3DP Applications

CNC machining vs. 3D printing in 3ERP prototypes

3E Rapid Prototyping (3ERP) is an ISO9001-2015 quality certified manufacturer based in Zhongshan City, China. With expertise covering functional prototyping and end-use applications, 3ERP envisions a future where CNC machining and 3D printing work side by side to meet a variety of customer needs.

The growing demand for prototyping services

3ERP started commercial operations in 2010. The company invested in its first factory in 2013 after identifying a niche in the market where suppliers were rejecting complex projects. Beginning with 4 employees, 3ERP has rapidly grown to a workforce of around 80 with facilities that span two factories.

In house, 3ERP has CNC machinery capable of milling across 4 and 5 axis. 3D printing at 3ERP is also offered for customers who require industrial-grade SLA and SLS technology.

Inside one of 3ERP's two factories. Photo via 3ERP
Inside one of 3ERP’s two factories. Photo via 3ERP

CNC vs SLA and SLS

For 3ERP’s manufacturing services, the application informs the method. Leon Huang, Director of Marketing at 3ERP, explains that one of the advantages of CNC machining is the scale of the projects possibly, with “some components over 3 meters” tall. Solid objects are better suited to milling technology, as Huang adds, “if you design a component in a solid block with some simple features, and you need over 100 pieces, it takes only few minutes to mill it.”

In contrast, small, geometrically complex and custom designed products are better suited to the capabilities of SLA and SLS systems available from 3ERP.

Tailored for unique applications

3ERP has provided manufacturing services to a broad range of industries. The customer base includes Bosch,ThyssenKrupp, car manufacturers Lamborghini, Bentley and Land Rover, and, unusually, Lady Gaga’s wardrobe.

Demonstrating a great deal of versatility, 3ERP combined SLS 3D printing and CNC milling to produce a pair of custom-made shoes worn by the controversial U.S. singer/songwriter at the launch of her FAME fragrance line in 2012.

Lady Gaga’s FAME fragrance launch shoes designed by United Nude. Made in China by 3ERP and United Nude. Image via United Nude
Lady Gaga’s FAME fragrance launch shoes designed by United Nude. Made in China by 3ERP and United Nude. Image via United Nude

Carbon fiber reinforced PC plastic was machined to make the main body of the shoes, and milled stainless steel was added to the tip of the heel. Gold figures, made to climb up the outside of each shoe were 3D printed using SLS technology, and coated gold by a chrome sputtering finish.

SLS 3D printed figures with a chrome sputtered finish. Photo via 3ERP
SLS 3D printed figures with a chrome sputtered finish. Photo via 3ERP

Use in high value industries

CNC machines at 3ERP allow engineers to produce parted with specific tolerance requests. Huang suggests, ”For example the flash light components for phone camera which request +/- 0.005mm in tolerance.”

The company also has clients in medical, automotive and aerospace markets.

ISO 90001:2015 certification ensure that aerospace prototypes at 3ERP are produced under the most stringent quality control standards. Large parts and electrical components can be made using CNC machining, sheet metal prototyping, injection molding or vacuum casting.

International reach

Most of 3ERP’s business is performed for clientele in the U.S. and Europe, where customers are seeking solutions to an increasingly competitive market. Determined to retain the edge in this industry, 3ERP promise the three E’s, “Excellent, Efficient and Economic” to all customers.

Request a quote for 3ERP bespoke prototyping services in medical, automotive, aerospace and consumer goods industries here.

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Featured image shows a team inside one of 3ERP factories. Photo via 3ERP