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Online Factory Becomes Popular Source for PrototypesOnline Factory Becomes Popular Source for Prototypes


Erik Swain

August 1, 2006

2 Min Read
Online Factory Becomes Popular Source for Prototypes

The automated machining-expert from eMachineShop analyzes a design’s shape, material, and finish. It can also suggest changes.

It is becoming an increasingly popular practice to obtain customized parts for medical devices from an online factory.

The world's first online factory for customized parts, eMachineShop.com, reports that in the several years since its launch, the medical device industry has become one of its leading categories of customer. The site is a subsidiary of Micro Logic (Midland Park, NJ).

The process begins when users download free CAD software from the site and use it to draw up a prototype. The site's automated machining expert analyzes the design's shape, material, and finish and suggests changes if necessary. The user can then preview the finished 3-D design before ordering the prototype and having it shipped.

“Because FDA-approved devices can take many months, or even years, to reach patients, many physicians, medical professionals, and researchers design prototype versions and one-off products,” says Jim Lewis, the company's president. “Whether designing a new part or rerunning an existing one, getting custom parts was time-consuming and costly. [Medical device OEMs] had to buy and learn expensive and complex CAD software, make technical drawings, locate a machining facility, coordinate a compatible file format, discuss the design with an accomplished machinist, sift through price quotations, and write complex purchase orders. This often included paying thousands of dollars more than necessary and adding weeks of delay. In several cases, medical device designers have been so pleased with [eMachineShop] that the parts go on to be included in the full-scale FDA approval process.”

The materials available include a broad selection of metals, plastics, woods, and composites. Surface finishes include brushing, plating, powder coating, anodizing, polishing, and grinding. Processes available include three-axis milling, lathe turning, turret punching, blanking, laser cutting, plastic extrusion, thermoforming, vacuum molding, tapping, bending, and water-jet cutting. Wire EDM, photochemical etching, internal and external threading, cutting of spur gears, injection molding, rubber molding, investment casting, die cutting, welding, forging, and glass cutting are also available.

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