You’ve thought up the next product in your lineup that will shake up your industry and cause a buzz at the next major trade show. The question is what do you do first, complete the design to the nth degree or start tooling to cut the development time down? The answer may be as simple as neither option is the right choice and instead start with rapid prototyping product design to get most of the details figured out.
Seeing your new product in a physical three-dimensional form can help spur further development, and reduce tooling time later on. When the major design phase is complete, but before every last detail is developed, the next step may involve creating samples. A rapid prototype is an option to show customers the planned product, new potential financial partners what they could be investing in, and be able to make small adjustments to the design for optimized manufacturing. Here are the benefits for using Rapid Prototyping in your next plastic injection molding product design:
Design Detail Development
Your initial ideas only start as a thought, but can develop quickly into a 3-D model of the final planned product. Once you have reached that phase of development, a rapid prototype can help refine the design further to make manufacturing and secondary processes better. With each sample created, the design can be changed to increase radii, thicken walls for strength, and add details that were previously not in the design. Within a few sample cycles you could have all testing done, all secondary processes designed, and tooling ready to be created without excessive expense.
After you have the final design established, you may feel ready to start cutting steel or aluminum for the final manufacturing tools. Using at least one rapid prototype option before the first chips are cut can reduce later expenses immensely. The best reason to use a rapid prototype before starting on tooling is to reduce time and investment. Rapid prototypes can be easily used to measure improvements in the tooling and part design.
Manufacturing Process Improvement
When the tools are ready to go, you may think you can start producing parts that are 100% ready for a manufacturing process. The truth is, the process defined can quickly show errors unseen in later steps of manufacturing. Rapid prototypes, even in a raw form, can give insight in handling by technicians, show needed steps added to the later processes, and help process engineers gauge efficiency in the complete manufacturing cycle. Rapid prototype samples can also aid with written instructions and allow pictures for instruction manuals for your end customer to use.
Secondary Process Investigation
Your new product may require secondary processes like ultrasonic welding or drilling and tapping. Rapid prototype samples can be used to validate holding fixtures and cycle times for new tooling and equipment. You may discover another step that should be added in the complete manufacturing process as the best course of action to ensure your product is ready for market.
Packaging Creation and Refinement
Your product may require simple or custom packing before being ready to ship to a holding distribution warehouse or a selling location. Rapid prototypes allow for testing of packaging to ensure your product arrives without damage. Samples can also be used to define packing specifications as an individual product inside a container, or bulk packing to reduce the overall packaging in a shipment.
The Rapid Prototype Options Available From SEA-LECT Plastics
SEA-LECT Plastics uses many options to produce rapid prototype samples and test parts for our customers. Some require them in the development process, while others use them exclusively for tradeshows and meetings. Whatever the purpose, a rapid prototype can be a valuable asset for your next project. These are the main options that we frequently use in development, and what attributes they offer:
- Rapid Injection Molding – A low cost rapid mold can be used for a small amount of parts for low cost
- Digital Light Processing – It has a good tolerance to the design and has a good surface finish.
- CNC Machining – An ideal choice for plastic without costly tooling. It holds tighter tolerances and has a better surface
- Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) – SLS is for plastic prototypes with intricate internal designs
- Laminated Object Manufacturing – A good option using thin laminates laid layer by layer for plastic. The designs should not be complex, but LOM is low cost compared to others.
- Selective Laser Melting (SLM) – SLM is the preferred option for parts requiring high strength, high durability, and a complex intricate design
- Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) – FDM includes a low cost, ease of us, and using multiple plastic types and colors in one prototype
- Stereolithography (SLA) – good for low volume production parts with a quality finish and increased strength
- Binder Jetting – A big advantage in making multiple parts at one time with a lower cost
If you’re interested in learning more about each rapid prototype option, check out our article with more in-depth information on each.
The Best Option for Your Next Project
We offer nine different options for creating a rapid prototype sample with plastic. Each option will offer advantages based on the material you need to use, the accuracy of the dimensions involved, and the surface finish required for your plastic sample. Each option offers a quick manufacturing time, and it can be hard to distinguish which would be best. In the end, the material and process chosen will benefit your product design by having a prototype made to show employees, potential customers, current clients, and future investors. When you’re ready to work with our elite team that produces world-class prototypes and products, call (425) 339-0288 or email us at email@example.com. We look forward to offering support and advice on your next project.
Matthias Poischbeg was born and raised in Hamburg, Germany. Matt moved to Everett, Wash., after finishing his bachelor’s degree in business in 1995 to work for Sea-Dog Corporation, a manufacturer, and distributor of marine and rigging hardware established in 1923.
In 1999, Matt took over the reins at Sea-Lect Plastics Corporation, a sister company of Sea-Dog and a manufacturer of plastic injection molded products with an in-house tool & die shop. Matthias Poischbeg is also a contributor to Grit Daily.