In product development, testing is a critical factor. In some cases engineers need to demonstrate how a new design will perform as part of management approval for investment into production. In other cases, regulatory requirements require testing of products from representative materials and processes that correspond to those intended. As part of its prototyping methodology, manufacturers often use different strategies for executing prototypes depending on the purpose of the parts. When injection molding is involved in the final product, the use of specially engineered polymers in the product specification may result in the need to injection mold the parts being used in testing in order to get reliable results. Depending on the circumstances, the final production injection molds may be used or separate prototype tooling may be utilized. The goal is to ensure a superior prototype and timely testing, which helps identify design changes before taking a product into full production.
There are a number of key decisions, which go into the prototype tooling process, which enables a design team to select the appropriate build strategy. A key element to consider is the degree of uncertainty or uniqueness of a particular design. The more unique a given design is from a company’s previous manufacturing experience, the more critical it is to test process and product early. Likewise, overall program schedule plays a big factor. The component in need of testing may just be one part of an overall system being developed. Final production tooling timing may be aligned more with the overall system’s development schedule. If so, waiting for production tooling may be a costly risk delaying valuable testing time. In those cases, a simple prototype tool to allow early evaluation of the component or sub-system may be a great investment. Finally, the likelihood a product may change should also be a factor in considering if separate prototype tooling should be used. If a design change is likely or probable, it is better to identify this early rather than executing the change to final production tooling which could require welding on the tool steel or other changes which might compromise the integrity of the mold for long run use.
For both production and prototyping, every tool is different. Two factors, which strongly influence the distinction between the two, are as follows:
- Production Quantity – The degree of automation in a tool is often correlated with the production quantity intended. High production molds often are highly automated with wear maintenance provisions, sensing and process control capability built into the design. These factors add to the time and cost of the tooling but provide cost and processing efficiencies in the actual volume molding itself. Likewise high production molds are often multi-cavity allowing several parts of the same design to be molded simultaneously. Prototype molds by contrast, typically have limited automation and cavities, saving time and cost in fabrication and thus are suited to low volume molding with quicker development time.
- Hard vs. Soft Tooling – Another difference between the prototype tooling process and production tooling process has to do with tooling materials. Production tooling is often made from hardened P20, H13 or other tool steel suitable for repeated use and long tool life. Heat-treating and surface hardening or plating are also often utilized. Prototype tools are often called soft tools based on the fact that aluminum and or mild steel are often used. This tooling material can be cut quicker in the machining process allowing for faster and more cost effective prototype tools. The tradeoff however is that tool life may be limited depending on the plastic intended to be molded and processing is not optimized for shortest cycle time. Soft tooling can offer affordability for both production and prototyping. However, because it allows for quick turnarounds of samples, it is often the preferred choice for prototypes.
Tooling is a big investment and cost is always an important deciding factor. Therefore, a manufacturing company will determine which type of tooling makes the most sense from a financial perspective and any product based factors necessary to make the right choice.
Innovative Prototyping and Production Services
The JouleHub team of experts can assist your team in the process of making critical decisions about machines, material, and tooling and providing the support services needed regardless of choice. For a superior quality prototype or product, we would love the opportunity to help. Visit us online or call to speak with a company representative regarding your project.
We have some exciting news here at JOULEHUB! For those of you who don’t already know, we have created a new machineries sharing portal called Mechspire. Mechspire is your go-to place for sharing industrial machines with your fellow businesses. You can list your own machines that you don’t use anymore or you can rent a machine you only need to use one time. We are very excited to share this portal with you! Here’s the catch- we’re still trying to get it off the ground.
We are only 85% complete so, we decided to launch a Kickstarter project! We need help finishing up all the technical aspects of our virtual portal so you can start taking advantage of renting machines without any complications.
Mechspire will help you save money. No more buying large, new machines that you only need for one project. Save your money and rent it from someone who lists it on Mechspire. Or, make the money back you spent on buying new machines by renting out yours! Our portal is already up if you want to get a gist for how it will work, but we need to reach our Kickstarter goal before people can start listing their machines.
So, if you are ready to start using Mechspire to save money and increase your industrial productivity, back our project today! We have some awesome rewards:
- Pledge CHF 1 or more = Public thank you on the Mechspire website
- Pledge CHF 5 or more = Public thank you on the Mechspire website and Facebook page
- Pledge CHF 100 or more = Free registration and your first month of listings are free on our portal
- Pledge CHF 5,000 or more = Dinner with the Mechspire founders team
Stay tuned and keep checking back on our Kickstarter page and all our social media accounts for weekly updates on how our Kickstarter is coming along!
Research and Development is a term thrown around a lot in business environments, but many people don’t completely understand it. Research and Development means exactly what it says. It the first step in creating new products or improving old ones. This is where businesses research and discover what is needed to make their products. This is where they develop a plan to move forward with their products and improvements. When written out, Research and Development sounds like a pretty big part of a business’ creative process but many businesses cut costs by cutting out this step completely.
When businesses do this, they often find themselves regretting this decision. If a businesses doesn’t have the time, funds, or materials for Research and Development, it is highly recommended that they outsource this step for the sake of their products and customers.
Here at JOULEHUB, we offer the Research and Development your business needs. We are here to help your business succeed. We have a fully equipped laboratory ready to put your products to the test. Most of the time, we find that our clients’ biggest concern with Research and Development is their lack of equipment. They cannot perform the tests they need to themselves, so they reach out to us! We have everything needed to run tests and get results that tell you what you need to know about your products.
We also help out businesses that don’t have enough time or staff to perform these tests to the best of their abilities. Lack of time and man power can lead to rushed, botched tests and inaccurate results. That is just as bad as skipping Research and Development all together.
Don’t let time, equipment, or money keep your business from flourishing. You deserve better than products that fall flat because you didn’t spend enough time researching your options and testing them before putting them on the market. Do yourself a favour and contact us here at JOULEHUB to discuss your Research and Development needs today.