In a world gone 3D crazy many of the old guard prototype and low-volume rapid manufacturing processes have been forgotten. Well, maybe not forgotten for those who know about them, but certainly not grabbing many headlines these days. The reality is that each rapid manufacturing technology has a place in the world, with pros and cons for each process. So, is urethane casting still a viable rapid manufacturing option? Absolutely yes. Here is an example of how urethane parts may be a superior option for checking your design before committing to an Injection Mould tool.
My personal past experiences with low-volume urethane projects have been very positive. Example: We were getting ready to commit to an injection mould build for a fitness product but we still had a few unanswered questions from our existing prototype parts. The main question centred around a NEW texture that we had built into the surface finish of our part. Our CNC Prototype parts were excellent, very robust parts that had really helped to sell our project to retail channels, but these parts did not have the NEW surface finish that we were building into our injection mould drawings.
So, what to do? Another round of CNC parts or go another way. We chose another way. By choosing urethane cast parts as our last round of design verification we were able to qualify three lingering design issues.
1. Our low-volume urethane mould allowed us to test the NEW surface finish that we wanted, and because we were close to moulding we had already confirmed with our injection moulding partner that the surface finish we wanted would not be a problem for them. So, for a relatively low cost, we were able to feel and test the NEW surface finish, and review with our mould partner before committing to the more expensive injection mould job.
2. We also used the opportunity to test out a new colour, for a private label project with a retailer we were courting> This made the retailer very happy as they thought they were going to have to wait for our injection moulded parts. At the same time, we also used this new colour (that was almost an exact match for a different retailer) to quickly pitch a different retailer. This worked out great because we ultimately won an order from this other retailer which made our urethane venture basically cost-free.
3. The testing of different resins was the last thing we did with this rapid urethane project. This really helped us with some last-minute part verification tests and last-minute discussions with our moulding partner before we started our injection mould build.
The experience of committing some extra capital to this urethane casting project before we committed to the injection moulding build was a real winner for this project. So much so that we started to do it on a regular basis. If you choose this route, take the extra little bit of time to try a different colour or different resin or a new surface finish, because urethane parts really do mimic injection moulded parts very well. The information you will learn is tremendous.
Until January 31, 2018, you can receive a 15% discount on vacuum/urethane casting projects.
*SLA master only, discount does not apply to projects that require a CNC master*
*Sorry, no transparent parts for this discount*