Protoshop offers high quality, rapid prototype injection mold fabrication and molding

Protoshop Injection Molding and Prototype Fabrication Equipment1

Protoshop

We aim to replicate production mold quality as closely as possible. Our customers are not limited by part geometry. If it can be molded, we can do it! We’ve fabricated thousands of successful prototype molds.

You’re not alone. Let our experienced plastics engineers review your part model and provide guidance which will yield prototype parts that meet your functional requirements.

What is Prototype Tooling?

The terms “tooling” and “mold” are interchangeable. Prototype tooling fills a very important need during product development of providing injection molded parts. Those parts are used for testing against product requirements. Prototype tooling is typically implemented immediately following a period of development, testing and iteration using 3D printed parts. 3D printed parts are a good fit for early development since a low number of parts may be built quickly. The drawback of 3D printed parts is that larger numbers of parts are expensive and impractical. Also, testing with actual injection molded materials becomes more critical as development progresses. At that point, it’s important to fabricate a set of prototype tooling.

Prototype tooling is typically fabricated using soft metal and CNC machining to build mold cavities that allow for injection molding of parts in low quantities to support the balance of development until transfer to manufacturing. It’s important to determine how many molded parts are needed to support the development and whether the prototype mold to be fabricated will also need to be used for bridge tooling. Quantities and the application are important factors in determining the type of prototype mold to be fabricated.

Ideally, prototype tooling yields molded parts that closely replicate production quality parts. This will minimize development time and cost, allowing engineers to transfer products to manufacturing in the shortest time possible. When parts do not replicate production quality with issues such as part inconsistency or inaccuracy, it is more difficult for engineers to determine a root cause conclusively. As a result, engineers often have to spend additional testing time to make firm conclusions, or they have to proceed with partial or incorrect conclusions that may lead them in the wrong direction. In addition, prototype parts that closely replicate production quality reduce the risk that new issues are found when transferring the product to production since parts are nearly identical.

How We’re Different

Award Ribbon Icon - Superior part quality for Injection Molded Parts

Superior part quality

We strive to replicate production part quality, without sacrificing speed.
Ruler Icons Blue - No part geometry limitations on Protoshop Prototype Molds

No part geometry limitations

Frustrated by rejected part geometry from other prototype mold vendors? If it can be molded, we can do it. Complex parts are our specialty including unusual materials, insert molding and overmolding.
Rapid mold iterations blue Icon

Rapid mold iterations

Our molds are intended to allow for quick iterations to part geometry, typically in just 1 day.
Pencil and Rular Working on Draft Icon - Part design assistance for Prototype Designs

Part design assistance

Our engineers have extensive plastic part design experience over thousands of parts. We’re ready to help you develop a part design that meets your requirements.
Blue stacked papers icons - Material selection assistance

Material selection assistance

There are thousands of available thermoplastic grades. It can be difficult to select the right material without extensive plastics experience. Let us help you select the right material for your application.
Blue Icon of Stacked Boxes - Large quantities of parts may be quickly molded

Large quantities of parts may be quickly molded

Several thousand parts may be provided per week from our prototype molds.
Blue Icon of Files Being Sent - Molds are Transferable

Molds are transferable

Our molds may be readily transferred to any contract manufacturer as needed.
Blue Icon of Puzzle Pieces - Flexible material options

Flexible material options

We have a variety of in stock materials. We can also use customer supplied materials or coordinate the purchase of materials.

Protoshop differs from other prototype molders due to the proprietary molding method we use for our prototype molding. Our founders have over 25 years of medical product development experience in consumable plastic products and extensive experience designing and fabricating prototype molds for thousands of parts. We drew on this experience when creating our molding system that yields parts that strive to replicate production mold quality.

We’re also different in the personal attention we give our customers. We provide our customers with online video meetings where we identify part design issues, explain why it’s an issue, and offer options for resolving each issue. Other prototype molders only provide an automated PDF document indicating issues found by their software. Still, they do not offer any education as to why it’s an issue or provide any options for how to resolve the issue. We recognize that not everyone is a molding expert. We want to help provide our knowledge to ensure our customers’ part designs yield successful results the first time.

Finally, our website offers convenient features that are not offered by other prototype molders. On our website, you’ll have the option to order parts or iterate an existing mold. Also, you never have to wonder about your mold fabrication or part molding status. You can check up on the minute status or choose to receive notifications by email as the status changes. When parts are shipped, you’ll receive FedEx tracking details and the inspection report. The website also maintains a complete history of your project, including quotes, packing slips, and inspection reports that you can view and download at any time.

Prototype Tooling Options with Protoshop

You’ll find that some prototype molders offer multiple prototype tooling options that are characterized by fabrication methods and how many parts can be expected from the mold. The entry-level prototype mold is fabricated using 3D printing to build mold cavities. While these molds may be fabricated quickly, they have important drawbacks to consider. The tolerance of the 3D printed cavities is much greater than CNC machined mold cavities, which will result in parts with poor accuracy. 3D printed cavities are also not very robust and are typically only capable of less than 100 ea parts.

The mid-level of prototype molding typically involves blocks of aluminum containing the mold detail. These molds are an improvement over the 3D printed mold cavities because they are CNC machined, so the tolerances are improved. They typically take about 1-2 weeks to fabricate. However, soft metal like aluminum is easily damaged. Even the action of opening and closing the aluminum mold halves creates wear and damage. Also, they do not hold up well against the high pressure that is required for low melt flow materials or thin walls. These molds typically have a life of 1,000-3,000 ea parts.

The highest level of prototype molding typically involves a steel mold frame and aluminum inserts that contain the mold detail. These molds are an improvement over aluminum block prototype molds because the steel portion of the mold provides support for the aluminum inserts, alignment, and parting line. They take about 2-4 weeks to fabricate and can typically provide about 10,000 ea parts. These molds can sometimes be used as bridge tooling.

Protoshop has developed a method of prototype molding that far exceeds the part quality of the highest level of prototype molding found at other prototype molders without sacrificing speed or cost. Our prototype molds feature accurate temperature control of the mold cavity, which is typically a feature only found in production molds. This results in molding parts that more closely replicate production mold quality. Our prototype molds may be used as bridge tooling and may be transferred to a contract manufacturer.

How the Process Works

Step 1 Icon
White Pencil and Rular Working on Draft Icon - Design Assistance Needed?
Design assistance needed?

(OPTIONAL)

Step 2 Icon
White Folder Upload Icon - Upload part model for prototype mold quote
Upload part model for prototype mold quote
Step 3 Icon
white file icon with checkmark in corner- Accept quote for Prototype Mold
Accept quote
Step 4 Icon
White Cube Icon with Nodes - Mold fabrication completed
Mold fabrication completed
Step 5 Icon
White magnifying glass icon - Mold sampling (25 ea) and client review
Mold sampling (25 ea) and client review
Step 6 Icon
White Cube Icons - Order injection molded prototype parts as needed
Order injection molded prototype parts as needed
Step 7 Icon
White Icon with Pencil and Circular Arrow - Request rapid mold iterations as needed
Request rapid mold iterations as needed

General Information

Blue Clock Icon - Lead Time for Production

Lead Time

Typically 1 week, we will indicate the lead time when we provide your quote.

Blue Cube Icon with Nodes on the Corners - Mold fabrication completed

Maximum Part Size

Parts may be up to 8” x 6” x 4” (200 x 150 x 100 mm)

Cylinder with Ruler Blue Icon - Maximum Part Volume

Maximum Part Volume

Shot volume up to 6 oz (170 g)

Gear Icon withNodes Coming Out of the Right Hand Side - Maximum Part Size

Tolerance

Typically <0.004” (0.1 mm). Tolerances of 0.001” (0.025 mm) are possible with certain materials and part geometry. Let’s discuss your application.