the computer. Then the cutters of the CNC machine can accurately cut off excess material on a predetermined track.

CNC Car Parts-WheelIt is suitable for most metal materials. The most common metal materials include aluminum, stainless steel, copper, and more.

Among them, aluminum is considered the most suitable material for CNC machining because of its high machinability and excellent strength-to-weight ratio.

CNC machining is also one of the most commonly used processing methods on the market to process high-precision metal prototypes. At Ruitai, our commonly used 3&4&5-axis CNC machines get the highest precision up to ±0.001mm.

And there is no MOQ for CNC machining.

2. 3D Printing
In recent years, 3D printing prototypes can be seen in almost every industry. Metal is also one of the commonly used materials in the 3D printing.

Metal 3D Printing3Metal Parts

Two advantages of metal 3D printing are high efficiency and flexibility. If you choose CNC machining, it may take days to complete, but 3D printing can print metal prototypes in a few hours.

At the same time, there are complex design projects that cannot be realized by CNC machining, but 3D printing can also help us print them quickly.

3D printing also has three inevitable defects: the surface of the printed part is rough; the material cost is high; it is not precise enough.

3. Sheet Metal Processing
Sheet metal processing does not only include one processing technology but is a collective term for various processing technologies.

Figure1 Sheet Metal FabricationThe four most commonly mentioned machining processes include stamping, cutting, bending, and welding.

It means that multiple machines (such as cutting machines and punching machines) are required to perform multiple processes to produce high-quality sheet metal prototypes.


4. Die Casting
As a processing technique with a long history, die casting is still popular to make high-volume metal parts with complex designs, rather than low-volume prototypes.

Bead Blasting Zinc Die Casting PartsAluminum Die Casting Parts

There are some similarities between die casting and plastic injection molding: it is both by melting the material into a molten state and then solidifying it into a customized part by injecting it into a high-precision mold. The difference is that the process of die casting has more complex processing procedures. If a small error occurs in any one of these processes, it may lead to quality defects in the casting.

5. Aluminum Extrusion
Extrusion is a process of making metal parts with uniform cross-sections through specific dies. It requires large extrusion machines to complete.

At the same time, metal extrusion is commonly applied for large-scale metal parts, and if it is only a small batch of prototypes, the cost is extremely expensive. Aluminum is the most popular material for extrusion because of its high machinability and excellent strength-to-weight ratio.

Banner-Custom Aluminum Extrusion

Metal extrusion is commonly used for producing metal parts. If it is only for a small batch of prototypes, its cost is extremely expensive. Aluminum is a preferred material for extrusion because of its high machinability and excellent strength-to-weight ratio.

Metal prototypes are an integral and important part of new product development. This not only helps innovators to complete prototype design testing in a short period of time, but also saves time and processing costs.

Ruitai is a team of people who focus on manufacturing high-quality metal parts, from small batches to large batches. If you need our help, you can contact us anytime.