Having the next big idea is just the beginning of the development cycle. A napkin doodle, a 3D model rendering, or just some great sketches can get the juices flowing, but you have to have a plan to get from that excitement to the market. Cost is always a factor in development, whether that pertains to start-up capital or long-term manufacturing costs. Rapid prototyping is one of the latest advantages to reduce your manufacturing costs. How? Let’s take a look at five ways cost can be reduced to make your next venture a profitable one:
Reduce the Time in the Design Phase
Your initial ideas are usually pretty general, and not 100% complete with every detail. A 3D model of your product will show as much detail as you add to the model. Once you have a complete model with all details, a rapid prototype can help refine the design further to make manufacturing and secondary processes more cost efficient. Each rapid prototype sample can be created with changes to increase radii, thicken walls for strength, and add extra details that were previously not in the design. Within a few sample prototype cycles you could have all testing done, all secondary processes designed, and tooling ready to be created without excessive expense.
Reduce Manufacturing Tooling Development
Once you have your design finalized, it’s on to creating the tooling for long-term manufacturing. Is it the right time to start cutting aluminum or steel for tools? Maybe not. 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 overall time and investment cost. Software can model resin flow within a mold to a high level of accuracy, but a rapid prototype may show details that software won’t replicate well. Rapid prototypes can be easily used to measure improvements in the tooling and part design prior to the formal tooling being created. The tools may take 8-12 weeks to complete, and reducing the development timing of the tool design is critical for getting the product to market quickly.
Reduce Manufacturing Process Development Timing
Waiting for permanent tooling can be a long process if it takes months to complete. That wait time can be better utilized for manufacturing process development, and you can be ready to start initial manufacturing when the tools are ready. You will find opportunities for improvement as you test the manufacturing process, and finding those opportunities during the wait period for permanent tools can reduce overall development time. 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.
Reduce Secondary Process Development Timing
Your new product may require secondary processes like ultrasonic welding, drilling and tapping, inserts, labels, or laser etching. Rapid prototype samples can be used to validate holding fixtures and cycle times for new tooling and equipment. You may determine that more steps are required in the process than originally intended. Rapid prototypes offer a simple way to verify every step in the complete manufacturing process to ensure your product is ready for market.
Reduce the Time for Packaging Creation
Your product may require simple or custom packing before being ready to ship. You may be shipping to a holding distribution warehouse, a retail location, or directly to your customers. 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 rapid prototype samples. 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, which can save you development time and investment capital. It may be hard to determine which type would be best for your project, and that’s where SEA-LECT Plastics comes in. 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. 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.