It’s the process of making actual prototypes rapidly so that you may evaluate the design’s aesthetic, fit, and usefulness. It might take weeks or months to set up a traditional manufacturing process, and it can cost tens of thousands of dollars. For this reason, it is crucial to use fast prototyping. In most circumstances, it saves money as well as time.
Providers of Services
Many firms provide fast mold test services, and these companies provide a wide range of services as a result. The following is a list of some of the most popular services.
Additive and subtractive prototyping are two of the most used methods for making prototypes. Older methods like milling are used in subtractive procedures (including CNC milling). Starting with a large block of material, machines progressively remove material until they have completed the job. Layers of material are built up until the component is complete through additive methods such as 3D printing, which are relatively new. There are pros and disadvantages to both kinds of production processes, which might take hours or even days to complete.
3D Modeling and Printing
3D printing is one of the fastest-growing technologies. In terms of cost, it’s one of the newest and most economical methods accessible. It’s an additive method that involves building up pieces one layer at a time, generally out of plastic or photopolymer, over many hours. Some printers can even print with metal. Layers may be created in a variety of methods. A liquid photopolymer is sprayed over the table in the form of the layer and similarly cured by UV lights to an inkjet printer. Mechanical positioning systems arrange the plastic in the proper locations to produce layers with the exact shape by extruding extremely thin strips of material, much like a hot glue gun. Using a laser to target a powder layer and fuse small sections, another approach creates a layer with the correct shape. This is a good overview of the process, but there are other systems out there that are better.
Stereolithography (STL) (SLA)
SLA, or stereolithography, is a fast prototyping method that has been around for a long time. In terms of strength, surface detail, and pricing, it’s an excellent option. A vat of liquid photopolymer is used in the SLA process, which is an additive one. Each layer is cured using a laser system that focuses its beam on certain areas.
Using a Laser to Selectively Sinter Materials (SLS)
Another common service is SLS or Selective Laser Sintering. It’s more costly than SLA and the pieces frequently have a coarser surface, but a larger selection of materials, including metal, plastic, ceramic, and glass, are accessible.
Casts in Urethane
It can be more cost-effective to have the parts molded using a urethane casting method when multiple prototypes are required. About 10 to a hundred people are often participating. In most cases, an SLA-created master component is followed by a silicone RTV mold. They are then cast in urethane or polyurethane, depending on the use. Urethanes have a broad range of qualities and hues, making them appealing to a wide range of customers.
Plastic parts that have been machined are another service that some businesses provide. However, CNC mills may also create prototypes or low-volume components from a wide variety of plastics, including steel, aluminum, and other metals.
There is a slew of more services available, including 3D scanning, metal castings, and quick injection molding, which have not been discussed here.