Plastic and Rubber Product Prototypes: Why Is This Essential Before Doing Full Manufacture?

August 19, 2015
Plastic and Rubber Product Prototypes: Why Is This Essential Before Doing Full Manufacture?

The production of a product that meets a client’s design specifications presents certain unavoidable challenges. The part can’t just be thrown together and moved into full production. To commit this unwarranted move would be a little like sending out a thousand neatly typed resumes with a single glaring spelling error. You know you could’ve corrected the original error with one key stroke but it’s too late now because the mistake has been replicated a thousandfold. In the case of an expensive engineering plastics production cycle, the spelling error is now a poorly realized part, a product that’s committed to a production stage where thousands of similarly substandard parts will be created. Surely it makes more sense to save the thousands of dollars it costs to make a production run by perfecting the product first. We do this by quickly fabricating one version of the part and taking it through several corrective iterations, thus proving its real world viability before it’s sent into production.

The above rationalization is the primary reason for the incorporation of a pre-production manufacturing run, the creation of one or several prototypes. By making the first prototype, we realize the vision of the client and convert a napkin sketch into a concrete example of what’s possible. It’s from here that we work with the client to iron out flaws and finesse the shape of the product towards its final, streamlined form. Additionally, we lay out a range of differently graded plastic and rubber substitutes, materials that are intelligently categorized according to their chemical and mechanical characteristics. As mentioned earlier, these prototypes guarantee the final profile of the product is optimally specified before we move onto the full production phase, at which point market-ready copies are being fabricated and packed. Both the production facility and the client must have total confidence in the product at this point, an inviolable level of faith that’s generated by the creation of several renditions of the quickly manufactured prototype.

It’s true that some of these steps can be achieved by taking the early version of the part through software simulations and special three-dimensional modelling packages, but these options, invaluable as they are, don’t offer the benefits that come with holding a pre-production copy of the part. On holding and evaluating a hard copy, the engineer can make revisions and discard what suddenly becomes a glaringly obvious mistake, thus streamlining the physical outline. The part can even be physically tested, put into service to see if it can withstand environmental and mechanical factors. If the material performs well, the client then decides to move forward into production. The manufacturing facility then retools injection moulding equipment, master moulds are fabricated, and thousands of units are processed. Each one will demonstrate the final form of the product, a form that has achieved full client-approved functionality through exhaustive prototyping.