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Proto Labs 'First Cut' service adds 4th machining axis

27 April 2009

First Cut, a service from Proto Labs, has introduced 4th-axis machining to its on-line CNC machined plastic parts service. 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.’

‘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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