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3D printing prototypes: How to improve your manufacturing process?

Introduction

Creating a prototype can be an expensive and slow process. Thankfully, some techniques are available to help you improve your product development process, allowing you to make high-quality prototypes for a lower-cost. 3D printing is the perfect solution to develop your prototypes. By starting to develop your project using 3D printing, you will access a wide range of efficient 3D printing materials, saving time and money. We are going to give you all our best pieces of advice to help you to implement 3D printing wisely in your manufacturing process.

How can rapid prototyping benefit your most ambitious projects? How to choose the best material possible for your projects. Here is all the information you need to create your cost-effective and ideal 3D printing prototypes!

What are the advantages of 3D printing prototypes?

Create various iterations

3D printing gives you more freedom than any other manufacturing technique. As your object is created from a digital 3D model, using a 3D modeling software, you can easily create all the designs you want, from the most simple to the most intricate ones. It is possible to create any project from scratch, get a good visualization, and to adjust your 3D model whenever you want to.

Thanks to 3D printing, you can give life to your 3D model by printing it to create a prototype or even a final product. But let’s focus on the prototyping process: 3D printing is really convenient as you don’t have to create a whole mold for each iteration of your project. You are free to make different iterations, so the prototype can perfectly match your expectations for the final product.

Save money

Compared to traditional manufacturing techniques such as injection molding, additive manufacturing is much cheaper. But why? First, as we’ve just said, when using 3D printing, you don’t have to create a mold to create your object, which is a significant advantage. Time and money are precious for your company, that is why 3D printing is helping you to go straight to what is essential to you.

Save time

With 3D printing, you can do as many iterations as you need. Moreover, the process itself is quite faster. Instead of the creation of the mold and waiting for the whole injection molding process, additive manufacturing skips these steps. This manufacturing technique is perfect for rapid prototyping and can help you accelerate your whole product development. 

Run tests with functional prototypes

Thanks to the variety of 3D printing materials now available on the market and our online 3D printing service, it is possible to access advanced materials. While many materials are adapted for production, they can also be used for your prototyping process. Indeed, if you need to run tests, these materials will allow you to make the most of the impressive properties to manufacture advanced functional prototypes.

SLA

How to 3D print prototypes

Are you ready to use additive manufacturing to develop your prototypes, but you don’t know how? Using an external 3D printing service is the perfect solution.

If you are looking for the most cost-effective technique to manufacture your prototypes, it is clear that investing in professional 3D printers is not part of your plan, and desktop printers leave much to be desired in terms of quality. Using a service such as Sculpteo will give you access to industrial technologies and materials, but you will also benefit from the advice of our 3D printing experts. They will help you implement 3D printing in your strategy and answer all your questions.

It is important for us to help our customers to improve their manufacturing process and their whole prototyping process to get the best products in the end. We have a 3D printing solution for all kinds of projects, from models for architecture to prototypes for mechanical parts, there is a material on our 3D printing service that will meet your expectations.

The process is simple: once your 3D model is ready, you just need to upload your 3D file on our platform, you will get an instant quote and receive your 3D printed prototype in a few days! But before that, here are the first steps you need to take in order to successfully 3D print your prototypes.

3D printing

What materials should you choose to 3D print your prototypes?

What do you have to check first?

While using an online 3D printing service such as Sculpteo to improve your prototyping process, you can access a wide range of materials and technologies, with different properties and prices. But while choosing your material for prototyping you will have to check various aspects.

 

The price

It is certainly the most important point for your company. How to reduce costs but still improve your manufacturing process? For example, if you need to create a metal object, making your prototype with plastic will be quite interesting. Indeed, it would be more cost-effective to begin the early prototypes with plastic and then shift to metal 3D printing for the final validation. Choosing among the different plastic materials and the various options will help you to find the most economical solution for your prototyping project.

 

The accuracy and the quality of the material

A prototype is a way to get a perfect overview of the project to spot the last problems. You certainly want to create a functional prototype. That is why, if you have a complex project or an object with an elaborated design, be sure to check that the material and 3D printing technique is precise enough to help with your prototyping process. However, you obviously have to keep in mind the mechanical properties of the final material that you will use.

With the right material, you should be able to manufacture a functional object. Do you need to get an object with the same weight as your final product? With the same dimensions? Able to have the same applications? You will have to ask yourself several questions before you make the final choice, in order to see all the aspects of your prototype that you need to check.

 

The design guidelines of the material

All materials have different design guidelines. While choosing your material, be sure to check them, to get a perfect object. It could be a reason why your 3D file is not 3D printable, you really have to be sure that everything is ok regarding the dimension and the geometry of your project. Indeed, if the wall is too thin, the file could be non-printable or could break in no time, which would be counterproductive.

The best materials to 3D print your prototypes at Sculpteo

 

The choice of your 3D printing material really depends on your project. Here is a selection of our most used materials for prototyping projects! Plastic materials are obviously the cheapest solution for this stage of your product development; let’s see what you can do with them.

 

This white plastic material is one of the most affordable materials with a lot of great mechanical properties. This material is made from fine polyamide powder, and is perfect for both prototyping and production. It will create your parts thanks to the Selective Laser Sintering technology.

If you choose this material for your prototyping project, you will see that you will have the choice between various options and finishes, but you can also get raw parts. Prototyping with Nylon PA12 (plastic) is a good solution because this 3D printing material is one of the cheapest options, so you will be able to make many iterations with a resistant material, that gives you a lot of freedom in terms of geometry.

 

Our Multi Jet Fusion PA12 is a grey plastic. This material is perfect both for prototyping and production and its raw version is clearly the cheapest option you will get! It will allow you to make many iterations at a lower cost. The objects printed with this material are well suited against scratches and abrasion, which could be great to make tests. It is also light stabilized, U.V. stabilized and stable to weather, which is perfect if you need to make an experiment in outdoor conditions.

HP Nylon PA12 3d printing plastic

This resin is specifically developed to prototypes and is well suited for non-functional prototypes. Indeed, if you need to manufacture highly detailed parts this material will be the perfect option. Prototyping resin offers a smooth surface finish, quite similar to objects manufactured using plastic injection molding. This resin is 3D printed using the Stereolithography (SLA) process.

SLA

Fused Deposition Modeling techniques are particularly useful in the development of prototypes. Using this option, you will not get the most detailed prototypes. However, for some oversized project, this technique can be interesting. Indeed, at Sculpteo, we are using BigRep 3D printers to 3D print our PLA filament, allowing to print parts with the maximum size of 1 x 1 x 1 m. 

  • TPU

You need a really flexible plastic for your 3D printing project? TPU will be the perfect solution for you. This rubber-like material has a high elasticity and a high strength. That could perfectly fit your project if you need something really flexible for fully functional prototypes. As this material creates parts really resistant to stress and fatigue, it can even be used for your final products. Think about it! On our online 3D printing service, you will have the opportunity to choose between two TPU: Ultrasint® TPU01 and Ultrasint® TPU 88A.

  • 3D printing metal for your prototypes ?

If you are planning to create 3D printed prototypes with metal materials, you have to know that it is totally possible but that it is not the most economical option for you. However, we recommend you to use our Ultrafuse 316L Stainless Steel if you need to manufacture metal prototypes. This affordable material is printed using FDM technology; it is resistant and can be used to run tests of functional prototypes.

Ultrafuse 316L

Binder jetting technology, can also be used to print your prototypes parts, with Steel / Bronze 420SS/BR and Stainless Steel 316.

Keep in mind that Direct Metal Laser Sintering is also used to make prototypes for the aerospace industry using Titanium 6AI-4V but is not a cost-efficient method for prototypes. It’s good to know if you have such projects, but most of the time, plastic will be used as the most convenient material for prototypes.

 

We hope that this article helped you to understand all the benefits and possibilities offered by additive manufacturing to develop prototypes. Do you have more questions about these materials? Feel free to contact our sales team for more information.

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