How and When to Manufacture Plastic Prototypes

In nearly every single instance of product development, no matter what industry it’s for, prototyping is a necessary stage that will ultimately determine whether your production efforts will be successful or not. The rise of rapid prototyping has made it both easy and affordable to quickly iterate a plastic prototype. However, there are a range of manufacturing technologies that are capable of producing a plastic prototype, and knowing which one you should use will optimize the entire product development process. Get more news about Cnc Turning Plastic Prototypes,you can vist our website!

Let’s take a look at how to create a plastic prototype with 3D printing, CNC machining, injection molding and vacuum casting. While each provides its own benefits, knowing the inner workings of the technology, compatible materials and common applications will help you decide which rapid manufacturing technique is best suited for your plastic prototype.

How to Create a Plastic Prototype With 3D Printing
Additive manufacturing–more commonly known as 3D printing— is actually a blanket term that encompasses a handful of different manufacturing technologies. The three most popular options for producing plastic prototypes is Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), Stereolithography (SLA) and Selective Laser Sintering (SLS).

FDM 3D printing uses an extrusion process to deposit plastic material in a layer-by-layer fashion until an object is created. This is the most widely used form of 3D printing, and almost exclusively employed by the maker community and consumers. Industrial-grade FDM 3D printers can be used to manufacture plastic prototypes in high resolution and strength, depending on the material used.

If you want to create a colorful prototype that will not serve much of a mechanical purpose, PLA (Polylactic Acid) is an exceptionally diverse and affordable material. It can even be fused with wood and metal composites to conjure up exoctic filaments, and also spliced with mechanically superior materials like carbon fiber to enhance functionality.

But on the industrial stage, most other 3D printing materials tend to offer more functionality than PLA. For instance, ABS is an ancient material used to create plastic prototypes, and is ideal for functional prototypes that will undergo a fair amount of impact, wear or high temperatures. This material is widely used in the automotive and aerospace industries, and is also well-suited for electronics, consumer goods and more.

Nylon is a material that can be used with both FDM and SLS 3D printing, and is known to be tough and flexible. It’s perfect for functional prototypes, as well as gears and tooling. When you need a plastic prototype that has rubber-like flexibility, TPE and TPU are great 3D printing materials to utilize. The rubber-like characteristics of this material are beneficial when producing plastic prototypes for protective gear, phone cases, and various industrial components.

Other FDM materials include PETG, a thermoplastic that is most commonly used to create water bottles; and Polycarbonate (PC), which is an industrial-grade material that is used to produce plastic prototypes that will be used for engineering applications and face harsh environments.

Instead of using filament, SLA 3D printing utilize plastic resin materials to create plastic prototypes. The process features a high-powered laser that solidifies the model from a vat of resin. This process is widely used for various prototyping purposes, especially within the medical, dental, and consumer goods space.

Meanwhile, with SLS technology, the most commonly used material is Nylon (PA 11 or PA 12). Since this technique uses a high-powered laser to sinter powder together into a 3D model, both the material and print quality is superior to FDM. Plastic prototypes created via SLS 3D printing are generally more functional, have a higher resolution, and can be more flexible and durable than FDM prints.