Is it possible to get a plastic molding prototype done in a matter of days or even 1-2 weeks? Yes, you can get a very well made aluminum mold made and plastic parts produced by rapid injection molding in that time frame.
Using advanced CNC machining techniques and standardized design parameters, prototype tools can be accurately and quickly manufactured, giving customers the edge they need to be the first to the marketplace.
Mold design is central
About the only things that are sacrificed using this method are time consuming and difficult mold making tasks, such as slides, lifters and collapsible cores. Most of the time these features can be molded with a straight pull, giving engineers, salesmen, and designers the physical plastic part they need in their hand.
So, in much less time than you ever dreamed possible, you can get a prototype part made by injection molding. With the right design and a willingness to be creative, even complicated plastic parts can be had in as little as a week.
Types of prototype tooling
- Rapid injection molded parts are much better than SLA or FDM parts when it comes to the actual fit and function of a plastic part in an assembly. Molded parts are much more durable and more like the “real thing”.
- Bridge tooling covers the gap between production tooling and one-off prototypes. This type of tooling is great for getting your product to a show or in front of potential customers very quickly. Some bridge tooling seems to last much longer than expected and can produce thousands of quality parts.
- Production tooling is usually made from heat-treated tool steel, with the expectation that it can produce 100,000’s of parts, even millions. More and more companies are finding that pre-hard or aluminum molds work quite well for lower production quantities.
Typical mold materials for prototype molding
- QC7 aluminum is a great material that is very easy to machine, polishes well, is excellent for sinker EDM and WEDM, and can be machined to very fine details. It is not uncommon to get thousands of parts from these molds.
- PX5 is a pre-hardened tool steel with excellent machinability, good polishing characteristics, and is easy to weld. This is a favorite of prototype moldmakers.
- P20 is the old standby pre-hardened tool steel. It is fairly easy to machine, especially with carbide, polishes well, can be welded and has been used for decades.
- NAK 55is a specialty steel that is easy to machine, easy to polish and weld. It is quite durable and holds up well for short-run production.
- NAK 80 is the tougher cousin to NAK55, plus it can be polished to a very high luster. This makes it an excellent choice for lenses and medical products.
Things to remember for rapid prototype mold making
The type of prototype tooling required depends on a few factors.
- Lead time
- Quantities required
- Complexity of the plastic part