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How To Develop A Plastic Prototype For The First Time

Jan 13, 2020

Are you an entrepreneur looking to bring your product idea to life in 2020? If your product involves plastic parts, plastic injection molding will be the primary process you use to manufacture your product. But before you focus on production, you will need to develop a prototype to test out your design. This article is meant to give new product developers an insight on how to develop a plastic prototype for the first time.

Before going to a prototype injection molder with your design, you will need a CAD (Computer Aid Design) Model. This is the digital mock-up of your product that will show you and your molder what your product is meant to look like, how the parts fit together, and how the product as a whole will function. If you need assistance creating a CAD model, our Virtual Engineer service can assist you.

Once you have a proper CAD model, you will be able to create a physical prototype model. We like to break plastic prototypes into two categories: visual and functional. 

1. Visual - A visual prototype is developed to get an idea of what the final product will look like. Since a visual prototype does not need to function like the final product, 3D printing is the quickest and cheapest way to develop one. 3D printing also referred to as rapid prototyping or additive manufacturing.

2. Functional - A functional prototype is made to represent the desired finished part from the material to the mechanics. Functional prototypes allow you to test your product design before moving on to the production phase. These are the prototypes we specialize in at the Engineering Resource Center.

3D printing is a great way to get a visual prototype. 3D printing is a cheap way to create plastic parts but is not a replacement for injection molding. Injection molding is the only way to manufacture a functional, working plastic prototype. 

Developing a functional plastic prototype will help you find and test different types of plastic so you can choose one with the strength, durability, color and cost that will suit your product in the long term. It will also allow you to test your product before investing money in production tooling. 

Injection molded prototypes aren't just for showing you what your part/product will end up like. It's also for making sure that the injection mold design itself is optimized for full-scale production. Always remember: your plastic parts are only as good as the mold they are made in. Choose a toolmaker and injection molding company carefully.

The prototyping stage can be confusing for anyone developing a plastic part for the first time. That's where the Engineering Resource Center comes in. Our specialty is developing functional plastic prototypes without compromising time, money or speed. Check out our services page to see how we can help take your design from napkin sketch to production!

For more advice on turning your invention idea into a real, selling product, read How To Turn Your Invention Idea Into A Product That Sells Part 1 and Part 2

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