By Jeff Exley and Craig Brown, Caplugs
Prototyping parts for a novel product, or an existing product whose design is being updated, is a prudent practice. Prototypes can reduce overall development cost by mitigating design risk, and positively impact timelines by providing some insight into a part or protective solution’s utility and manufacturability.
However, debate often exists regarding the ideal type of prototype for a given project: specifically, whether to use 3D printing or injection molding to produce that prototype (or prototypes). Ultimately, there is no simple answer to this question. Several factors influence the decision, including the prototype’s purpose, timeline and cost concerns; part geometry; and the materials to be used for both prototyping and production.
Injection molding and 3D printing are complementary techniques, not adversaries, when it comes to prototyping. The use of one versus the other is purely situational. If an organization seeks a rapidly produced part to gauge fitment, to have a tangible object to pass around the room, or to use while conceptualizing additional design aspects, a 3D-printed prototype probably is most appropriate. If that organization seeks a part for application-specific testing, whose high-tolerance production is replicable and cost-effective at any volume, a molded prototype is likely to best fulfill their need.
By providing customers with both 3D-printed and injection-molded prototyping options, Caplugs can cater to any specifications and volume needs with the most cost-effective and timely method applicable. Once a prototype design is finalized, we apply a design-for-manufacture prototype process examining repeatable manufacture of that product in an injection tool.