How to Produce Custom Electronic Devices in Small Volumes

Choosing a technology for small-scale production of electronic devices is not the easiest task. I hope this guide will be useful. If you need support, I am always here to help.

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The next step after prototyping is producing custom electronic devices in limited quantities - whether you're proving the marketability of an innovative idea, giving a select group exclusive access, or adding that extra special touch to something already grand. Small-scale production can make all the difference!

But where do you start? First, let's get clear on your product design and needs. To produce custom electronic devices in small production runs, the enclosure (case, housing) of your device is likely to be the most expensive item. The main challenge here is finding a reliable and cost-efficient contractor who can manufacture casing in low volumes. Fortunately, there are a number of innovative technologies that make small-batch production easier and more cost-effective.

When it comes to producing complex shapes and geometries, CNC machining is a go-to choice for precision manufacturing. It uses computer-controlled cutting tools on materials like metal, plastic, or wood. 3D printing offers quick turnaround times with high accuracy but may require extra manual work afterward and has higher unit costs than other options. Laser cutting & urethane casting are great techniques when you need just low-volume production, while using ready parts such as extrusions can be an economical solution if the budget is tight!

1. CNC machining

CNC machining has earned its place at the cutting edge of technology, making enclosures for custom electronics with uncompromised precision and aesthetics. Big brands rely on CNC for mass production of top-notch smartphones and laptops crafted from durable aluminum alloys – plus a touch of class in the form of premium finishes. But that's not where it stops; whether plastics or fine woods, CNC can give your device an even more unique feel, setting any gadget apart from the pack.

2. Urethane casting

If you need your plastic or rubber parts to look and perform at production-level quality, urethane casting is the way to go! This process bypasses expensive hard tooling with a 3D-printed master pattern and silicone molds. The durability of cast urethane makes it ideal for any project requiring color accuracy, surface finish, strength, or flexibility - plus options like clear materials, paint finishes (including EMI shielding), insert installation, and custom finishing to make sure that every detail meets design intent and expectations.

3. Sheet metal fabrication

Sheet metal fabrication is an economical and durable solution for making custom housings in small batches. Ideal applications include tabletop or rack-mounted enclosures, brackets, chassis components, and other internal parts with great accuracy through laser cutting capabilities. Additional processes such as punching, bending, rolling welding plus the option to fit threaded inserts further extend its versatility, while powder paint finishes enhance aesthetics or provide extra protection when needed.

4. Extrusion

Electronic applications can benefit from cost savings and quick delivery of extrusion profiles. With a range of stock options or custom versions that require minimal investment in tooling, they're an ideal choice for low-volume production. With the extrusion process, metal is forced through the shaped opening of a die using high pressure. It forms a rectangular tube, which is further cut into pieces of any length, constituting the side walls of the housing. Not only do these enclosures come with superior strength, but provide a variety of competitively finished surfaces such as anodizing and powder coatings - giving your product just the professional edge it needs!

Finding the right partner

When searching for the best partner to take on your low-volume electronic manufacturing needs, there are a few factors to consider. While there are numerous types of production companies available, a one-stop solution provider is often the best choice for smaller batches. Not only do they typically guarantee faster turnarounds, but they can also take care of design adaptation processes, ensure quality control, proper procurement, and reliable production management. This company should be able to provide solutions and manage the entire process from start to finish, so you can be sure that the job will be completed efficiently and with top quality results. They should also offer guidance on cost reduction measures, suggest any value engineering options, and provide timely updates throughout the process.

Get creative and let the experts show you what they can do. Before jumping head first into the design, it's worth taking a step back to check with your chosen manufacturing company. In addition to providing insight on how best to approach fabrication, manufacturers may even be able to suggest alternative technologies that could improve upon existing options - as we recently discovered while designing an enclosure for a desktop control console. Urethane casting seemed like the economical way to go for this fairly large enclosure - but lucky for us, we explored our options and found a better fit. With just some preliminary discussion between us and our partner in production, CNC technology using the latest high-speed milling machines was revealed as a viable option – making this customer project much better than originally anticipated!

Developing a new electronic device takes time, effort, and partnership.

It's important to do your research when choosing a production partner for small batch ventures like yours - taking the time to find the right fit now will pay off in spades down the road. Here at Embedity, we're passionate about helping you to change the world with your innovative product idea, offering cost-effective low-volume manufacturing services that can scale as you grow. If you're looking for a reliable and experienced team to help bring your vision to life, look no further than us.

Contact us today to learn more about what we can do for you.

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