Emphasis On Prototyping
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for the medical field touch human lives,
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TPE U PVC U Latex Tubing U Dip-molded Products U Non-latex Free Band® Tourniquets
Made in the USA since 1960.
machining of individual parts is a viable and
affordable prototyping option (Figure 2). In
some cases, it can cost slightly more than
3D printing and there is no desktop option,
but the ability to prototype in actual produc-
tion-equivalent materials allows functional
testing of a part’s mechanical, electrical,
chemical, thermal, and optical properties. This
becomes increasingly important as the num-
ber of special purpose plastics continues to
grow. Machining also can be used to produce
prototypes in metals as well as resins.
Like 3D printing, rapid CNC machining offers
no significant economies of scale as production
volume grows. This is where rapid injection
molding excels. Like machining, it uses software
to quickly turn 3D CAD models into toolpaths
for milling aluminum molds. Once the mold
has been made, the cost per molded part drops
quickly, making the process ideal for turning out
dozens or hundreds of prototypes for functional
or market testing, or thousands to take to mar-
ket. As a prototyping method, it is ideal because
it can produce parts in virtually any of hundreds
of injection moldable resins (Figure 3). And, in
addition to functionality, it tests moldability.
Both 3D printing and machining can make parts
with features that would be difficult or impossi-
ble to produce in a mold.
Clearly, each of these methods can serve a
purpose in product development. For fast, early,
individual prototypes, perhaps even made at
the desktop, 3D printing is hard to beat. For
low volume functional prototypes in produc-tion-equivalent materials, rapid CNC machining
is ideal. And for larger numbers of prototypes
in actual production materials, for moldablity
testing or for low volume production, rapid
injection molding is the perfect choice.
For more information, visit www.protolabs.com.
Figure 3: Injection molded part sample. Rapid
injection molding is done by injecting thermo-plastic resins into a mold. What makes the process “rapid” is the technology used to produce
the aluminum mold instead of a traditional steel
used in production molds.
Figure 2: CNC machined (computer numerically
controlled) part sample—A solid block of plastic
or metal is clamped into a CNC mill and cut into
a finished part.