At the end of the 48 hour competition, our show doesn’t stop there. We take you on a journey, with the winning products going through prototyping and fine-tuning, as we share the process and technology that goes into product creation. A company that has helped our teams since season 1 is R&D Prototype. R&D is a multi-faceted, rapid prototype service bureau, that provides physical prototypes for its customers, and have the honor of being the first in Missouri to create physical prototypes for clients. I spoke to the Vice President of R&D Prototype, Chris McCoy, who has worked for R&D Leverage since 1993.
Today, prototyping is a well-known process available for product development teams, but there was a time when it took engineers a long time to grasp the value of prototyping. R&D Prototype opened up in 1997, when they received their first Stereolithography (SLA) prototyping machine and became the only service bureau that provided physical prototypes for its customers for a long time. Separate from R&D Leverage (but still under the umbrella company) the prototype division is a separate company that protects their customers confidentiality and files.
When the first SLA 3d printing technique came out, nobody really knew what prototyping was. Over the years, engineers realized the value of product development time and the shortening of time and cost, (especially the cost.) Chris said, ”(at R&D) we can build a part and the next day it can be in their hands. If you’re waiting until you do the tooling,” Chris noted, “you might spend hundreds of thousands to do the tooling and realize, this isn’t right and have to go back and change it.”
R&D has a variety of services. They include:
- SLA (stereolithography) – A form of 3d technology, 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) – An additive manufacturing process where an object is built by selectively depositing melted material in a pre-determined path layer-by-layer. Think of this as 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.” One of the most widely used forms of 3d printing technology.
- 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 – A traditional form of manufacturing where pre-programmed computer software dictates the movement of factory tools and machinery. The process can be used to control a range of complex machinery, from grinders and lathes to mills and routers. It’s used to create inserts, fixtures, etc. and where three-dimensional cutting tasks can be accomplished in a single set of prompts.
A process that isn’t as well-known, but is perfect when you need a few parts quickly is soft tooling or RTV molding. Using a pattern (and a SLA prototype), the silicone is mixed and poured over the pattern. In less than a day, the mold produces the parts. RTV molding is another step beyond 3d printing that produces parts that are functional and look nice. Currently, R&D are using the process to test industrial cooling tower wings. In order to test the wind flow, R&D will build 6-7 wings and test. Once the fit and function testing passes, the wings will be finished in fiberglass and implanted with a steel rod and be 10 feet long. RTV is ideal for small quantities because it offers businesses lead times and costs that are well below machining or injection molding and saves thousands on tooling.
With their high standards, R&D Prototype have redesigned and prototyped our winning products on Make48 since season 1 with the winning product, the Heal Seel. They also prototyped season 2’s Drink Slinger and 360 UPlight. Last week Outpost Worldwide filmed Chris as he worked on a prototype from season 3. Not only does R&D work with big business but with SME’s and home inventors. Almost anyone in need of a prototype has options with R&D.
With the processes, it doesn’t matter the job size, R&D can help build a physical model of your idea too. They are a full-service bureau that offers multiple prototyping processes. If you don’t know what works best for your prototype, R&D will help get you started. Supply a 3d file or they can provide one for you and with their expertise, will build a model based on one of their different technologies, like SLA or FDM. Their models are perfect for speeding up the testing of your product. The process of building a tool and molding a part can take months, but at R&D it’s hours. The advantages of additive manufacturing are many. To get your product on the right path visit R&D Prototype’s website at http://www.rdprototype.com and catch them on our episodes of Make48!