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3D Printing

3D printing is a manufacturing process that builds by layers to create a three-dimensional solid object from a digital model. To print a 3-D object, the manufacturer uses a 3D computer-aided design (CAD) program to create a digital 3D File. During the print process; the 3-D printer starts at the bottom of the design and builds up successive layers of material until the object is finished. At Schmit Prototypes we provide a few cutting edge 3D-Printing Options: Polyjet, FDM, and Stereolithography (SLA) and each one has its own benefits.

SLARapid Prototyping/3D Printing Applications:

  • Proof of concept
  • Visual models (working or static)
  • Engineering models
  • Anatomical models
  • Short run production parts
  • Oversized displays/props

Stereolithography:

iPro8000-SLA-sized-for-webStereolithography (SLA), is the 3D printing process most commonly used by Schmit Prototypes to create master patterns for urethane casting. SLA parts can also easily be finished and painted to be used for visual models. SLA parts are usually built with a 0.004″ layer and build quickly on our two 3D Systems iPro 8000’s.

FDM:

FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) is another 3D printing method offered by Schmit Prototypes. Our FDM machine can build with a 0.010″ or 0.013″ layer. FDM parts are built in ABS which has excellent strength and thermal properties.FDM UPRINT SE PLUS

Polyjet:

3D printing on our Polyjet gives Schmit Prototypes the ability to print parts with extreme detail. Our Polyjet prints at an incredible 0.0006″ per layer.

SLA/FDM/Polyjet Delivery:

At Schmit Prototypes our average delivery time for 3D printed parts is 1-3 days depending on polyjet_eden260v-sized-for-webpart geometry, volume and level of finishing/painting.

Why Rapid Prototyping/3D printing?

  • 3D Printing provides quick lead times.
  • 3D Printing can decrease costly mistakes by detecting design flaws before the manufacturing process.
  • 3D printing is a cost-effective option for low-volume production

3D Printing – Polyjet

Polyjet vs FDMWhen it comes to Rapid Prototyping a big buzz word is 3D Printing, whether it’s a new manufacturer of 3D Printers, or a manufacturer of custom 3D Printed parts the buzz is everywhere, and rightfully so. At Schmit Prototypes we offer a couple different 3D Printing methods (SLA, FDM, & Polyjet) and for the focus of this discussion we’ll be highlighting the benefits of PolyJet printing. Similar to others it prints in layers, but what seperates it from others is the ‘fineness’ of those layers; capable of printing in 16 micron layers with accuracy as high as 0.1 mm for smooth surfaces, thin walls and complex geometries.

PolyJet is an excellent option for high resolution presentation models, small prototypes and master patterns for urethane casting.

Even the most complex models can now be produced with high quality and precision. Just like other forms of 3D Printing, a major advantage of Polyjet is speed; at Schmit Prototypes we can often send parts out the same day that files are received.

Polyjet Printing is a great option for:

  • High quality custom parts
  • Prototypes for form and fit testing
  • Short-run production parts
  • High accuracy
  • Proof of concept/design

Urethane Casting

Low Volume Production Quality Parts

open tankThe urethane casting process is ideal for quickly producing high quality plastic/rubber parts without the cost of hard tooling. Urethane casting is a great alternative to injection molding when annual volumes are too low to justify the mold cost. Utilizing the silicone molds we are able to achieve large, complex parts in one solid piece. Urethane casting is ideal for:

Urethane parts can be nearly any shape or size, with materials ranging from flexible 5A – 90A Shore, semi-rigid 40D – 80D, and rigid fire rated and non-fire rated.

  • ABS-like – Ideal for pre-production parts and marketing samples
  • Clear – Clear urethane casting is ideal for creating transparent plastic components
  • High-Strength – Ideal for low volume production parts
  • High-Temperature – Ideal for low volume production parts in high heat applications

Beating the Competition to Market

The old saying, “first come first serve” can hold true in many scenarios, and it is clearly evident in the competitive marketplace we function in today. That’s why being the first one to market with a new product has proven to be a winning move, and its being done by utilizing cutting-edge rapid prototyping methods. A big buzz word in the ‘Rapid Prototyping World’ right now is 3D-Printing, if you haven’t heard of it by now, you’re living under a rock! The process isn’t exactly new, but the advancements in technology over the last 30 years have been substantial, and the forecast for the next 5-10 years looks to be nothing short of amazing. 3D-Printing has quickly evolved into the most commonly used form of prototyping for companies looking to push their new products to market, but it’s certainly not the ONLY.

In the shadow of 3D-Printing we’ve lost some sight of some tried and true methods that continue to give companies a competitive advantage in the manufacturing process, and probably the most overlooked and unknown is Urethane Casting.

  • Urethane Casting & it’s benefits
    • This process starts with a 3D Printed part to create a master pattern, the master is then encapsulated with silicone, once the silicone is parted into 2 halves and the master removed, the ‘soft tool’ is created. That ‘soft tool’ can now be used to create urethane parts; urethanes can be of nearly and durometer and mimic most injection molding materials. The casting process allows for difficult geometries due to the forgiveness of (silicone) soft tooling.
    • The cost and creation time of a soft tool is significantly less when compared to a standard injection mold.
    • The limitations companies experience with some lower-end 3D-Printers yield to the advantages of Urethane Casting in terms of material, size, & color.
    • Small or Large cast parts can produced in one solid piece, as opposed to many
    • One ‘soft tool’ can be used to produce the same part in numerous materials and in-office 3D-Printers that have small build platforms. colors.

In the ‘market-race’ keep in mind that time peels off the clock at the same rate for everyone, and the person who utilizes every tool possible to save time will often be a step ahead of the competition. Visit www.SchmitPrototypes.com to learn more about 3D Printing, Urethane Casting, and other great methods of Rapid Prototyping.

Benefits of Rapid Prototyping

Rapid Prototyping is a term used to describe many manufacturing processes that are able to quickly convert 3D CAD models into physical parts. Some of the technologies used in rapid prototyping are stereolithography (SLA), CNC machining, urethane casting and quick-turn tooled injection molding. Many of these rapid prototyping processes produce parts that are at or near production quality, which can be very beneficial at many points during product development.

The greatest benefit of rapid prototyping is the ability to test various part concepts quickly. Even the best engineers and designers are regularly surprised by what can be learned by evaluating and testing a representative part. Details that may not be apparent on a CAD system or on paper will show up readily in a rapid prototype. This eliminates costly mistakes, improves the quality of the design, and allows more valuable iteration cycles of concept to prototype.

Rapid prototyping is often a very low cost option for constructing prototypes, especially when the cost of the time to manufacture a prototype using more traditional methods or waiting for first tooled pieces is factored in. While the cost for rapid prototype parts is almost always higher than production parts, tooling outlays are minimal. When it is time to move to production tooling, rapid prototyping will likely have minimized mistakes that would otherwise have resulted in costly tooling revisions or remakes.

Rapid prototyping also provides the opportunity to conduct market studies with prototypes that have a realistic look and feel. Gaining early data on how the market accepts or reacts to the product is valuable information which can be used to improve the design and ultimately increase sales.

Product development is often very sequential, but rapid prototyping places efforts in parallel. Once a design has been completed, rapid prototyping can be used to push a product to market quickly capitalizing on any window of opportunity while long lead-time tooling is underway. This yields greater control over a product’s launch and early market adoption.

Rapid prototyping should be an integral part of almost any modern manufacturing organization’s new or sustaining product plan. The benefits of speeding iteration, improving design quality, lowering costs, providing a tool to evaluate the market, and going to market quickly provide more efficient development cycles which will result in better products with better profits and revenues.

Why Is Prototyping Important?

Whatever the item a person or a company intends to produce, creating a prototype is a crucial step in the design process that cannot be glossed over. Why is prototyping important? There are several main reasons; testing and evaluating the design, clarifying production issues and costs, selling it to others, as well as making clear any patentable details.

Evaluating and Testing the Design
Unfortunately, ideas and drawings of a design can sometimes be a far cry from the real world in which the product will be used. By creating a prototype it is possible to sit down with a real version of the product and determine which aspects are worthwhile and which parts need to be revised, changed, or discarded. In the process, it may be possible to find glaring omissions that, on paper, weren’t noticeable.

Additionally, creating a prototype will allow the design team to not only evaluate, but also test the product before going into full production. Imagine ordering tens of thousands of units, only to discover one part isn’t as strong as it needs to be. If corporate giants can make mistakes, it is all the more important for smaller companies to not forget the importance of prototyping before beginning production.

Clarifying Production Costs and Issues
Once production begins, it is costly and time consuming to make changes. By prototyping before production begins, it is possible to take a glimpse at the production process and see if any steps can be changed, combined, or even removed. This not only streamlines production, but keeps the?cost of the actual production to a minimum. Subsequently, if there are any difficulties in production or perhaps processes that can create problems for the final product, it is much better to see these before production starts. It can also help the design team ascertain the optimal method for production; injection-molding, silicone molds,?stamped metal, etc.

Selling the Product to Others
Just like it is far easier to see if there are any problems with a design by holding an actual working model, it is also far easier to sell to potential customers when they have a prototype to hold and manipulate at a marketing presentation. Without a prototype it’s only a concept. It can be difficult to get a?client to commit to a purchase of a concept. With a prototype in hand, the concept instantly becomes real and it is far easier to sign a purchase order.

The customer needs to be taken into consideration during the prototype phase as well. No matter how great the designers and testers think a prototype may be, real consumers may not like certain aspects of it. If the end customer doesn’t like it, they won’t buy it, which is why focus groups and external testing with prototypes needs to be addressed before production begins.

Patents
If a product is new enough or unique enough, patents need to be considered. It’s no use to design and manufacture a great product only to have another company start producing a remarkably similar product because the original company failed to patent key aspects of the design. By having a working prototype, it is much easier to sit down with a patent attorney and see what design aspect may be patentable. On the reverse side, it is possible to see what parts of the prototype and design violate patents of other individuals and how they can be changed before production, and the chance of a lawsuit, begins.

Contact Schmit Prototypes today and get a high quality prototype fast! 715 235-8474.

Advantages of CNC Machining

CNC machining stands for “computer numerical control” machining. It is a relatively new process in the world of machining which allows for increased efficiency through higher levels of automation and by allowing the machine and it’s computer controls to do all the work. While CNC machines are expensive and complicated, they quickly pay for themselves by reducing the workload and preventing errors.

The first major advantage of CNC machining is that it improves automation, removing the need of an operator for all but a few parts of the work. CNC machines can be left unattended for hours or even days if necessary, allowing operators to focus on other tasks. This also allows for a company to retain fewer operators, thereby saving on overhead. By removing the operator, safety is also increased, since should there be a jam or other potentially dangerous machining error, the operator will not be holding the tool and the only thing damaged will be the tool itself. CNC machines can also work much faster than human machinists, since they are faster, stronger, and do not need to take breaks. They can also be run late at night, when most of the workers have gone home, since machines do not need to worry about being sleepy or getting paid overtime.

The second big advantage to CNC machining is that it produces an exact result every single time. Even the best human operator will have minor variations between finished results, whereas a CNC machine will produce exactly the same result each and every time it is run. This is very important in the modern world of standardized and interchangeable parts, where a single defective cut can make an entire machine wholly unusable. All that is necessary is for a single program to be developed and placed into the machine. Then the machine can toil away at however many work pieces are needed, producing an exact replica down to thousandths of an inch each and every time.

The third big advantage to CNC machining is the flexibility of the machine itself. While humans are much more flexible and trainable than machines, a CNC machine can be completely reprogrammed in a matter of hours to produce a completely different product. It is thus possible to refer back to old programs or install new programs when a different work piece is required. This gives CNC machines a big advantage over other machines, since they can quickly shift to producing a completely different product without the installation of many new parts or a major overhaul of key components. This also ensures that CNC machines can keep up with customer demand, since they can very quickly shift from making a part that is in surplus to a part that is lacking should a need arise.

To learn more, check out this great resource for CNC Machining.

Benefits of Urethane Casting & RTV Molding

RTV molds are created using a master pattern. The master pattern can either be created using CNC machining or a 3D printer, such as an SLA machine. Silicone rubber is poured around the master pattern, creating a cavity and a core. The master is removed once the silicone rubber sets and leaves a void into which several materials may be cast.

RTV molding is an inexpensive way to bridge the gap between prototype and production. It is most effective when you need a short run of parts to simulate production parts. More common materials used for RTV molding are polyurethanes, wax and silicone. Polyurethane can simulate a wide range of materials from soft rubber to hard plastic.

Cast Urethane parts can produce incredible detail and excellent surface finish. Often times little finishing is required on cast Urethane parts because the details and textures are applied to the master pattern. Because of the flexibility of Silicone, reverse draft, inserts and undercuts are all easy to deal with.

Urethane casting can be used for several applications including visual models, product testing, color and texture studies and even low volume production. Urethane parts can be of nearly any size and shape and can also be color matched.

To learn more, check out this great resource for Urethane Casting and RTV Molding.

Benefits of Stereolithography

Stereolithography (SLA) is an additive process that uses a vat of liquid UV-curable photopolymer resin and a computer controlled UV laser to build parts one thin layer at a time. The UV laser cures, or, solidifies the part layer and adheres it to each additional layer.

After each layer has been cured, the SLA machine lowers the platform by a single layer thickness, typically 0.002″ to 0.006″. A resin filled sweeper blade then moves across the cured layer recoating it with another layer of uncured resin. Each layer is cured by the laser, curing it and adhering it to the previous layer. This process repeats until the 3-D part is completed. Once complete, the SLA machine raises the platform from the vat of resin and the part can be removed, cleaned and final cured in a UV “oven”.

One advantage of stereolithography is that a functional part can be built in a relatively short period of time. The amount of time required depends on the size, complexity and layer thickness the part will be built with. Parts can take anywhere from a few short hours to a day or more. Parts built with an SLA machine can be used as master patterns for RTV molding, finished and painted or simply lightly sanded and may be used for shape studies or final presentation models.

The Stereolithography process can help you decrease costly mistakes by detecting design flaws before the manufacturing process. It can be a cost-effective option for low-volume production and also provides quick lead times.

To learn more, check out this great resource for Stereolithography.