The Advantages of Additive Manufacturing- R&D Prototype

By October 24, 2017General

R&D Prototype Inc. is a Make48 sponsor and our “go-to” prototype lab when it comes to creating ‘fit and function’ or marketing prototype models. As you saw during Season 1 of the TV show, they helped put together one of the winning teams’ products this past year (Check out R&D Prototype on Episode 6 of Season 1 Here)!

VP of R&D Prototype Chris McCoy and Make48 CEO Tom Gray. Season 1, Episode 6.

R&D creates high-quality prototypes that look and function like the manufactured part through in-house developed processes. In turn, this allows inventors to test the market with a functioning prototype without having to make huge batches of their product straight-away. Chris McCoy, the VP of R&D Prototype, sees this as one of the many advantages of additive manufacturing.

Additive manufacturing refers to the different kinds of techniques that are used to create objects or pieces from 3D model designs. R&D Prototype works with stereolithography, FDM or Fused Deposition Modelling, RTV molding and types of subtractive manufacturing like CNC machining. Chris gives us a breakdown of these services below:

  • SLA (stereolithography) – This was the pioneer process where a solid state laser is used to cure ultra violet resin and turn it from a liquid to a solid. The laser draws on the top surface of a vat of  resin and cures it in stacks of .004” layers one on top of the other.
  • FDM (fused deposition modeling) –  Think of this a highly glorified hot glue gun. Only this glue gun uses real injection molding plastic materials such as ABS, Ultem, Polycarbonate etc. The material is in the form of filament and extruded out a tiny nozzle as small as .005”
  • RTV molding – Silicone is cast around prototype master patterns to produce molds that are injected with a 2 part urethane of any shore hardness from hard plastic to rubber elastomers.
  • CNC machining – this is a traditional form of manufacturing used to create inserts, fixtures, etc.

So what advantages are there to this kind of manufacturing?

According to Chris McCoy, “Additive manufacturing speeds up product development exponentially while reducing cost. It also allows the product to be launched into advertising before the product has been mass-manufactured. A lot of our prototypes are used for magazine shoots and even TV commercials before manufacturing of the product has started. This shortens the overall “Time to Market” of a product.”

Think crowdfunding- Indiegogo or Kickstarter. You would definitely want a great, functioning prototype of your product to show people your new invention. But you can’t pay for manufacturing of several thousand units before your backers choose to back your product. This same thing happens with products going to different markets, and is where firms like R&D Prototype come in.

Larry Guerra from Guerra Consulting was also asked to help with the winning Season 1 prototype that R&D prototype worked on. His firm was brought in to create the technology that makes one of the Season 1 winning teams work. Along the way, they used 3D printing and rapid (additive) prototyping to make different iterations of the product, and quickly test what works/what doesn’t! Watch his video below:

Want to know more about additive manufacturing? Check out our piece with Ultimaker on “The Future of 3D Printing in Product Design and Education”.

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