Understand the steps of CNC rapid prototyping

May 22, 2022

By siedery

The CNC Rapid Prototyping process is often referred to as CNC-RP. CNC-RP is popular for its precision, dimensional stability, and consistent quality. However, to achieve high-quality CNC-RP, the process must be followed carefully. This article discusses the steps involved in CNC-RP to achieve the best possible prototype results.

CNC Rapid Prototyping process

Rapid prototyping is the process of generating or manufacturing a virtual product to test functionality and the chance of failure before final production. Rapid prototyping can be accomplished by using a variety of methods. Digital CAD/CAM prototypes, assembled functional prototypes, 3D printed prototypes, and CNC machined prototypes are a few popular rapid prototyping methods. Of all the methods, CNC rapid prototyping is a very popular method for developing virtual and functional rapid prototypes.

The step-by-step process of CNC-RP (CNC Rapid Prototyping)

The steps involved in the CNC-RP process are as follows.

Design concept:

Design conception is the main step in rapid prototyping. In this step, the product designer or product engineer creates several possible designs for the product. These ideas may include dimensioning and positioning of features, design for manufacturing and assembly (DFMA), design for testing (DFT), etc. Once all ideas have been created, a number of valid designs will move on to the next step.

Generation of 3D files:

CNC production relies on 3D files, such as CAD designs. The selected design is therefore converted into a 3D file. The 3D file defines all dimensions, features, and aesthetic specifications of the final product.

Identification of the production sequence:

Once the 3D file has been generated, the machining process to generate each feature will be identified. At the same time, the sequence of manufacturing steps determines the use of a seamless CNC machining cycle to produce the prototype. CNC machining prototype production may involve various manufacturing processes such as CNC routing, CNC turning, CNC cutting, CNC milling, CNC drilling, etc.

CNC programming:

Use the CNC program to provide the CNC machine with instructions on the sequence and tool operation of the CNC production process. The program includes G-codes and M-codes to instruct the CNC machine which tool to select, tool travel time and distance, feed rate, depth of cut, etc. All instructions are embedded in the CNC program, allowing automation of CNC rapid prototyping according to production requirements.

Note: The programming process includes calculations for feed rate, depth of cut, number of runs, tool travel distance, etc. The calculated values are inserted into the G-code or M-code to create the CNC program.

Production (prototyping):

Once the CNC program is ready, it is set up in the CNC panel of the CNC machine. Once the workpiece is mounted on the tool and the machine is set to run mode, the seamless CNC machining process begins. As a result of the multiple CNC machining processes on the workpiece, a prototype of the desired product is realized. Prototypes can be virtual or fully functional.

Note: For some fully functional prototypes, the different parts are manufactured separately by CNC machining and then assembled. For prototypes that include mechanical linkages, interconnecting components, etc., this step is additional.


Testing is the last and most important step in CNC rapid prototyping. The ultimate goal of rapid prototyping is to test the functionality of the desired product and to check for errors and fault ranges. Therefore, the CNC prototype is then tested for functionality, defects, durability, and overall performance.

Once the CNC prototype has been tested and approved by product specialists, the final product is put into production. If the prototype does not meet the original requirements, the second best idea of the prototype is selected and CNC machined to check the same aspects.

As CNC rapid prototyping is a fairly strategic process that requires skilled staff for process identification, CNC programming, and CNC operation, it is best to obtain these specialist services from a specialist CNC machining company such as Siedery.

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