Plastic Prototype Manufacturing Guideline

product development, prototyping

Are you willing to go out on the quest to create the ultimate plastic prototype? You’ll probably need several prototypes throughout the design process, so you’ll need to choose from a variety of plastic prototype manufacturing techniques and materials. It’s vital to keep in mind that not all processes work with all types of plastic, and each technique has different prototyping times, part tolerances, resolution levels, and costs.

Here are some issues to take into account and respond to when you begin this project. What is plastic prototype manufacturing and which type of prototype do I need? How to make a plastic prototype? What are some common materials for a plastic prototype?

plastic prototypes

What is Plastic Prototyping?

Plastic prototyping entails the creation of an initial version of a plastic component or product. Depending on the stage of your design, a prototype can resemble the final product in appearance and/or functionality. Prototypes that resemble the final product in appearance are often referred to as “looks-like” prototypes or models, which are more advanced than mockups but lack the full functionality of “works-like” prototypes. Works-like prototypes improve as the design matures through iterations.

However, the categorization of prototypes isn’t limited to looks-like and works-like distinctions. Here are some other terms to be aware of:

Rapid Form Factor Prototyping:
This method swiftly produces a preliminary version of a part or product, allowing you to evaluate non-functional attributes like size and shape.

Mid-Stage Functional Prototyping:
This approach advances the design and creates a prototype with basic functionality, although it may still be incomplete in some aspects.

High-Resolution Prototyping:
This type of plastic prototype closely approximates production quality, enabling evaluation of form, fit, and function. It may even serve as the final working prototype.

How Do You Determine The Type of Prototype You Need?

Plastic prototyping serves as a valuable tool during the design process, helping to detect errors and identify risks before moving on to production or subsequent prototype iterations. Three types of testing commonly associated with the plastic prototyping process include:

Engineering Validation Testing (EVT):
This focuses on assessing functionality.

Design Validation Testing (DVT):
DVT combines functionality testing with considerations of usability, reliability, conformance, and other relevant tests.

Production Validation Testing (PVT):
PVT concentrates on product line installation and review, encompassing not only production testing but also first article inspection (FAI).

When selecting a plastic prototyping method, take into account the type of prototype needed, the testing requirements, as well as factors such as speed, part tolerances, resolution, and cost considerations.

How to Create a Plastic Prototype

Sungplastic offers a variety of methods for plastic prototype manufacturing.

3D Printing

Fused deposition modeling (FDM) is a cost-effective choice for early-stage prototypes.
Polyjet is suitable for fit and feature EVT testing.
Selective laser sintering (SLS) supports functional testing.
Multi Jet Fusion is employed for late-stage functional prototyping.
Stereolithography (SLA) is utilized for high-resolution prototypes.

These 3D printing technologies enable rapid prototyping and iterations, and you can select the one that best suits your specific plastic prototype manufacturing requirements.

Urethane Casting

Urethane casting involves the use of silicone molds to craft highly detailed plastic prototypes. It is typically employed in later stages of prototyping when the design is more mature. Urethane casting is a cost-effective method for producing 10 to 100 units for EVT. While it offers lower per-piece costs than 3D printing for larger quantities, each silicone mold can only produce a limited number of parts (approximately 20 to 25 units) before replacement is necessary.

CNC Machining

CNC machining utilizes computer-controlled machine tools to precisely remove material from a pre-formed shape. It is faster and more accurate than manual machining and can handle intricate geometric designs. The achievable tolerances may vary, so it’s important to inquire about them before starting a project. CNC machining is typically used for mid-stage functional prototypes and includes services such as CNC milling, CNC turning, and gear hobbing.

Injection Molding

Plastic injection molding is commonly associated with high-volume production but can also support high-resolution prototyping. Sungplastic can quickly and cost-effectively produce steel molds for Production Validation Testing (PVT), the final testing stage before production. There are no minimum order quantities, and steel injection molds can achieve tighter tolerances compared to aluminum molds. T1 samples, which are the first part samples produced from the production tool, can be provided in as fast as 10 days.

These plastic prototype manufacturing methods are not mutually exclusive, and you can choose the ones that best align with your specific prototype needs. Throughout the process, Sungplastic offers Design for Manufacturing (DFM) feedback to help you refine your designs.

What are Common Plastic Materials Used in Prototypes?

The four plastic prototype manufacturing methods collectively offer a broad spectrum of plastic resin materials. However, there are variations in the compatibility of each method with different materials. Some plastic prototype manufacturing processes do not support certain materials, while others have a more extensive range of compatible plastic resins, including those with glass-filled compounds.

If your prototype necessitates the use of the same material as the final product, it is crucial to carefully select the plastic types. For instance, both CNC machining and injection molding are compatible with ABS. In contrast, 3D printing and urethane casting utilize an ABS-like material. While this ABS-like material shares similarities with ABS, it may not fully replicate ABS’s end-use properties, potentially affecting your testing requirements.

Common plastics used in plastic prototype manufacturing include:

Plastic Prototype Manufacturing at Sungplastic

We have a reliable approach for bespoke plastic prototype manufacturing that facilitates quicker, simpler, and more effective procurement of prototype parts. No matter what kind of prototype you require, we support all of the aforementioned plastic prototype manufacturing techniques, which ultimately enables you to produce better products more quickly.

We are the ideal business associate for your ideal plastic prototype manufacturing. Additionally, with industry-leading speeds at every stage, our cutting-edge digital manufacturing system can scale from your plastic prototypes to scaled production.

If you’re interested, contact us directly!

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