Printed parts vs molded parts: what is the big difference?
Ultimately, there is a specific purpose that must be fulfilled when it comes to prototype plastic parts. Typically, there is a concept that is in the design stages and that design has finally met most of the initial requirements for the product it is going to be in production. Once the design has reached that phase, certain levels of production manufacturing methods are being considered. At that point, it is the goal of the engineer or designer to decide whether that design is fully ready for mass production or if it needs some tweaks or adjustments to uphold a successful launch into production manufacturing. Hence, why prototyping is such a critical element of a products life cycle. A lot of money is spent in the production process and if there are errors in the design, there could be financial repercussions for not having the design proved out as needed.
So how do you choose the right method? To break it down, you simply need to ask yourself the question, what is the function of my prototype? Do you visually want to see the part, so you can make sure it feels correctly in your hand, maybe you want to assemble something together or you have a mating part you need to check the fit? You may want to see if it is even functional altogether. For simple purposes such as these, you could consider the printing process, where a printed plastic material creates and forms
your part. The layering process does not create a molded part with the same properties and in some ways is quite limited.
Another method is an injection molded part created with a low-cost tooling method. DRS can build a tool that specifically fits your need associated with testing that part. Most people creating a part that is an integrated feature on a larger assembly, want to make sure their part will perform to the standard needed. Therefore, they want a fully molded part that will showcase the correct properties in testing. This also allows them to see exactly how the product will perform in a production setting as this will mimic that level of manufacturing. Many will refer to this as soft tooling or quick turn injection mold tooling. Either way you could mold, test, and make design changes in a cost-effective way to fully prepare for the production process. Overall, a great method for prototyping your next project to fully prepare for the production process.