We can’t imagine a modern industry without plastic prototyping. In modern industry, plastics are easy to manufacture and machine. Compared with any kind of metal, they have considerable strength, excellent corrosion resistance and, importantly, very light weight. That’s why plastics are so popular among industrial designers.
Benefits of rapid plastic prototyping
Lower cost of plastic prototypes. Plastic materials usually have a low melting point, good machinability and are generally easy to process. This makes the production of plastic prototypes quite cheap. If the budget is not high, you can choose plastic prototyping instead of metal prototyping.
Excellent durability. Plastic materials have excellent durability, but also have good stability, fatigue strength and friction properties. However, because some plastics become brittle under certain conditions, they should be avoided from the influence of ultraviolet and low temperature.
Good reliability. In recent decades, plastic prototyping technology has been very perfect. There are many professional injection molding services using plastic prototyping technology every day. If you want to ask about the selection and execution of the best method, you can always ask DDPROTOTYPE experts.
Recyclability. The era of plastic pollution ecosystem has passed. In modern industrial plastic design, recyclable plastic has been taken as the first choice, so that there will be no major harmful substances in the production and use of plastic prototype.
Faster delivery time. Modern rapid prototyping technology is very suitable for manufacturing small batch of plastic parts. In particular, the timely birth of rapid tooling, you can order 1000 + plastic parts in two weeks or less, and plastic parts rarely need finishing services.
Plastic Prototyping Video | DDPROTOTYPE
Rapid plastic prototyping technology
The first option is vacuum casting, which is cheaper and easier to manufacture than other processes.
The second option is CNC machining, which is used for shape, fit and function test of parts in plastic prototyping. CNC machining materials are used in many aerospace and medical prototyping processes to accelerate entry and approval and development.
The third option is 3D printing brought about by the innovative additive manufacturing process, which does not require blanks or dies. In addition, 3D printing offers unparalleled design freedom.
Another choice of plastic prototyping is rapid tooling technology, which uses CNC machining to mill aluminum mold instead of steel mold to improve production time and cost efficiency without sacrificing too much part quality.
Finally, there is traditional injection molding technology, which is mainly used in mass production. Theoretically, it can be used to create prototype, but it needs a lot of early investment, and there may be a risk of mold investment.
Each plastic prototyping process has advantages and disadvantages:
Vacuum casting of silicone resin is the first choice for small batch plastic prototyping, because it requires a master model (a sample) to make the mold. Typically, you hover the main model over an empty can. Then, add some technical elements (usually also plastic) to the model, such as the channel into which the plastic is poured, ventilation, etc. After that, pour the liquid silicone into the water tank, wait for it to solidify, and sometimes solidify it in the oven. You can produce up to 25 plastic parts by splitting the mold in half. No significant capital investment is required.
When CNC machining plastic and metal parts, many plastic prototype manufacturers use CNC machining to test the shape, fit and function of plastic parts, because it has advantages in the field of prototype machining, it is still the main way of prototype machining. At DDPROTOTYPE, we use CNC to machine plastic and metal parts, which enables your design team to closely simulate the appearance and function of the final product, reflect the effectiveness of assembly work, and provide effective time and space to modify and optimize the design.
3D printing is very fast, and plastic prototypes with very complex structures can be manufactured, and there is no tool cost in the early stage. However, economies of scale are limited because the cost of a single prototype can be relatively high. In addition, there are very limited materials available.
Rapid tooling uses metal molds to produce real functional parts which is an improvement of traditional injection mold manufacturing technology. The main difference between the two is the detail, for example, the quick mold has more joints, so if you need to change the design, you only need to remove the cavity and change it without changing any other elements. This reduces accuracy but increases flexibility. In addition, aluminum alloy was used instead of millions of iterations of hardened steel. Of course, their durability is poor, but their manufacturability is increased by 5 times, which can shorten the delivery time of the mould by up to 60%.. All of the changes make it possible to even use plastic injection molding for prototypes. However, it is recommended to use it for the highest quality work, as the cost of the process is still high.
Plastic Injection Molding
Traditional plastic injection molding has won the complexity and finish of parts, but it is generally considered that prototyping is too slow and expensive, although it can be used when it is likely to directly put the mold into mass production.
The factors considered during prototype manufacturing include quality, cost and speed. The “quality” required for prototypes can vary widely. In the early stage of design, it may be similar to the production parts, but as the development work gets closer to the market, the prototype must match the finished parts more closely.
prototypes can be evaluated in some ways. The first is shape and fit – shape, size, surface treatment, and perhaps even similar to the color of the production part. The other is the function – strength, durability, chemical resistance, heat resistance and other required material properties are similar.
No matter which technology is adopted, it is a matter of balance: cost and quality, speed and precision. DDPROTOTYPE has more than 15 years of experience in plastic prototyping, and is a leading manufacturer of plastic prototyping in China. Machinist is the “database” in the industry, which can achieve this balance according to the requirements of customers, so as to win the trust of customers in 30 countries around the world.