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Rapid prototyping making is an essential process for product development. To develop a new product, the conventional procedure would be something like the following:
3D model design and 2D drawing ;
Visual prototypes making;
Funtional prototypes for the appearance, function, and performance testing;
Low volume production for market testing;
Large volume production.
This article is to introduce the processes in making rapid prototype of product development. While in the next article, we will talk about plastic injection molding for low-large volume production.
Stereolithography is an additive fabrication process that utilizes a laser to cure thin layers in a vat of liquid UV-sensitive photopolymer so as to build solid prototypes, models, and products from 3D data. SLA is an ideal solution for creating starting visual prototypes. It creates relative accurate parts quickly and very cost-efficient. And also, SLA prototypes can be post-processed for varying levels of finish.
Advantages: SLA can easily make oddly and complex shaped parts.While if by traditional CNC machining, it would be difficult, more time-consuming and high cost. Parts have excellent surface finish without secondary operations. Pricing is very competitive for starting.
Disadvantages: The SLA part is usually weaker in strength, comparing with the parts made by CNC machining or polyurethane vacuum casting. The UV curing process makes parts susceptible to degradation from sunlight exposure. So it is not suitable for estimating the parts’ manufacturability when in volume production.
CNC machining is a high precision, common-used, quick-turn manufacturing process for prototype and low volume production. The parts are made by CNC machining from a block or a rod, with designed machining program. There is varieties of materials available. It including plastics, aluminum, steel, titanium and etc. In general, CNC machining is the most accurate prototyping process, while it has more design for manufacturing limitation, comparing with SLA or 3D printing.
Advantages: CNC machining is able to reproduce a single product with precision, from once to thousands of times. Because they are computerized, machines will replicate the original design in every way.. Produces strong parts with good surface finish. Suitable for engineering evaluation and testing. You can even update and improve the software to improve consistency and reliability. What’s more, material choice is wider than 3D printing and stronger
Disadvantages: Part geometries can be limited due to the nature of CNC machining. Process can be expensive because programmers and machinists are needed to produce the parts. Parts may differ from volume manufacturing due to limitations of the machining process.
Polyurethane casting is also a rapid prototyping process. We make a single master model as a pattern (or called “master model”), which is made by SLA in common. Then hang the master model into a custom opened box which is built with aluminum plate usually. Liquid silicone is poured into the box to cover the master model. After cured, the master model is removed, leaving a core and cavity in the silicone mold. With the help of this mold, we cast liquid urethane thermoset material with a vacuum casting machine. The parts are produced with their designed appearance and structure. They can be used for exhibition and function testing.
Advantages: Vacuum casting can make a small volume of parts quickly. It can provide molding colors, and also sandblasted texture at the part surfaces. It is cost effective when making 10-50 units of plastic parts, especially for the ones with a complex structure. If by CNC machining, the cost would be much higher. Vacuum casting part has a wide range of mechanical properties and durometers. Molded with inserts and over-molds are also available.
Disadvantages: Material for vacuum casting is thermoset urethanes. Their mechanical properties are not the same as injection molded thermoplastics. Anyway, they have similar properties for common grades, they can’t be used final functional testing if with strict testing requirements. Another limitation is its accuracy. It will vary and be affected by the accuracy of the master model, the construction of the silicone mold as well as the technological parameter of a vacuum casting process.
Prototype making is very important for product development. It provides us the initial impression on the product that made according to your concept and design, and you can do most of the common functional testing, as well as some exhibition samples to customers. It can us to verify our design quickly, cost-efficiently and in less risk.
The most efficiency prototype development process is to look for an professional, reliable and high-quality prototyping companies in China. Danke Mold is a professional rapid prototyping manufacturer and customer customer-oriented manufacturing solutions. Would you have any rapid prototyping inquiries, just email us via firstname.lastname@example.org