When does 3D printing your prototype make sense?
5th June 2017
There are lots of manufacturing methods available for prototyping your design. Even if you’ve decided you want to 3D print it, there are still several technologies to choose from. The most suitable one will depend on your desired material properties, surface finish, lead time and budget.

1)     Rubber Overmoulding

Traditionally, the best option to prototype a plastic part over moulded with a rubber seal is to vacuum cast the two parts separately and stick them together. However, the finish can be poor due to misalignment and delamination. Using our Polyjet machine, we can 3D print separate sections of your model in different materials as one object. The resins are jetted directly on top of the layers below and then cured so there is great adhesion between the materials. We can 3D print from 27 to 95 ShoreA hardness in black, coloured or translucent.

2)     High Accuracy Components

When you’re checking how your parts fit together, it’s important that your model matches your design file accurately. With CNC milling, you need to give pages of precise instructions about which edges you need sharp and which corners you want rounded. Bead blasting gives a smooth, shiny finish but you lose the detail. If it’s what you want, we can simply press print. With 16 micron layers, we can match your file with exceptional precision, so you can make sure that any mechanisms, hinges and snap-fits work exactly as you expect to properly validate your design. Make sure your success is not an artefact of the prototyping process.

3)     Multi-coloured Parts

To prototype in lots of colours, you’ll need lots of paints. Masking, spraying, drying, remasking, respraying… your prototype can take days to paint. The colour is then only skin-deep so fragile and easily scratched. It is possible to use a water-transfer, but requires great skill and is very difficult on a curved surface. We 3D print using coloured resins, which we blend to make thousands of possible colours, up to 82 different shades within a single object! If the object gets chipped, or you intentionally snap it, the colour will show right through the part.

4)     Complex Shapes

The magic of 3D printing is the ability to create “impossible” geometries that would be extremely difficult to mill or injection mould. Many of the uses in arts and fashion play on these new possibilities. It allows for lattice structures, topologically optimised parts, and manufacturing complex assemblies. Unfortunately, with FDM or SLA you must include supports made from the same material as the object, which must be removed by hand in a time-consuming, expensive process. With Polyjet, we can just quickly dissolve away the support material, leaving a smooth surface finish.  

5)     Quick Turnaround

With a large 3D printer and quick process that requires very little hand finishing, we can turn around models within a day. If you are local to Oxford, we can even bring your prototype over on the same day!  

About the author

Oxford Rapid Prototyping
Rachel is establishing Oxford Rapid Prototyping, the new 3D printing division of Oxford Product Design, by providing high resolution, multi-colour, multi-material 3D prints to customers in many industries.

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