3 Best Ways of Making Plastic Prototypes

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When it comes to tooling for plastic injection molding, manufacturing companies who require a plastic prototype, or a few components for prototype testing and evaluation, often faces a number of formidable challenges.

The cost is, of course, one of them. It can easily run into six figures. However, lead time is, perhaps, the most prominent problem. The machining, finishing, and proving out of a mold tool of moderate complexity can easily take six months—time that you could be spending on testing and refining the design. It really isn’t surprising why rapid prototyping garners such high interest!

Thankfully, there are multiple cutting-edge plastic prototyping technologies you can turn to. Here are three of them.

Additive Manufacturing Solutions

It’s quite clear why creating prototype parts through additive manufacturing is so appealing. When you jump straight to the solid piece from a CAD model, you reduce lead times to days and forego tooling costs completely. However, not all rapid prototyping technologies deliver the same results and won’t necessarily meet all the requirements of a prototype.

SLA (Stereolithography Apparatus)

The SLA process involves solidifying a liquid photopolymer through a UV laser. The laser sweeps over the polymer’s surface, producing a solid layer that has a thickness of approximately 0.005”. The table is then lowered, which allows the solid layer to be covered by ore liquid, before the laser scans again.

After it’s complete, an SLA part has to be washed and sanded in order to eliminate ridges from between the layers. The accuracy usually exceeds 0.005”.

FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling)

This process involves extruding plastic filament through a nozzle onto a support plate or platform. The plastic is then made stick and soft through heating before successive layers are placed on top of one another to build shapes. To create a good final appearance, some finishing is typically required. FDM can be used with various plastics, including polystyrene, polyamides, and polycarbonates.

SLS (Selective Laser Sintering)

The SLS process involves heating a powder until the granules fuse together. It’s similar to the SLA process in the sense that it creates a 3D shape layer-by-layer with powder being heated by a laser.

SLS is applicable with both metals and plastics. Typically, the layers have a thickness of 0.004” and the accuracy of the finished part is generally better than -/+ 0.01” Fully-functional parts can be produced through SLS if measures are taken to prevent porosity.

If you’re looking for rapid prototyping or plastic injection molding services in Grass Valley and Auburn, get in touch with our experts at Connekt. LLC.

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