Rapid prototyping is used to quickly produce a physical sample of a new design to test out form, fit, and function. To keep costs down, prototypes are typically made of less expensive materials than would be used for the final product in case several design test runs are required. The speed of this process helps to decrease time to market.
The rapid prototyping process involves transforming a 3D computer-aided design (CAD), drawing into a physical object by successively layering and solidifying a material.
The Advantages of Rapid Prototyping
Rapid prototyping allows manufacturers to quickly produce a part that they can showcase to potential customers and investors before moving forward with a design. With a physical sample in hand, manufacturers can easily demonstrate the look, size, and functional features of their product, as well as experiment with different colors and textures.
This process also streamlines production; the ability to rapidly produce samples allows manufacturers to quickly test, identify, and correct any design flaws, thereby ensuring that the final product is suitable for its working application. This reduces time and money spent on multiple production runs and hastens the overall time to market, better allowing manufacturers to capture fleeting sales opportunities.
Rapid Prototyping Mold Options
Molds for rapid prototyping can range from limited production, economical options all the way to high-production, higher-cost options; each option is best suited for a particular type of prototyping run:
- Class 105 Mold: Typically made from cast metal or epoxy, Class 105 molds offer sufficient strength for limited-run prototype molds but only last for a maximum of 500 cycles.
- Class 104 Mold: Employed for limited production using non-abrasive materials, moderately priced Class 104 molds are made from mild steel or aluminum, making them optimal for fewer than 100,000 cycles.
- Class 103 Mold: Used for low to medium production of fewer than 500,000 cycles, Class 103 molds are offered at a common price range.
- Class 102 Mold: Well-suited to abrasive materials and parts requiring close tolerances, the medium- to high-production Class 102 molds can be used for cycles of up to 1 million; because of their higher quality, they are fairly high priced.
- Class 101 Mold: Ideal for extremely high production, these high-quality (and therefore highest-priced) molds are used for cycles of 1 million or more.
At Decatur Mold, a turnkey injection molding company, we have the ability to rapidly prototype parts in any volume; we do not require an order minimum. We also produce a myriad of molds for prototypes to high-production complex parts. Since 1966, we’ve been providing top-quality design, prototyping, machining, and tool and die services for a wide range of industries, including automotive, appliance, military, and medical.
To learn more about rapid prototyping and determine which mold option or prototyping method is right for you, we invite you to download our free comprehensive eBook, “The Basics of Rapid Prototyping.”