Protoshop offers high quality, rapid prototype injection mold fabrication and molding
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
Superior part quality
No part geometry limitations
Rapid mold iterations
Part design assistance
Material selection assistance
Large quantities of parts may be quickly molded
Molds are transferable
Flexible material options
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
Typically 1 week, we will indicate the lead time when we provide your quote.
Maximum Part Size
Parts may be up to 8” x 6” x 4” (200 x 150 x 100 mm)
Maximum Part Volume
Shot volume up to 6 oz (170 g)
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.