Rapid Prototyping

When developing your product, we will produce several prototypes to test various elements of the design ranging from appearance, ergonomics and functionality. The following information explains some of the rapid prototyping (RP) processes we will utilise and what you can expect from each technology:

3D Printing

3D Printing has recently come to the public forefront; it is technically known as fuse deposition modelling (FDM) due to the way the ‘print head’ deposits material on to a surface to build-up a 3D model. We are able to access a number of machines, which are capable of printing parts that vary considerably in quality. 3D printing is an ideal method if you would like to quickly and cost effectively test a design concept.

Stereolithography (SLA)

SLA can produce complex models whilst retaining a superb level of detail. Parts are cured from a resin using a laser; the finished article is often clear or white but can be painted using any chosen Pantone or RAL colour. This method is perfect if you wish to create a single prototype that can communicate the aesthetic of a manufactured product. This is the most popular technology that we utilise due to the high surface finish that can be achieved.

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

SLS uses lasers to sinter a powered material in 0.1mm layers to build a solid model. This process is ideal for producing performance parts as there are a vast number of materials available that mimic engineering polymers. Certain SLS materials are particularly good at simulating features such as live hinges. Sintered parts can be dyed to alter their colour; however, the range of colours available is limited. The surface finish that can be achieved is poor in comparison to the SLA process.

Vacuum Casting

Vac-casting is the process of creating elastomer parts using silicone tooling that have been created from an SLA master part. This batch prototyping method is a cost effective way of obtaining approximately 10-15 units that closely mimics injection-moulded plastic parts. Vac-cast resins do not have equal properties to materials such as polypropylene or polyethylene. Mimic materials are available but often have a lower tensile strength. High quality textures and finishes can be achieved using this process – resins are obtainable in a wide variety of colours.

Machining

An effective way of creating a geometrically accurate part that replicates the physical properties of an injection-moulded part. We recommend using this process when it is critical that the part being produced is made from the same material as the manufactured product. Due to the nature of Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) machining, complex internal geometries can not be formed in the same way as SLA, SLS and FDM. CNC machining is also considered a suitable low volume manufacturing method.