First Cut Announces 4th-Axis Machining

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First Cut®, a service from Proto Labs, is delighted to announce the introduction of 4th-axis machining to its innovative, on-line CNC machined plastic parts service.  For readers less than familiar with the vocabulary of CNC, a brief explanation will help to clarify the tremendous benefits to designers of 4th-axis prototype part machining.  But first, an overview of the First Cut process:

When a designer submits a 3D CAD model via the company’s FirstQuote® interactive online quoting system, First Cut’s software automatically writes the toolpaths for its high-speed, CNC milling machines. Since producing the toolpaths is automated (and very fast), customers can order as many or as few parts as they need. It doesn’t matter if it’s a batch of one, or a batch of one-hundred-and-one, there are no non-recurring engineering (NRE) charges.

However, 3-axis machining is typically limited to cutting parts without undercuts because the tool only has access to the top surface of the material at any one time.

‘We have been listening to our customers requirements and monitoring the complexity of parts that are sent through FirstQuote® and as a direct response to what we were seeing we have expanded our capabilities to best meet our customers design requirements.’ says Damian Hennessey, First Cut’s Commercial Manager.  The beauty of our 4th-axis capability is that we can now effectively rotate the machining plane off the vertical axis – what CNC machinists call the Z-axis – which means we are able to produce much more complicated components.’

But, First Cut’s ‘art’ is much more than just 4th-axis CNC machining parts, which, after all, has been around for decades. Before First Cut, the CNC machining process was relatively arcane and only cost-effective for large batches. Designers typically preferred additive rapid prototyping (RP) processes, even though the material options were very limited. Now, thanks to First Cut’s online service anyone can turn a 3D CAD model into a CNC machined part in the plastic that they choose. No compromises! No previous experience required!

‘We’ve developed the First Cut software and designed the First Cut service so that customers can expect the same speed as RP parts but with the added benefit of actual thermoplastic materials, better accuracy and far superior mechanical properties. It’s simple, straightforward and doesn’t require the designer to have any understanding of the CNC machining process. The parts made by First Cut can be nearly indistinguishable from injection-moulded parts and are superior to additive RP parts.’

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