At ARRK, we offer the optimal methods for small batch production (dozens to hundreds of units) and propose solutions tailored to your needs. Our small batch production covers a wide range of techniques, ensuring that you get the best-fit method from various options. Have you ever faced challenges like “Our prototype worked well, but it was declined due to low quantities for production” or “I want to produce a small quantity, but with the exact shape I envisioned”?
We understand these concerns and desires. At ARRK, we provide small batch production services for materials such as metal and resin, using a variety of processing methods. On this page, we will delve into the details of ARRK’s expertise in small batch production. If you’re specifically considering small batch production, this information will be extremely valuable, so please read on.
ARRK excels in two types of metal processing: “metal machining” and “sheet metal processing.” These two methods enable us to replicate the shapes of most products. Let’s explore these processes in detail.
Metal machining involves using cutting tools like drills and end mills to shape a product from a block of metal. If the shape is cylindrical, we use NC lathes, while other shapes are processed using machining centers. For complex three-dimensional shapes, we might utilize 5-axis machining centers or a combination of NC lathes and machining centers.
Metal machining offers excellent shape replication and high dimensional accuracy, making it ideal for precision product manufacturing. However, keep in mind that extensive machining can lead to longer processing times and higher costs, especially for complex or heavily contoured products. It’s recommended for low quantity requirements since it supports single-unit processing.
Sheet Metal Processing:
Sheet metal processing involves cutting and bending metal sheets to create various products, such as large cases, covers, brackets, or parts used for securing. Cutting is accomplished using turret punch presses for shapes cut out using a generic die or laser cutting machines for high-temperature cutting.
In bending processes, we use brake presses with generic molds for most shapes. Brake presses sequentially bend individual sections. By adjusting pressure and molds, we can control bending angles and widths.
Sheet metal processing also involves welding to join parts or adding tapped holes, making it suitable for products that require assembly. This method is characterized by its ability to manufacture products with small to medium lot sizes at a reasonable cost. It’s well-suited for small to medium production volumes.
Development Prototypes to Low volume production
We have enabled the use of the same cast iron material molds for both development prototypes and small batch production by creating molds in-house.
For trim pierces, we utilize a 3D laser cutting machine, eliminating the need for molds, and no additional production jigs are necessary for small batch production. This approach significantly reduces initial investment and shortens lead times.
When it comes to resin, unlike metal, it’s easy to melt with heat, allowing for mold-based processing even in small quantities. ARRK specializes in the following resin processing methods:
– Vacuum Casting
– Microwave Molding
– Plastic Machining
– Prototype Tooling
For detailed information about resin processing methods, please visit the corresponding links on our website.
Vacuum casting is a processing method that involves creating a mold using silicone rubber based on a model called the master. Resin material is melted and poured into the silicone rubber mold. Two components are essential: the master model and the silicone rubber mold. The actual product shape is generated using processes like machining or photopolymerization, serving as the master model. Since the resin is poured under a vacuum, it uniformly fills even the smallest spaces.
The molds used in vacuum casting are made from silicone rubber, lacking the durability of metals. However, they are easy to create and possess a significant advantage: a single mold can produce a small batch of 1 to 20 units inexpensively. For quantities exceeding 20 units, a new silicone mold is required.
Compared to injection molding, vacuum casting exhibits slightly lower processing precision, and the material is limited to two-component curing resins like polyurethane and epoxy. Additionally, because of the silicone rubber molds, they cannot be used with thermoplastic resins that melt at typical temperatures, so careful selection is necessary.
Similar to vacuum casting, microwave molding utilizes a silicone rubber mold to shape products. The key difference lies in heating the mold using microwaves to melt the resin material. This process employs the same principles as those used in microwave ovens. The use of thermoplastic resins that are commonly used and widely available is possible since the material is melted using heat.
The major advantage of microwave molding is its ability to use typical thermoplastic resins, enabling low-budget, small batch processing using the same materials as injection molding. Microwave molding is particularly suitable for strength testing before mass production.
Because silicone rubber molds are used, this method is limited to producing 1 to 20 units with a single mold. For quantities beyond that, a new mold must be created.
Plastic CNC Machining
Plastic CNC machining, much like metal machining, involves cutting shapes from block-like materials using tools like drills and end mills. If the product is cylindrical, NC lathes are used; otherwise, machining centers are employed.
The absence of molds makes this method suitable for single-unit production. High machining precision makes it perfect for products requiring accuracy. However, since each piece is machined individually, cost-effectiveness diminishes as production quantities increase, making it less suitable for larger batches.
Prototype Tooling refers to a technique where only the mold parts that affect the product shape in regular injection molding are replaced. A cassette mold made of materials like aluminum is attached to the base mold. This method reduces the processing area, saving time for mold creation and decreasing material costs.
While the durability is lower compared to standard molds, simple mold molding allows for product manufacturing under nearly identical conditions as actual mass production. It’s well-suited for cases where production quantities exceed those possible with machining or vacuum casting and for situations where other methods are unsuitable.
Although simple mold molding is more straightforward, mold creation is necessary, resulting in associated costs and lead times when compared to other small batch production methods. If you require moderate quantities and precision, considering simple mold molding is recommended.
In the prototyping stage, it’s not uncommon for designers to focus solely on the product shape without considering production feasibility. For instance, in machining, the mold release angle might not be a concern. However, for small batch production, overlooking such details can lead to substantial cost differences for minor shape variations.
To ensure a smooth transition from prototyping to small batch production, it’s crucial to decide on the appropriate processing method early on. By discussing your project with ARRK, we can assist with the entire development process, helping to reduce costs and meet schedules effectively.