China-based WayKen Rapid Manufacturing are offering a new class of manufacturing that comprises many different types of methods and processes. They call this new manufacturing workflow ‘Low-Volume Manufacturing’. It’s a high-speed form of prototype-to-product development that works with virtually every engineering material from high-strength thermoplastics to manufacturing metals. The company is offering its services in this field to industrial partners.
Low-Volume manufacturing is all about speed of product development. The key aim of this kind of product development is to help companies in a range of industries to go from a basic prototype to a proper, market-ready, good in an economically efficient, high-speed time frame of 2 – 3 weeks. The company also considers the low-volume manufacturing as a bridge between rapid tooling and hard molding. Through a mixture of the advantages of both methods (and more) they can achieve a production efficiency like no other.
Aside from the wide range of materials, the method also allows for design changes without any costs related to tooling changes. This allows for the production of customised products. The company is looking to target automotive, medical and healthcare industries, all of whom have a particular interest in production of high-quality products and prototypes at rapid speeds. While the manufacturing process is one single workflow, it contains four key methods within it:
- Urethane Vacuum Casting.
- Low-Volume CNC Machining.
- Rapid Aluminum Tooling.
- Rapid Injection Molding.
Prototype – Urethane Vacuum Casting
The first step in any production is prototyping. Vacuum casting allows for the building intricate prototype molds out of any material based on a master model or a 3D solid of a digital model. If a master model is not available, WayKen use CNC machining to build one for their work procedure. Once there is a master model to work with, WayKen can create a silicone mold with Urethane casting.
UVC allows for the production of small numbers of plastic prototype duplicates using the master mold. The method has multiple advantages including a range of possible resins and perfect surface textures. Molds can often take a few days to make but they streamline the whole production process and are immensely accurate at duplication.
Low-Volume CNC Machining
As far as accuracy and intricacy of production parts goes, it’s hard to beat CNC machining. It plays a valuable role in bespoke manufacturing for machine parts made of plastics or metals. At a low-volume level, CNC machining can properly utilise that same accuracy while also maximising set-up times and short turnovers to produce production-grade components at a rapid rate, which in turn, provides designers the ability to improve on the initial design.
Another great feature of low volume CNC machining is that it is efficient for both the consumer and the producer. The technology tends to have little wastage and high precision, which prevents costs from excess materials affecting the production’s overall costs.
Rapid Aluminum Tooling
Rapid aluminum tooling is best for th production of validation versions of products as opposed to finished parts. While the process produces hundreds of high-quality parts, it only constitutes a bridge from the prototyping to production stages. Simply put, it is best for when a company needs as close to a real working model as possible. It’s core uses are far more relevant to research and development than end product production.
The process uses aluminum primarily because it’s far easier to cut than steel. Aluminum tooling also has a lower cycle time and lower level of costs while also providing a shorter lead time. In fact, ordinarily, rapid tooling methods can be 30-50% cheaper than traditional methods (taking material costs into account). It’s a great way for companies to get a preliminary idea of the look and feel of their final product.
Low-Volume Rapid Injection Molding
Quite often, companies may have need for actual production-grade parts within a brief time period. Low-volume Rapid Injection Molding is a good option for any firm that might find themselves in such a dilemma. Much like the other processes that low-volume manufacturing, rapid injection molding is also great for cost efficiency.
Rapid injection molding can greatly cut a project’s production time through bridge tooling, a stage in the development process where there is a need for moulded parts but production tooling is unavailable. This can greatly assist in the pre-production stages and especially in product evaluation.
The process employs not only CNC but also Electrical discharge machining, a method where the material is given shape through the use of electrodes. The use of both methods gives the system a versatility that not many other form of production can achieve. The intricate geometries that these two methods can create in confluence with each other are difficult to parallel.
Another advantage is that the frame system allows users to pick from aluminum and steel. Aside from their structural qualities there are a few other advantages. In general P20 steel provides a finer glossier look, although this can take longer to fully prepare as its a finer material.
Originating from Hong Kong, WayKen’s factory is located in the ShenZhen area in China. The company has long since specialised in plastic prototyping and metal machining. They have defined their vision as one of exploring the creative fields and serving customers while striving for excellence.
WayKen caters to companies all over the world, from independent inventor designers to large Automotive, Medical, Household Appliance makers to Aerospace companies. This same trend can be seen in their applications of Low-Volume Manufacturing technologies.
Their new offerings in Low-Volume Manufacturing are a bold step, to be sure. All the processes that make up this manufacturing workflow are sure to be popular among client companies for their high quality production. With WayKen’s help, they can manage their production chains more efficiently and accelerate the delivery of critical products.
A special thanks to WayKen for providing all of the relevant information and images used in this article. All images are the property of WayKen.