Digital Fabrication Process: Tools to Get You to Your Final Product
Leveraging efficiency gains of the digital fabrication process brings some exciting and game-changing benefits to manufacturing. This computer-driven manufacturing process introduces higher accuracy levels in production and gives businesses a keener eye for quality controls. Products created using digital fabrication use three procedural classifications: additive, formative, and subtractive.
The process that drives your project to completion is consistent regardless of the chosen manufacturing method, meaning tools for each step in the digital fabrication process will also be consistent. The compatibility of tools and procedures allows you to develop a production strategy that can be effectively applied to all of your projects with little or no modification, allowing you to develop and manufacture high-quality items quickly.
Design Tools to Drive Your Digital Fabrication Process
You cannot start the digital fabrication process without first developing inclusive and efficient design procedures. A successful design stage will involve performing several fundamental tasks that must be well-thought-out to ensure the remaining steps’ success. At the core of your design strategy, these tasks must include:
- Brainstorming design includes all stakeholders, especially engineers, CAD designers, sales teams, and product management teams
- Encouraging an open forum when it comes to product feedback throughout the design stage
- Choosing the right tools to create virtual representations and measurements of the product
- Ensuring those tools can also be used for any future product development projects
The tools required to drive the design activities for digital fabrication revolve around the CAD drafting software you select. The most effective CAD drafting tool will provide the ability to test complex calculations in a virtualized environment, streamlining the next two steps in the digital fabrication process. A powerful CAD drafting toolset will also present you with the ability to create design templates and in-program design management to reduce errors and time.
Prepare Your Product for Prototyping and Validation
With a precise virtual model of the product completed, you can focus on making a physical representation of your design. Creating a prototype of your design brings digital testing and validation to life. It presents customers with something that can be touched and interacted with to improve their feedback quality. This extra layer of scrutiny in the development process shortens the testing time and lowers overall design costs.
The tools required to accomplish this takes on an additional physical form through the use of necessary machinery and materials to build a rapid prototype. Digital renderings of the product and selection of materials will help your project team determine the most effective way to generate a physical prototype. In digital fabrication, the most common of these options will be through the subtractive CNC machining technique or the additive methodology of 3D-printing.
These options will give the same CAD software used in the first step of the process a new vital role. The ability to send a design directly to the manufacturing output method of choice via CAM data, and with very little need for human interaction, presents you with an almost “set it and forget it” approach when creating a prototype. Blending digital fabrication production tools with CAD technologies will have you ready to move into full-scale production faster.
Using Your Digital Tools to Ramp Up Production
The last stage of the digital fabrication process is suited to outsourcing to an experienced manufacturing partner. Taking this approach helps you avoid the common mistakes of scaling up production before there is a demand for the product or producing too high a volume to allow for in-flight product refinement. With your designs already tucked away in a digital file, transitioning projects to an innovative-minded third party can be efficiently accomplished.
Adding a valued team of engineering and manufacturing consultants to your project is simplified when using a digital fabrication process. In addition to the ability to send projects to your manufacturing partner without location limitations, the consulting team will likely possess a comprehensive digital design library at their fingertips. Such resources will provide an experienced and well-versed set of third eyes analyzing your project designs’ innermost complexities.
Some of the manufacturing options that you will gain when you leverage the skills and flexibility of a manufacturing consultant are:
- 3D-laser scanning to ensure the utmost in product precision
- The opportunity to utilize prismatic or non-prismatic geometry
- Data-driven strictness in surface modeling and shaping
- The ability to reverse engineer any part or product for reproductions or troubleshooting
- Easy use of custom models or casts
These options provide a lot of insights into how you can utilize state-of-the-art manufacturing tools without investing in them yourself. You gain the advantages of low overhead costs, maximized flexibility in design and modification turnarounds, and getting your product into the marketplace fast, all without worrying about cutting corners on quality or intended features. It makes sense to consider an engineering and manufacturing partner as the best tool for creating your product.
PRL’s engineers have dozens of manufacturing options available to help you solve any challenge facing your product: CNC machining, custom tooling, 3D printing, thermoplastic molding, reverse engineering, and more. No matter what stage your product is currently at, we can create it and optimize it for manufacturing.