There are many days that coming up with a new product is pretty easy. How do you manufacture it? Is it injection molded, stamped, or laser etched? There are a lot of decisions to make, but the method of manufacturing doesn’t have to define your product. The process for development is very similar for most products where you start in a design phase and gradually move into production. The question becomes if you understand what each step looks like. If not, we’ll cover the steps to move from design to production.
Start at the Beginning
The design phase is typically where most product development begins. You have a concept and a rough sketch. You may be a designer, or have a designer that can generate the 3D model of your sample product. The next steps in design will be to map out the finer details of the product before you start any tooling. If you are using plastic injection molding, these items will be on your design detail list:
- Mold Classification – There are five classifications of mold guidelines used by the Plastic Industry Association. Depending on your projects details the application of the molding guidelineswill be a significant determining factor on the cost for the mold itself. One key thing to consider with the mold will be the number of parts you intend to make. Volume is a determining factor for the tool for durability.
- Resin Type – There are thousands of plastics resins available, and choosing the right one is critical for your parts application. You need to consider the purpose of the components and the combined product.
- Injection Molded Part Surface Finish – Surface finish options for plastic injection molded parts can vary a great deal depending on the part and its material. Determining the best surface finish for a part requires communication between your design engineer and injection molding expert to achieve the desired appearance and performance of the finished part.
- Injection Mold Flow & Analysis – Once you know the mold classification based on volume and what resin you plan to use, you can have your part/mold analyzed for the resin flow during injection.
- Available Project Budget – The classification and application help to define the budget required for the mold. A higher amount of parts produced needs a more durable mold that can last over time. Inclusive of that, the design and application may drive more intricate features in the mold that a rushed schedule may add extra cost.
Plan the Road to Success
Once you have the design details completed, you then need to define how to you’ll get your new injection molded parts through the next steps of manufacturing. Often the molded parts are part of a larger assembly that requires secondary operations to be a complete product. Now is the time to lay out the detailed schedule for each step of any secondary manufacturing operations, what tooling or equipment will be needed, and the schedule of when it can be available.
Some secondary processes often used are:
- Ultrasonic Welding
- Pad Printing or Hot Stamping
- Tapping or Drilling
- Extra Assembly
- Specialized Labeling
- Shrink Wrapping & Blister Packaging
- Warehousing and Product Distribution
Build and Test the Validity of the Plan
After you have the plan completed, the next step is to test the theory of that plan. You need some samples, and the method to have samples created doesn’t have to be a complicated process. There are many prototyping options available, from simple low-cost molds to 3D printing and more. Rapid prototype samples can be used for trade shows, design and manufacturing mockups, destructive testing, and finding early design flaws.
What Options Are Available with Rapid Prototyping Samples?
- 3D Printing– Perfect for generating complex samples with low weight and high strength
- Stereolithography (SLA) – good for low volume production parts with a quality finish and increased strength
- Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) – SLS is for plastic and metal prototypes with intricate internal designs
- Selective Laser Melting (SLM) – SLM is the preferred option for parts requiring high strength, high durability, and a complex intricate design
- Digital Light Processing – It has a good tolerance to the design and has a good surface finish.
- CNC Machining– An ideal choice for plastic or metal without costly tooling. It holds tighter tolerances and has a better surface
- Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) – FDM includes a low cost, ease of us, and using multiple plastic types and colors in one prototype
- Rapid Injection Molding – A low cost rapid mold can be used for a small amount of parts for low cost
- Binder Jetting – A big advantage in making multiple parts at one time with a lower cost
- Laminated Object Manufacturing – A good option using thin laminates laid layer by layer for paper, plastic, or metal. The designs should not be complex, but LOM is low cost compared to others.
If you’re interested in learning more about each rapid prototype option, check out our article with more in-depth information on each.
Build and Verify the Final Tooling
You’re in the home stretch of the project now. Your design has been finalized, the initial tooling has been checked and approved, and now you are ready to finalize the production process. At this point, you’re ready to build the final injection molds and production tools that has been verified with your rapid prototypes. You know the plan works, and you can move to final prototype or pre-production samples that just verify the final tools are correct. Once the final tools have been approved, you’re ready to move to full production.
Moving from a simple design into full production won’t be easy. There are many steps to just formulate a plan for a sketched product and then move it along to full production. Bringing a new product from concept to reality is challenging, and the world economy moving at light speed makes it tougher than ever before. SEA-LECT Plastics offers design consulting, methods for creating rapid prototype samples, plus a world-class team of designers, tool makers, and logistic specialists ready to assist in bringing your new product to market. 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 product development 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.