Prototyping is a crucial step in product design. With the arrival of 3D printing, it materializes within hours.
First, you must choose the best prototyping method among the many (SLA, SLS, CNC, Silicone Mold etc). The dimension of your device, its geometric complexity and the mechanical resistance required, mean that different solutions are more or less well adapted. To help you decide here is our quick summary.
SLA (Stereolithographic) 3D printing, or resin 3D printing, has become vastly popular for its ability to produce high-accuracy, isotropic, and watertight prototypes. It uses light-reactive thermoset materials called “resin”.
SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) is another 3D printing technology belonging to the Powder Bed Fusion family. It’s a bit more expensive than SLA. Nylon can be used and products have a better mechanical consistent property (solid and flexible).
While 3D printing is well-known for its advantages in creating parts with high geometric complexity, it is often limited by the build volume (300mm for SLS). However, CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machining, a fairly common subtractive technique for part creation, can reach big dimensions as the different pieces can be stuck together and remain robust.
Once your prototype is validated and you decide to go ahead for a sizable production, an injection mold is needed. Depending on the complexity of your product, with a budget starting around 2000€ it will take at least one month to produce such a mold. In terms of budget and time a silicone mold is more viable because typically it is much less expensive than an injection mold and can be reused 10 times. It is a good solution for small series production.
In short, there’s no one solution fits all. Everything depends on your design and your constraints. Luckily there’s always one for you, either cheap or fast or big or robust…
We are a team based in France and in China. We speak French, Chinese and English. We have a network of local fast prototyping suppliers and can accompany you in your product development.