There are several prototype tooling options for your designs — the one you choose really depends on what you expect to accomplish with the prototype. For example, will the prototype be subjected to testing? Does it need to be "dressed up" for presentation? Will it need to meet tight tolerance requirements?
The most common prototyping options are SLA/SLS, urethane cast, soft tooling, and hard tooling. But which is right for your component? Read on to discover the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Overmolding is a unique injection molding process that results in a seamless combination of multiple materials into a single part or product. It typically includes a rigid, plastic-base component overlaid with a thin, pliable, rubber-like thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) exterior layer or other materials using either a single-shot (insert molding) or two-shot (multiple-shot molding) technique.
Custom injection molding is a viable solution for many projects, but there’s often hesitation in using it because of confusion about which material matches the job. While “thermoplastic” and “thermoset” sound similar and both are appropriate for a wide range of applications, the material properties of these two resin categories and how they behave during processing ultimately reveal the best choice for your injection molding project.
According to a recent study, about half of industrial buyers make decisions about adding suppliers in less than 30 days. In that time they vet an average of five suppliers, evaluating each on criteria including market presence, brand strength, and reputation. The most heavily weighted criterion, however, is delivery performance.
Some injection molders claim to provide custom services, but the industry lacks a clear definition of what “custom” really means — resulting in some manufacturers contracting with molders that are woefully unqualified to accurately produce highly specialized designs. Just because a molder can facilitate development of an original tool doesn’t constitute a truly custom service (or ensure a desirable outcome). Many of these molders are limited to producing simplistic designs and lack the ability to engineer complex plastic parts with precise specifications and tight tolerances.
Total delivered cost (TDC) is the amount of money it takes for a company to manufacture and deliver a product. The definition sounds simple enough, yet all that TDC entails — sourcing raw materials, manufacturing bulk and intermediate products, finished goods packaging, inventory holding, transportation, distribution, and final delivery — reveals its complexity and considerable impact on the bottom line.
The practice and purpose of qualifying a tool is at the very core of scientific molding. This critical step ensures consistent and repeatable production of flawless molded parts by having engineers push the tool relentlessly under realistic conditions (and sometimes beyond). Their goal is to identify and correct weaknesses before the tool is called into action.
Here’s a look at the basic step-by-step process of scientifically qualifying a tool:
There is little room for error when designing plastic parts for critical-use applications. Anything that could stand in the way of uncompromised performance or end-user safety is unacceptable; there’s too much at risk given the potential for significant issues surrounding recalls, warranty claims, property damage and personal injury. And, no company can afford to lose customer trust.
Up until the 1940s achieving necessary product functionality at the lowest cost was usually done by any means necessary. However, during the height of World War II the scarcity of materials and components drove General Electric engineers to find material substitutes, many of which reduced project costs and improved overall product performance. Thus, the approach of finding cost-effective manufacturing solutions without compromising product functionality or quality — later dubbed “value engineering” — was born.