Back in August of this year British-owned, Chinese-based Star Prototype launched of its new AddSub service which combined the time and complexity benefits offered by additive technologies and the finishing and materials benefits of five-axis CNC machining. In order to realise this vision Star Prototype have enlisted Delcam’s PowerMILL CAM software.
"Many metal 3D printed parts are no longer used as prototypes but as complex low-volume manufactured components,” explained Gordon Styles, president of Star Prototype. "As a result, many of these parts need certain high-precision features that are virtually impossible to produce with 3D printing alone. Problems arise because most 3D printing companies don't carry out secondary machining, meaning the customer needs to take care of the finishing work themselves or farm it out to a separate specialist machining bureau.”
With the AddSub process, Star Prototype first uses its Renishaw AM250 3D printer to produce extremely dense, high complexity metal parts that are often not possible to produce using traditional machining techniques. The Renishaw equipment uses direct metal laser melting to produce components in titanium, stainless steel or aluminium.
The resulting parts are then finish machined on a recently acquired Haas five-axis machine programmed with PowerMILL. Star Prototype sees this combination as being ideal for the production of mating faces, precision bores, tapped holes, spigots and other very necessary high-precision features. Whenever possible, the parts are built on the AM250 in the correct orientation, with machining supports designed so that the build plate can be transferred directly to the five-axis machine.
Star Prototype was founded in 2005 by British engineer, Gordon Styles, after the sale of his Styles RPD company to ARRK. After initially managing the production of parts by Chinese suppliers for UK and US companies, Star Prototype began manufacturing in its own right in 2009. Having always used Delcam software in his UK companies, Mr. Styles again chose to use PowerMILL in his Chinese machine shop.
Star Prototype now uses PowerMILL to program a range of milling machines, predominately from Haas but also from Hurco and from local Chinese suppliers. With its Delcam software, the company can machine quickly parts in either plastic or metal to a high standard of accuracy and surface finish.
"Star Prototype is world-renowned for its CNC machining capabilities, and its forward thinking approach to adopting new technology and improving the service we provide to our customers,” continued Mr. Styles. "AddSub was very much born out of a combination of our established prototyping and machining services. We are confident it will prove of enormous benefit to businesses across the globe, particularly to companies in the motorsport, aerospace, military, medical and dental fields.”