How Prototype Tooling Can Save Costs in the Production of Affordable Parts

Bringing a new injection-molded product to market takes time and money. Prototype tooling is a critical step that can save costs in the long run.

Injection molders experienced in Design for Manufacturability (DfM) can reduce the risk of costly mistakes during production. They can also make recommendations for ideal gating locations and other design changes.

Reduced Tooling Costs

Many new product designs require great attention to detail, especially regarding injection-molded components. Even if experience, simulation, and rapid prototyping have convinced molders that a plan will work, predicting how the finished product will look or function can still be tough.

Using prototype tooling to verify the geometry of a part is a cost-effective way to root out any defects or inconsistencies before investing in expensive production tooling. Making changes to a production mold can be extremely costly and often requires re-machining the entire mold, which can significantly cut into the tool’s life.

Prototype injection molding also provides the opportunity to physically evaluate the performance of any plastics under consideration for use in a project without incurring significant expenses. If a material proves ineffective, the mold can be quickly revised with cuts and welds to adjust gate locations – a much more affordable option than modifying an entire production mold.

Modular Components & Assemblies

In developing a new medical device or consumer product, multiple steps must be completed to bring it to market in commercially relevant volumes at an acceptable cost. One of the most critical and often overlooked steps is prototype tooling.

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Prototype tooling, also known as soft tooling, produces injection molded components using low-volume molds that function as tools. Manufacturers use this process to notice and correct flaws in the design of a product before investing in production tooling.

Prototype molds made from silicone rubber or a mixture of aluminum alloy and soft steel are generally inexpensive, allowing for the manufacture of several prototype parts at a relatively low cost. This helps to speed up the development process and enables engineers to determine the best fixture for the region, evaluate ergonomics, and perform a material comparison test. However, this method could be better if the design of a project might change frequently.

Faster Turnaround Time

Many engineers mistakenly believe that skipping prototype tooling is a cost-saving, but ignoring the benefits of this phase will lead to more expensive and time-consuming changes once production begins. In the end, prototype injection mold tooling saves costs by eliminating costly redesigns and ensuring the product design is ready for production.

Prototype IM tooling also allows designers to evaluate multiple plastics for size/weight, fit, ergonomics, and other critical attributes before committing to one type of material for production. It is also an ideal method for assessing complex geometry that may require sliders or other forms of undercuts.

Production tooling timing is often aligned with the overall system development schedule. However, if the component needing testing is critical for meeting an upcoming program deadline, waiting on a hard production mold can be a costly risk delaying valuable testing time. A simple prototype tooling solution can solve this problem.

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Less Waste

While it might seem logical to skip the prototyping step when working on a project that doesn’t require significant design adjustments or new material choices, ignoring prototype tooling will often result in unexpected challenges and waste.

The cost of designing and creating a prototype is primarily driven by the materials, components, and labor involved. However, the cost of the prototype can increase if the product has complex geometry that requires simulation, rapid tooling, or multiple design revisions to ensure critical dimensions will be held and functionality will be maintained.

Prototype molding allows you to maximize your research and development resources. It provides a sample model and the ability to test the performance of your product against competitors’ products and the market. It also gives you a jumping-off point to make plan adjustments, implement refinements, and create a final product that meets your objectives. This reduces downstream costs from the inability to meet delivery expectations and avoids costly mistakes that can delay your product launch.

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