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Rapid Prototyping in Garden Grove

What is Rapid Prototyping

Description

By Alesandra Blakeston (July 2021)


Put simply, rapid prototyping is the design, fabrication, assembly and delivery of a "part". This could be a rough approximation, e.g. made of a different material so the customer gets an idea of the dimensions, it could be a scaled down version, so the customer can get an idea of what it might look like and how the part might fit into their machine, or it can even be a working "finished" part of the correct, size, material etc., so the customer can test it in their equipment and make sure the solution is the right one before going ahead with a production order.

Prototypes are usually delivered in small quantities and are usually delivered quickly so the customer can make a quick decision on whether or not the solution is the right one for them. Of course, the process followed, the machines involved and the people who take part in prototyping depends on what kind of prototype is needed. Is a bespoke, tailor-made solution needed? Are the specifications and requirements similar to another solution we already make? Could we send a sample? Does the customer want to test the prototype to ensure it meets their critical needs? Will it be tested in-house using our advanced simulation services? The process is as agile and as flexible as possible to ensure a fast response and as short a lead time as possible. Let's take the team in Garden Grove as an example.

Sales Support

Before the prototyping cell can start to fabricate, a design must be made. This might involve solidworks or CAD drawings as well as 3D modelling! Before the design, the sales team must determine exactly what the requirements are. This determines the material, the spring design, the size and shape of the design. Will the solution be used in extremely high temperatures? Is a flange or a lip needed to protect the solution and prevent leaks? Are there chemical compatibility issues to consider. Most of the sales team are also engineers for this reason, trained in application requirements for the market they work in and knowledgeable about the materials, surface coatings and spring designs available.

Once the design is made and approved by the customer, then the real work begins. The design is inputted into the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, so that the production teams know exactly how to mill, lathe, grind, weld and assemble the design. In addition, are there additional requirements, such as cleanroom activities during assembly? Typically, when developing prototypes, the idea is to reduce the number of steps required to the minimum amount, so a prototype might be sent without LOX cleaning, even though the final solution might require it. The removal of unnecessary steps when prototyping ensures the lead time is kept short, but it is always agreed upon with the customer first.

What processes could be used?

Description

Obviously a lot depends on the design and the requirements of the prototype, but some of the metal working machines & processes could include:

  • Mills

  • Grinders

  • CNC machines

  • Lathes

  • Presses

  • Etching

  • Polishing

  • Spring forming

  • Sintering

  • Welding

When forming the polymer jacket:

  • Material preparation

  • Injection molding

  • Compression molding

  • Isostatic molding

  • Hot molding

  • Bonding

  • Assembly

  • Skiving

The prototyping cells

Description

Staffed exclusively by personnel dedicated to making prototypes, the prototyping cells contain at least one of each type of machine needed to create a prototype, sometimes more. Since these machines are only used for prototyping, there is no wait for a machine to be empty before starting the process. The equipment is usually brand new in these areas to ensure the fastest possible speed and to ensure a reliable process free of errors. 

The staff are not dedicated to only one machine, but are experts in multiple machines. When a solution is brand new, there might be unforeseen hiccups in manufacturing that can only be resolved by an operations expert. Each design calls for a different approach and so the team is trained to know how to adjust the plan and of course they liaise closely with the design engineering team throughout. Once the assembly is done, the prototype is either shipped directly to the customer, or it is sent to the advanced simulation services team for thorough vetting, again depending upon the customer requirements.

Throughout the whole process, the team is in contact with the customer. This means updating them on issues with the material or design, letting them know what is working well and of course, giving the customer updates on the final delivery date. In turn the customer will ensure that any changes to the process on their end are also communicated back to the team. This is what collaborative partnership looks like when it works well!

After delivery, the conversation continues. Is the solution working as expected. Are design changes needed? Does the team need to do some application testing, FEA, simulations etc., to help the customer understand what they can expect long term from the solution? All of these questions and more are asked to ensure the customer is100% satisfied with the final outcome.

Finally, once the customer is happy and the design is outperforming expectations, the real work begins and it's off to the production floor for a full quantity production run! Want to know more? Contact one of our experts!

Prototyping staff in Garden Grove
Tags: CAD drawings 3D modeling Prototyping cell Rapid prototyping Rapid sample delivery
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