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Plastic Prototyping: How To Create A Plastic Prototype

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Henry

15 years of experience in prototyping and manufacturing.

Plastic products in our lives everywhere. During the plastic products development process, Plastic prototype verification before mass production is very common. But do you know how to make the plastic prototypes? Today we will explore different rapid prototyping methods for creating plastics Prototype.

What is Plastic Prototyping?

Create Plastic prototype

Plastic prototyping is a process creating a preliminary version of a plastic part or product. It’s a way to assess or present a physical product before going to mass production. Depending on your design’s maturity, a plastic prototype can be created with different prototyping methods and materials.

Four Rapid Plastic Prototyping Methods

CNC machining

CNC machining is a effective method for creating plastic prototypes with high precision and accuracy. WIth computer controlled cutting tools, CNC machine can cut a solid block into a functional prototype. CNC machining offers lots of advantages for plastic prototyping, include fast turnaround times, high precision and high quality surface especially for the optic clear prototypes.

3D Printing

3D printing is an additive manufacturing process. it create the plastic prototype by depositing melted plastic material layer-by-layer based on a digital design file. in this way , 3D printing can manufature prototypes with remarkable complexity and short lead time with low cost. there are different 3D printing technology include FDM 3D printing, SLA 3D printing, SLS 3D printing and DLP 3D printing.

Urethane Casting

Urethane casting, also known as silicone molding or vacuum casting, is a cost-effective method for producing plastic prototypes low volume manufacturing less than 100 pieces. This process has something similar with traditional inejction molding, it use a silicone mold to cast Liquid polyurethane resin.

Read more about our blog of complete guide to urethane casting.

Plastic Prototyping with Urethane Casting

Rapid injection molding

Injection molding can be used for creating plastic prototypes even this process is mainly used for mass production. injection molding prototyping use soft steel for tooling material and more simple tooling constructure to injection low volume plastic prototypes. this process is usually required to make the plastic prototype with exactly same material with mass production.

Steps for Creating plastic prototype

Steps by CNC machining

CNC plastic prototyping requires several steps as below:

Step 1: Plastic Prototypes CAD design.

due to the limitation the CNC machining process, Prototype designer will design the product which could fit the machines, a Complex structure of plastic product will be split to piece by piece.

Step 2: Machining on CNC machines.

Once designer finish the design, the CAM software with Generate the CNC program by translating the CAD design into machine-readable code, aslo called G-code&M-code. This involves specifying the tool paths, cutting depths, feed rates, and any other machining instructions necessary to produce the desired prototype.  

Step 3: Bonding.

After all the pieces prepared, use adhesive bonding techniques to securely join them together. this is to get the complete prototype with a good strength.

Step 4: Grinding and polishing.

Sanding the surface of the prototype to remove any rough edges, burrs, or imperfections, ensuring a smooth surface and then Apply polishing methods to further enhance the surface finish of the prototype. use specialized tools, compounds and buffing techniques to achieve the desired level of smoothness and glossy of the prototype surface.

Step 5: Surface finishing.

this depends on the end user requirement to appy different aesthetic effect on the surface of plastic prototypes. the main surface finishing methods include: dyeing, Painting colors, Vacuum Metallization, Matte Finish, Laser Engraving, Screen printing, Brushing.

Steps by 3D Printing

Step 1: Prepare The 3D Printer.

Set up the 3D printer, ensuring it is properly calibrated and the printing bed is clean and level. Install the correct printing material and ensure the printer settings match the desired specifications.

Step 2: Slice The 3D Model Start The Printing.

Use slicing software to convert the 3D model into instructions whic is called G-code. Adjust settings such as layer height, infill density and speed, Load the G-code file onto the 3D printer and initiate the printing process and then wait the printer running.

Step 3: Grinding and polishing.

once the printing process finish. make the same grinding and polishing process with CNC machining above.

Step 4: Surface finishing.

this is the same process with CNC machining above.

Steps by Urethane Casting

Step 1: Create The Master Pattern.

Master Pattern is used for making sillicon mold. it can be created by CNC machining and 3D Printing.

Step 2: Making​ The Silicone Mold.

Use the master pattern to Make a silicon mold for casting. Pouring Liquid silicone to be around the master and removal all air to form the silicone mold.

Step 3: Casting prototype.

Pour the mixed urethane resin into the silicone mold, Cure the liquid urethane resin in the mold and After the resin has fully cured, open the mold and take out the plastic part.

Step 4: Grinding and polishing.

Step 5: Surface finishing.

Steps by injection molding

Step1: Mold design.

Design the rapid mold with simple construction to low the cost.

Step 2: CNC machining the soft steel mold.

Use CNC machines to mill the steel to make the mold according to the mold design.

Step 3: injection molding.

Inject the plastic material into the mold to form the plastic parts.

Step 4: surface finishing.

this could be same process with other plastic prototyping method.

Comparision of Plastic prototyping methods

Different plastic prototyping method use different plastic materials, and with different timing and cost. we introduce a comparision for you when you need to choose for making a plastic prototype.

Processing MethodsMaterialsApplicationlead timecost
CNC prototypingEngineering plastic sheets such as Acrylic sheets, Polycarbonate sheets, POM sheets, ABS sheets, Nylon sheets, etc.For those plastic prototype with high precision and strength for function prototypes.3 to 7 daysModerate
3D printingPhotopolymers for SLA , and Plastic Filaments for FDM and SLS.Use for just looks-like plastic prototypes.1 to 3 dayslow
Urethane CastingClear Urethane Resins and Non-clear Urethane Resins used for casting, similar performance with engineering plastics.Use for looks-like pastic prototypes with small quantities from 5 to 100 pieces.3 to 7 dayslow for each picece
injection moldingEngineering plastic particle materials same as CNC machining. include Acrylic, ABS, Polycarbonate, etc.Use for function prototypes which have exactly same performance with mass production15 to 20 daysHigh

Find more about Urethane casting vs injection molding to check the details.

Plastic Prototypes Finishing

In order to obtain a more realistic appearance, texture, durability or other performance, it is necessary to make surface finishes on the Plastic Prototypes. this is a very critical step for plastic prototyping. we introduce some common plastic surface finishing methods as below table:

Finishing MethodCharacteristics
DyeingDyeing is used for acrylic material to create clear colorful plastic prototypes.
Spray PaintingApplying one or multiple layers of paint on a plastic surface for color or protection.
ElectroplatingDepositing a layer of metal on a plastic surface through an electrolytic process, often to improve conductivity or appearance.
Screen PrintingPrinting ink directly onto a plastic surface through a mesh screen, commonly used for text and simple graphics.
UV CoatingApplying a UV-cured coating to enhance durability, scratch resistance, and gloss.
Matte FinishAchieving a non-glossy, dull surface through physical or chemical means.
Laser EngravingEtching patterns or text onto a plastic surface using a laser.
Mechanical BuffingBuffing a plastic surface using mechanical methods to remove scratches or unevenness.

You may also want to know How To Add Color To Plastic Prototype, Click the link to find more.

How can I get a plastic prototype made?

There are many factors you need to consider before creating the perfect plastic prototype such as materials, budget and timing. KUSLA rapid prototyping service can help you make pastic prototype part faster, easier, and more efficient. We support all of the above plastic prototyping methods with very high quality standards.

FAQ

How Much Does a prototype Cost?

the cost of prototype depends on the prototyping process and the complexity of the parts. generally, A plastic prototype part can cost from $50 to $200, and for a complex prototpyes assembly can cost from $1000 to $10000 and even more. Check Rapid Prototyping Cost Overview for more details.

How to make prototype at home?

With a desktop 3D printer, you can make a prototype at home. just finish your design in the CAD software and load it into the 3D printer, then you can print the prototype with the materials prepared.

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Request A Quote

Get in touch with our professional team today, and we will respond to you within 24 hours.

Employees of Kusla.

Gang Liu

Marketing Director

Employees of Kusla.

Hua Liu

Project Manager

Employees of Kusla.

Yiyang Zhao

Project Manager

Employees of Kusla.

Lu Wang

Technical Sales

Employees of Kusla.

Anming Li

Technical Sales

Employees of Kusla.

Xiaoli Wu

Technical Sales

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.
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