How to Develop a Plastic Prototype?

Why Sample Prototypes Are Important

Prototyping is a crucial step in almost every type of product development, regardless of the industry. User testing is possible with prototypes, giving designers insightful input and feedback on their creations.

It will eventually determine whether your production efforts are successful. It is now simple and economical to quickly develop a sample prototype thanks to the growth of fast prototyping. The product development process will be optimised if you know which manufacturing technology to use because there are several that can choose from.

Let's look at how 3D printing, CNC machining, and vacuum casting can be used to make a prototype. Knowing the inner workings of the technology, compatible materials, and typical applications will help you choose which quick manufacturing approach is most suited for your prototype.

Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages. Read on to see which one would be best for you.

What to Do Before Creating a Sample Prototype 

A digital depiction of your planned product, the Computer-Aided Design (CAD) model, demonstrates to you and the manufacturer how the product should look. This is the first thing that you should consider before manufacturing prototypes.

Additionally, a CAD model demonstrates how the components join and how the device works as a whole. It will assist you in making a physical prototype model, either visual or functional.

3D Printing

The term "additive manufacturing," more popularly known as "3D printing," actually refers to a variety of production techniques. Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM), Stereolithography (SLA), and Selective Laser Sintering are the three most widely utilised techniques for creating sample prototypes (SLS).

Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM)

The most widely utilised type of 3D printing for producing prototypes is FDM. Extrusion is used in this procedure to deposit polymer ingredients one layer at a time until the finished product is created.

Fabricators can produce prototypes with enhanced strength using industrial-grade FDM printers, dependent on the materials utilised. Furthermore, it is a flexible process that works with a variety of materials, such as Nylon, PETG, Polycarbonate, PLA, ABS, etc.

Stereolithography (SLA)

While FDM uses filaments, SLA printing uses polymer resin to make prototype polymer items. It entails utilising a powerful laser to harden the model that was created using a container of resin. It allows manufacturers to apply this technique to the development of a variety of components, such as for the dental, and medical industries.

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

The SLS method also makes use of a strong laser. It creates a 3D model by sintering powdered materials as opposed to SLA. The print quality produced by this method is better than that of FDM. This process produces prototype pieces that are more functional and have higher resolution. They typically outperform FDM prints in terms of flexibility and durability.

CNC Machining

Another practical and quick way for making prototypes is CNC machining. This technique builds a 3D model of your idea out of solid materials using a variety of tools. As opposed to 3D printing, which uses an additive process, CNC machining is subtractive, meaning it takes away from a material.

The process is facilitated using digital milling machines. Fabricators can assure optimal process automation by employing a computer to control a milling machine with 3D files that have been uploaded. Moulds are not required to produce prototype CNC parts. As a result, it is affordable. CNC prototyping can be started with just a CAD rendering.

Vacuum Casting

Fabricators can reproduce several prototype parts using vacuum casting. To build pieces that are appropriate for testing, a master model is used. The process of vacuum casting includes injecting the raw material into a silicone mould to create prototypes. A master model is required first, though, before a silicone mould can be made.

After finishing the master model (by either using 3D printing or CNC machining) silicone-based casting moulds are created. Using a vacuum bell jar, the raw materials are injected into the mould cavity. The process of hardening the resulting cast to produce an exact replica of the prototype typically takes between 30 and 40 minutes.

A wide variety of materials, from transparent to opaque, are compatible with vacuum casting. Fabricators can also create up to 25 prototypes using the silicone mould that they already have. This procedure aids them, so that mass production and product development can happen concurrently.

Final Thoughts

Prototyping is a good way to make sure your production process generates high-quality results. A physical product should always be evaluated before mass production starts.

Potential investors would be able to examine your product first through a prototype, and designers would have opportunities to make the necessary adjustments throughout this procedure. Thus, it is beneficial for both producers and consumers.

The success of your prototype will largely depend on your knowledge of the different prototyping technologies. Here we have discussed the three most effective and popular methods: 3D printing, CNC machining, and vacuum casting. You should be able to make the decision on which one is suitable for your business's needs and requirements.


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