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Low-Volume Production

High-Quality at Low Volumes

Low volume manufacturing has historically been an under-served market due mainly to cost. High volume manufacturing allows customers to spread the expense of tooling and machine set up over thousands of pieces, effectively negating the expensive up-front costs over time. Low volume manufacturing is a much trickier proposition. Many companies shy away from jobs they see as low profit and customers may be scared off by the expensive, upfront costs required for some manufacturing processes. Customers may be forced to compromise when it comes to material choice, manufacturing process, and design features. Fathom Digital Manufacturing will not compromise when it comes to the needs of our customers. Fathom provides quick turnaround 3D prototyping, low-volume production, and sub-assembly operations. Our experienced engineering staff and craftsmen can assist in determining the best approach to meet and exceed your expectations regarding production needs, costs, and schedules.

Fathom Digital Manufacturing excels at low volume manufacturing, offering a variety of technologies specifically designed for customers seeking prototypes or just a handful of parts, products, or assemblies. Low volume manufacturing provides a level of customization not attainable with store-bought parts. Color can be matched to existing branding and a variety of materials are available depending on intended product use. 3D prototyping is ideal for testing form, fit, and function. Advance parts can also be used for marketing or raising venture capital.

The Next STEP in Low Volume Manufacturing

Fathom has partnered with Evolve Additive Solutions to present the next step in additive manufacturing. The Evolve Scaled Volume Production™ (SVP) system is the newest generation of 3D printing technology, marrying the speed and design freedom of additive manufacturing with the robust durability of traditional manufacturing. The Evolve SVP™ is the first 3D printing machine to feature the revolutionary Selective Thermoplastic Electrophotographic Process (STEP).

STEP printing, like many additive manufacturing technologies, builds parts layer by layer. The Evolve SVP™ prints with layers of ‘voxels’ or 3D pixels. The voxels are 22-microns thick and can be laid down with extreme accuracy. The printing technology allows voxels of different materials and different colors to be placed next to each other. This means parts can be printed in multiple colors with multiple materials in one shot.

The Evolve SVP™ is capable of manufacturing full-color, 3D printed parts with the same materials used in conventional manufacturing processes like injection molding. This machine eliminates the need for costly tooling and can complete processes akin to overmolding, manufacturing parts with two different materials, in a matter of hours instead of weeks and months. This will save customers time and money while producing parts with the look, feel, and structural stability of injection-molded products. Time to market is reduced dramatically with the ability to go from Computer Aided Design (CAD) file, to prototype, to production seamlessly in a matter of days. One-off parts and discontinued reproductions are no longer out of reach due to up front costs or lengthy set up times. The Evolve SVP™ excels at low volume production but can be used for medium to higher volume as well. Talk to the experts at Fathom to find out if the Evolve SVP™ and STEP is right for your next project.

Advanced and Additive Manufacturing

Fathom Digital Manufacturing has over 450,000 sq. ft. of production space spread across the country. We specialize in additive and advanced manufacturing with the ability to produce parts, products, and assemblies in a variety of plastics and metal.

Learn more about our small volume production capabilities //

What is Low Volume Manufacturing?

Low volume manufacturing is the production of parts or assemblies in limited quantities. This can be done for prototyping, discontinued reproduction, or various other reasons that typically require less than 100 parts. Low volume manufacturing can be expensive with traditional machining methods as the cost of production is divided between each part produced. The overhead costs of traditional manufacturing methods like injection molding or CNC machining involve tooling, materials, and labor. Fathom uses a hybrid approach that incorporates both conventional manufacturing methods and additive manufacturing to reduce cost and turn around time. Additive manufacturing keeps the cost of entry low by eliminating material waste, tooling labor, and machine setup.

Why Has Low Volume Manufacturing Become Popular?

Low volume production has seen a steady surge of popularity in recent years as it allows our customer’s to spend less on manufacturing while speeding time to market. It reduces unnecessary exposure and risk by keeping inventory to a minimum while providing the opportunity to test markets and products before making a long-term commitment to production. Additive manufacturing has also allowed brands to respond to design changes quickly. Traditional manufacturing methods such as plastic injection molding may still be the best choice when the project requires a higher volume of parts.

Advantages of Low Volume Production

There are many advantages to low volume production. Some of the benefits include //

  • Get to Market Faster // Depending on the manufacturing process, products can be pushed to market in a matter of days or weeks instead of months. Some industries change at a rapid pace and low-volume production can help you stay ahead of changing trends.
  • Advance Feedback // Gather customer feedback before doing high-volume production. Provide marketing teams with samples. Ideal for testing form, fit, and function.
  • Reduce Tooling Cost // Additive or digital manufacturing works directly from a CAD file. The file is used to build the item from the ground up. There is no need for tooling or expensive and time-consuming machine set up.
  • Short Lead Times // High-volume production requires specialized tooling. The metal molds for injection molding can be expensive and may take weeks to machine. Additive manufacturing or 3D printing significantly reduces lead-time by eliminating the need for a mold or tooling.
  • Respond Quickly to Design Changes // Reduce costs and experience shorter production time with the ability to quickly make design changes. Quick and easy design adjustments without changing the total number of products needed or modifying existing tooling. The result is greater flexibility and savings while reducing waste.

Low Volume Production Processes

Fathom offers many different technologies that are capable of small-batch production with customization including CNC machining, 3D printing, even injection molding thanks to advances in technology like Conformal Cooling with Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)Speak with the experts at Fathom to find out which low volume manufacturing process will work best for your next project.

About CNC Machining 

CNC machining is a manufacturing process that uses pre-programmed computer software to direct the movement of machinery and cutting tools. CNC machining can control a variety of complex machines, including mills, router, grinders, and lathes. Using CNC machining allows three-dimensional cutting tasks to be accomplished with a single set of prompts. This process has become popular because there is no need for a live operator to control the machine, allowing for complex designs that are infinitely repeatable. The CNC machine is activated after the cuts are programmed into the software and then communicated to the tools.

Benefits of using CNC Machining for Low Volume Production //

  • Quicker Turnaround // CAD file to cutting can be done in days depending on the design.
  • Cost Efficient // Minimal monetary investment to set up tooling and prep the machine.
  • Scalable // Move from prototyping to production easily.
  • Material Choice // Wide variety of materials. Choose from both metal and plastic.
  • Accurate // Computer control guarantees accurate cuts.
  • Repeatable // Computer control using the same datum will deliver the same part time and time again without deviation.

About 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is a process that uses different types of technologies to build parts in successive layers. The process starts with a digital blueprint found in the CAD file. Alternatively, a scan of an object may be taken. The software then builds the design layer-by-layer, making instructions for the additive manufacturing machine to follow. The design is then fed to the device and the product is produced.

Benefits of using 3D Printing for Low Volume Production:

  • Weight Reduction // Parts can be built with intentional voids to reduce weight.
  • Shorter Lead Times // Parts can be produced in a matter of hours or days.
  • Lower Labor Costs // Parts come out of the machine ready for use or in need of minimal post processing.
  • Design Freedom // 3D printing is capable of producing incredibly complex parts that would be impossible to create with conventional machining.
  • Complexity // 3D printing can build complex and delicate parts that would be difficult, costly, or impossible to produce by conventional methods.
  • Legacy Parts // Easily recreate legacy parts. CAD files can be made from scans of an existing part.
  • Bridge Production // Move from prototyping to production seamlessly.

About Injection Molding

Injection molding is typically used for high volume production projects. Advances in technology have reduced up front costs, making injection molding an attractive alternative for low volume production. The process starts with a metal mold or tooling. The tooling makes up the majority of the expense associated with injection molding. The mold is placed in a specialized injection-molding machine. Plastic pellets are then feed into the machine and heated. The now molten plastic is forced into the metal mold under pressure. The plastic is then allowed to cool inside the mold. Once the part has cooled, the mold ejects the part and the machine resets to repeat the process.

Benefits of using Injection Molding for Low Volume Production //

  • Higher-Strength // Injection molded parts offer robust durability not found in some 3D printing technologies.
  • Weather and Chemical Resistant // A variety of plastic materials, many with unique properties, are available for injection molding.
  • Scalable // Injection molding is designed for high volume production. Moving from low volume to high volume is easy.
  • Repeatable // Injection molding is designed to make the same exact part thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even a million times.
  • Material Choice // Injection molding is compatible with a wide range of materials. Material choice will depend on product end use, desired physical characteristics, and budget.

Industries Using Low-Volume Production

Fathom has been assisting businesses with their low volume production needs for over two decades. With thousands of jobs under our belt, we are experts in matching the best technology and materials for each project. Some of the industries we have worked with on low volume production jobs include //

  • Aerospace
  • Automotive
  • Consumer Products
  • Energy
  • Electronics
  • Education
  • Industrial
  • Medical
  • Dental
  • Robotics

Let Fathom Help You with Your Low-Volume Production Project
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