First, rapid prototyping does not mean one specified manufacturing technique, instead, it means a group of techniques used to quickly fabricate a physical part or product.
It has several main machining ways including CNC machining, 3d printing (include SLA, SLS, FDM), rapid injection, sheet metal, vacuum casting…and more.
Normally, the different method leads to different quality and different cost. Thus, choosing the correct manufacturing way is the key to cost. For example, 3D printing is a more cost-effective way than CNC machining for most of prototyping manufacturing.
In most cases, it only needs one machining was to finish one single part, but sometimes may need at least two methods to it. So, it is not easy work to work out an accurate cost for a prototype case.
In another word, there is no fixed price. You send the design drawing to different prototyping manufacturing factories, you may get a different quotation because the quotation engineer has to consider all parameters of cost. But, it is wrong to think prototyping quotation is a subjective work.
Once we follow some kind of quotation rule and consider all parameters, we can work out the most cost-effective manufacturing way for your project, thus, work out the most cost-effective price.
The Main Factors For Rapid Prototype Cost
Quantity is a very important parameter for cost. Larger quantities can help for much higher efficiency and lead to lower unit prices.
For example, the price of 10pcs is not simply 1X of the 1pcs prototype. It may be only 0.5X instead of 1X. In a word, you can get costs down for higher purchasing quantity, the real figure depends on real manufacturing way.
The rapid prototyping part covers a full range of materials including both metal material and plastic material. As for all these various materials on the market, they have big differences in price.
The material takes another big part of the rapid prototyping cost. For example, the material takes up to be 30% to 40% for CNC machining manufacturing way. Thus, choosing the correct material is a key factor affecting the price comparison.
Besides, in one same manufacturing progress, plastics are supposed to be much cheaper than metal. Thus, it is a wise tip to try to use more plastic material if possible.
Normally, a complex structure part means more machining time and a higher cost than a simple part. For example, undercut is a difficult feature for CNC machining, so we need to try to avoid this when we want to use the CNC machining way.
At the same, the bigger size prototyped part takes more cost than the small size part.
Thus, it is important to keep your design as simple as possible, this will help for your machining process and lead to low cost.
CNC machining is the most important way for rapid prototyping. Based on our experience, this progress takes about 30% of the total cost. Therefore, it is important to add processing costs to the budget process.
4. Surface Finishing Treatment
Surface finishing treatment is the last step for prototyped parts, it brings an additional layer on the surface to make your prototypes more beautiful, durable process. The treatment includes “as milled”, polish, spraying, satin finish, sandblasting, silkscreen, laser engraving, and more.
Among all these options, the “as milled” finish is the original finish out from the milling process, thus, it is the cheapest one. But polishing, especially high gloss polishing, normally asks for a long time and takes a high cost. For example, for a big size metal high polish prototype, it might take up to be 30% of the whole cost.
Once you dig into the above four cost parameters, I am sure you will find out the most cost-effective design for your prototyped parts. If not, talk to us for quick advice as we are an experienced rapid prototyping supplier in China.
However, as technology develops fast and people are getting more and more manufacturing experience, I have no doubt there will be more and more cost-effective ways applied in this rapid prototyping industry.