When features need to be removed from a product, manufacturers often use a subtractive process known as CNC machining. In a Tech Briefs presentation last week, engineer Tony Holtz made a case for a more “Rapid” method.

Through simplified part design, moldability investigation, and the use of live tooling, the idea of Rapid CNC Machining, according to Holtz, accelerates production speed and reduces part costs.

During a Tech Briefs webinar titled How to Reduce Production Costs with Rapid CNC Machining, an attendee asked the engineer from prototype manufacturer Proto Labs: “What is Live Tooling?”

Tony Holtz, Engineer, Proto Labs, Maple Plain, MN: A CNC lathe uses very sharp, single-point cutters as the part itself is spinning. The tool simply moves across that part, kind of smoothing it out and creating a nice cylindrical feature.

Live tooling creates a reverse effect and brings a mill into that CNC lathe. So, instead of having that part spin, now you have a tool that's in there that is spinning like an end mill. [The mill] can move across your part to create a nice flat.

The live tool is simply an end mill within the lathe component. Without the live tooling, in order to get flats and holes on your parts, you’d have to do all the turning steps, remove the part from the lathe, and enter that into the mill. That would take a lot more time and money to do that. So, we've kind of combined the two [processes].

Is live tooling a valuable manufacturing method? Share your thoughts below.