There are several ways of prototype making, for the new friends who engaged in the development of new products, Sometimes they doubt that which is the proper process that should be used.
I would like to share the following points according to my years of experience.
Prototype processing methods: CNC machining, vacuum casting, SAL, prototype mold, etc.
1, According to the uses of the products.
1> Verify the strength of products
If you want to confirm the stability and strength, normally choose CNC machined prototype or
Injection molded prototype
As SAL sample is processed by special materials piled, it is fast but so soft and easy to break.
2> Choose the method according to the quantity.
There are 2 methods for the multiple quantities: CNC Machining and Vacuum casting and prototype molding.
Generally speaking, according with China's current technology, for one set of silicone molds we can only produce 13 to 15pcs (mould life) but with foreign technology they are able to manufacture about 20pcs. Foreigner technology and materials are better than it in China.
Why the capacity is quite different between China and technology developed country?
It is as
1. Raw material of vacuum casting
2. Raw material of silicon mold
3. Know how on how to control molding conditions, which should be stable
If you wan to make multiple prototypes in China, I suggest you select CNC Machining, its technology is more stable.
How about the prototype mold for multiple quantity of prototype?
If the prototype quantity reaches 50PCS, We strongly suggest to make it by prototype molding,
Same as normal mold, the prototype mold is also made by steel or aluminum, but we have know how to finish the mold in very short time (Lead time in average 5-10days) with very low cost ( only 30% of production mold).
Sometimes, If you make the prototype by vacuum casting, the cost is even higher than the prototype mould. As it takes same lead time as prototype molding ,but its quality is not stable and accuracy is quite lower than prototype molding
Meanwhile ,the prototype mold's life, generally can reach 20.000 pieces, and its efficiency and quality are much better than the prototype made by vacuum casting (silicon mold).
The other benefit of prototype molding is when you want to have larger quantity later after multiple quantity prototypes, we can just modify and upgrade the prototype mold, and we can use the improved prototype mold to produce even 200000-500000 pieces for you.
3> Choose the process method according to material
SAL is made by special resin can create one prototype very fast, however its raw materials is very weaker than ABS. SAL is not suitable for samples strength test.
For CNC prototype we normally use PP, PC, ABS, and POM, acrylic or aluminum
For some soft material such as PVC, PU, rubber cannot be used to process by CNC, in this case, we suggest make it by vacuum casting or prototype molding. By vacuum casting or prototype molding is possible to create any color in the mold. However using CNC process we only can get the nature colors of raw materials, if you wants the CNC Machined prototype with color, you have to spray the color on the surface of them.
When the shape of prototype is complex, can not be done 100 per cent using CNC, therefore we need to separate the end product into 2 or 3 or even more parts and then put those parts together .
However some plastic materials such as PP or PE, can not be stick each other very well, when we can change to make it by prototype molding or vacuum casting.
4> Choose the process method according to shape of the product
SAL is the most suitable process for smaller size products and complicated parts, as it is expensive to make large size prototype by SAL process.
By CNC Machining or prototyping molding, you can make both big/small sizes; the speed can be controlled to achieve a smooth surface,
5> Choose the process method according to delivery time
SAL comparing with CNC is the fastest process but if you want to make more prototype samples the cost will be very high if you use by SAL.
Generally speaking, for no more than 10 pieces we choose CNC machining, for more than 15pcs we choose vacuum casting (silicone mold) , or over 50 pieces we choose prototype mold.
6> Choose process method according to machining accuracy
No matter the process (SAL, CNC, vacuum casting, prototype mold ) all can be improved by controlling well the machine.
Considering the most profitable way to create the prototype is analyzing the deviation, stability and accuracy, of course the best solution to make a prototype is by prototype mold. The prototype molded parts can not only verify the outlook and the construction strength and function, but can also verify the resin flow ability and the reliability of mass production.
Manufacturing process for prototype according to its accuracy (the prototype molded parts is number one the most accurate among them):
No.1, Prototype molded part
No.3, Vacuum casting (Silicone mold)
The above is listed the advantages and disadvantages of processing methods for your reference, Thank you for your time!
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