Prototype Mold Fabrication
What is Prototype Mold Fabrication?
Typically, early mechanical and functional testing is completed using 3D printed parts in small quantities of 1-10 ea. 3D printing is well suited for early testing because it can be quickly fabricated and iterated. However, 3D printing drawbacks include poor feature accuracy compared to injection molded parts, and the materials used for 3D printing do not accurately replicate injection molded materials. Therefore, 3D printed parts cannot be used to fully develop a product from start to transfer to manufacturing. It takes a lot of experience developing injection molded products to determine when 3D printed parts are no longer valuable, and it becomes necessary to switch to prototype molded parts.
Some issues can occur if the switch to prototype molded parts is made either too soon or too late. If the switch is made too soon, then too many iterations would need to be made in the prototype mold, increasing cost, extending development time, and potentially impairing the prototype mold life as excessive mold changes are completed. If the switch to prototype molded parts is made too late, then testing observations and iterations using 3D printed parts have exceeded their capability to yield useful test results. This can be misleading as the engineer pursues design changes in a direction that would otherwise not have occurred if prototype molded parts were properly used. The result has the potential to significantly increase costs and extend development time if the engineer is substantially off track from a successful final design.
When to Utilize Prototype Molding (Also Known as Prototype Tooling)
The typical rule of thumb is for the engineer to prove approximately 80% of product function in 3D printed parts and then switch to testing using prototype molded parts. Prototype molds have the added benefit that a large number of parts using the injection molded plastics to be used in manufacturing may be produced to support critical late development activities such as clinical trials, user studies, marketing samples, design verification, and bridge tooling, etc. It’s important that the engineer estimates the number of prototype molded parts needed to complete development and support these activities. The number of parts that can be yielded from a prototype mold highly depends on its fabrication method. Some prototype molds are useful for less than 50 parts which is why it’s important for the engineer to know how many prototype molded parts they will need before selecting a prototype mold fabrication method. Protoshop’s prototype molds are fabricated to be much more robust than typical prototype molds, with a life expectancy of over 100,000 ea. Since it’s rare for a development project to require more than 20,000 ea, it’s reassuring for the engineer to know that Protoshop’s prototype molds can far exceed their needs.
Prototype Tooling Key Features
Rapid prototype molds typically completed within 1 week
Typically prototype mold life expectancy
is up to 100,000 cycles
Can be used for bridge tooling.
Feature tolerance 0.025 -0.1 mm
(0.001″ – 0.004″)
Mold iteration typically completed within 1 day
Insert and overmolding compatible
No limitation to part geometry complexity
How Do We Do It?
Personalized moldability review. We provide our customers with an online moldability review of their part models to indicate where molding defects are anticipated to occur and why. We believe that customer education and collaboration is critical to our goal of delivering successful molded parts that meet your needs with fewer iterations. This allows our customers to transfer products to market faster and with lower risk.
We invest in the highest, production quality CNC milling machines and injection machines to fabricate and run our prototype molds. It’s overkill for prototype molding but necessary to achieve our goal of replicating production mold quality. The higher quality CNC mills also allows us to machine molds faster with fewer error and greater accuracy.
We have developed a proprietary method of prototype molding that closely replicates production quality with a lead time that is faster and at lower cost than competitors. Thousands of parts per week may be molded.
Our proprietary method of prototype molding includes both heating and cooling of mold cavities which ensures a more accurate and repeatable molding process that is typically only found in production molding. This also allows us to process challenging plastic materials that other prototype molders are unable to run.
Why You Should Use Our Mold Fabrication/Prototype Tooling Services
We recognize that not every engineer that develops products is an injection molding expert. Most prototype molders provide automated moldability feedback which tends to be incomplete and often does not tell you why indicated areas are an issue. Protoshop provides clients a thorough moldability review at no cost. We then meet with our clients over Zoom and review each opportunity for moldability improvement and explain why there is an issue. Protoshop feels that it is critical for the success of our clients to provide a collaborative review and education about how their part models may be improved. We’ve found that this yields superior molded parts that meet customer requirements the first time and minimize development time.
Protoshop was founded by engineers and mold makers with many years of experience in the medical product development industry. Protoshop has extensive experience in plastic mold tooling design and prototype molding. We have been clients to many prototype molders and found them all to be insufficient to our needs. They typically suffered from a combination of insufficient customer support, poor quality, long lead times, and high cost. We recognized that we could do better and apply our experience in prototype molding to create a better client experience…. Protoshop was born.
A Superior Customer Experience
Protoshop has invested in providing a superior customer experience through our advanced website. The website improves our goals of clear communication with our clients and thorough documentation. Our website informs customers by email when the project status changes, so you are aware of progress up to the minute. When parts are shipped, customers automatically receive FedEx tracking details and inspection reports. Requests to mold parts and to iterate molds are quickly and easily completed on the website. The complete history of your project is always available including quotes, packing slips, inspection reports, and mold iterations that can be viewed and downloaded at any time. Non-disclosure agreements can be quickly executed through the website. Payment options have been expanded to include corporate checks, ACH, purchase orders, and credit cards.
Contact Protoshop Today
Protoshop is ready to help make your project a success! After registering, upload your CAD model and schedule a Zoom meeting with one of our experienced engineers. We’ll work with you to refine your CAD model to ensure your prototype molded parts meet product requirements.
You’ll have parts in hand, ready to test in a few days.
Hear From Our Satisfied Customers
We work regularly with Protoshop on a variety of complex components for various projects. They are an excellent company to work with providing a vast history of experience to help their clients optimize designs. We have worked with them on microfluidic chips with small feature sizes, over molded sealing parts and flexible parts. They have experience working with many materials including Topas (COC), polycarbonate, TPE, PE, and PP. I would highly recommend reaching out on your next project. The team is very responsive to design changes as well as delivering to tight timelines. They also offer design advice and best practices which have helped expedite design iterations.
- Garrett G.
Dylann and team are wonderful to work with. On multiple programs, they have delivered quality product in a matter of days. The design for moldability support is unparalleled to ensure your part is ready to order.
- Chad F.
Having worked with Dylann and Jimmy prior to Protoshop, I knew the immense level of expertise they have for this business and it proved to carry through. They are honest straight shooters that will help guide you and find the best solution for your molds. We needed a mild that could be versatile and allow us to easily change out one side of the design. Dylann helped us come up with an approach that will allow us to continuously iteration the design without having to make a whole new mold every time.
- Stacie D.
Dylann at Protoshop is excellent to work with: highly responsive and proactive. This is possibly the fastest, high-quality work I have ever witnessed. 1 week…from payment (start) to delivery (after CTQ measurements at Protoshop), we had 100 test samples of a component we intend to use in high volume manufacturing. Thank you for the tremendous work! I would highly recommend Protoshop, and will plan to use Protoshop services in the future.
- Wendell W.
Great experience with Protoshop. Dylann is extremely responsive and great to work with. Very fast turn-around. Worked with us on our order to get what we needed. I was able to drop ship 3d printed parts from another vendor to Protoshop to have them match-fit and incorporated into our tooling. I will be back again.