Technology can do a lot of verifying if your new design is 100% ready for production. Software can evaluate shapes for injection molding, it can simulate durability against impact testing, and it can prove if your design is ready for manufacturing. The question is often asked if prototypes are even needed anymore with software and technology at such a capable level. The simple answer is yes. If you’re on the fence about creating prototypes of your new design, these are the ways a prototype can still save you time and money:
Shorten Your Design Time
You may or may not be filing for a patent on your latest idea. If you are, you have to complete a breakdown of all components to show why it is unique to gain the patent protection. If you’re not seeking patent protection, you may be short on details in the beginning. A prototype may just be the answer to finding out if your new project will fit the niche you’re going for in the market. Paper schematics are just the beginning of the process, and a prototype can answer more questions on the function and design feasibility of the project. Filing for a patent can be expensive, but a prototype can shorten he design iteration time and reduce the chances you’ll need to re-file for a patent due to a mistake.
Save Money on Tooling Investment
Once your design is finalized, you next phase of the project will be to create tooling. Waiting for weeks or months for basic tooling to be finished isn’t the time you want to find out a mistake was incorporated into the design. Your idea isn’t going to work as planned. You must make changes and then wait months for more tooling. It’s expensive and it will complete derail your project timing. It could have been avoided with one or two iterations of a prototype that just take a few hours or days to create. Prototypes can find every design improvement that may be needed before the first chips are made cutting material for finalized tools. That can save you investment funding and time by only creating the correct tooling once.
Start on Your Manufacturing Development Sooner
Your permanent tooling may take months to finish. Until they are ready, you’re unable to start development on fixtures, secondary tooling for assembly, and more manufacturing options that require physical parts for trials. Creating prototypes of the finished design can allow your manufacturing development to start weeks if not months earlier in the overall process. Your manufacturing process can be ready the moment your finalized tools start producing components, and you can get to market sooner than your competition to gain market share.
Develop Secondary Processes Faster Than Before
Secondary processes can add value with custom etching, ultrasonic welding for permanent attachment, inserts, drilling and tapping, or identification labels. Prototypes can be used to verify your secondary processes are feasible in the cycle time allotted, or they can be utilized to find examples of improvements to be made. These processes also need instructions created for manufacturing associates or sub-suppliers to follow. Simple prototypes offer the advantage of creation and verification of secondary processes before finalized tooling is completed.
Create Packaging Ahead of the Finished Product
Projects with manufacturing options typically have two different types of packaging: internal and external. Internal packaging can takes various shapes, from racks with sleeves to boxes with inserts, but it will stay within the facility. It can be used to move base components from station to station or from building to building. It never should leave the manufacturing facility. The external packaging transports components and/or finished product from the facility to outside destinations. Rapid prototypes will allow your logistics and packaging teams to get ahead of the timeline by developing packaging before tooling starts to make components and products. Time is money, and you’ll be ahead of the competition with packaging ready to move product.
The Rapid Prototype Options Available From SEA-LECT Plastics
SEA-LECT Plastics offers many options to create rapid prototype samples and test parts for customer projects. Prototypes are used in the development process for tooling and process refinement, while other projects use them strictly as a tool to showcase the products in tradeshows and client meetings. 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.
What is the Best Rapid Prototype for Your Project?
SEA-LECT Plastics currently offers nine different options to create rapid prototype samples for your next project. 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 sample. Each option offers a quick manufacturing time, which can save you development time and investment capital. Whether you plan to file for a patent or not, a prototype can offer more advantages for the overall project. It may be hard to determine which type or rapid prototype would be best for your project, but SEA-LECT Plastics has the expertise to help with your decision. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to offering support and advice on your next project. 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.
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.