3D printing prototypes: how it works, advantages, applications

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The term prototype molding refers to all 3D printing technologies, conventional processes and vacuum casting suitable for making single pieces or small productions.

Additive 3D printing differs from conventional technologies by the process and materials used.

In conventional language, the term prototype molding is also used to indicate prototype mold productions.

So, when we talk about prototype molding, we can refer to different production technologies:

  • 3d printing with plastic or metal materials.
  • Vacuum casting for the production of pre-series in rigid, semi-rigid and rubber materials, also co-molded.
  • Milling for plastics or metals
  • Protottypal mould for pre-productions

What is prototype molding and what is it for

Prototype molding allows you to have a pre-series before moving on to definitive production.

To choose the process that best suits my needs, I first need to know:

  1. How many pieces I need to produce
  2. If I need the final material or a countertype.

These two elements are fundamental for orienting oneself on the most suitable production methods.

We can define numerical ranges, to be taken as indicative, because each project must be evaluated on its own:

Up to 5

from 5 to 50

from 50 to 100

from 100 to 1000

over 1000


3D printing, CNC machining3D printing, CNC machining, vacuum castingVacuum casting, prototype mouldsPrototype molds, aluminum moldsPrototype molds, pilot molds, aluminum molds, steel molds


3D printing, CNC machining3D printing, CNC machiningCNC machining, prototype mouldsPrototype molds in soft steelPrototype molds, pilot molds, aluminum molds, steel molds

How it works

Prototype molding is essential and useful for validating a project before moving on to final production.

The choice of the most suitable process is closely linked to the project, its complexity, technical and temporal needs.

We show you a complete overview of possible solutions.

3D printing

The term 3D printing refers to all rapid prototyping technologies understood as additive manufacturing processes.

In the industrial field, the most used technologies are FDM, SLA, SLS, MJF, DMLS, LCM.

CNC machining

Milling is a traditional technology suitable for producing prototypes and small series with simple or complex geometry.

The process involves the removal of material from a solid block using a tool.

It is possible to use all plastic or metal materials that can be machined from the sheet.

Vacuum casting or silicone replicas

In the molding of industrial prototypes this process is widely used because it allows the production of pre-series in rigid, semi-rigid plastic and rubber material, also co-molded.

It is also possible to use certified materials like V0 self-extinguishing, FDA and much more.

Each mold is suitable for the production of 25-30 pieces; the mold faithfully replicates the piece used for its construction which has a tolerance of +/- 0.1 mm.

The average times to manage a production of this type are 3/4 weeks.

Prototype mold

When it is necessary to have a prototype production with definitive material, we move on to injection molding production.

With a prototype mold we have the possibility to produce a defined number of pieces.

This solution involves the creation of a mold or matrices which remain our property; once the production capacity is exhausted and in any case after 12 months the mold is dismantled.

The average times to manage a production with this process are 4/5 weeks.

The set up costs necessary for the equipment are charged to the production, so the customer pays only the pieces.

Pilot molds

A pilot mold is a production equipment made with materials that are more readily available and workable.

We generally use aluminum or tempered steel; this solution is preliminary to build a multi-cavity steel mold; allows to validate the mold design, the process and to have a first production before making the final mold.

The average times are 6/8 weeks for the first molding test.

Aluminum molds

With molds in aluminum or tempered steel we are able to support the production of plastic or aluminum parts and our production target are runs that do not exceed thousands of pieces per year.

This type of production also allows to obtain advantages in terms of production times and related design costs.

Following the production of the mold and the first sampling, the equipment remains on account with us for the molding of the series.


The main advantage of having a prototype production with 3D printing or conventional technologies is to be able to choose the most suitable solution for each specific needs.

The ability to study a tailor-made solution for each project by choosing the most suitable process.

Furthermore, the possibility of being able to work step by step allows you to validate every single choice and prevent even the smallest errors as much as possible.

What can be done: applications

Applications in industrial terms are now widespread in all sectors of the manufacturing industry.

Until a few years ago only large companies were close to these technological solutions, today even small and medium-sized enterprises, startups have grasped the value and potential of 3D printing processes and prototype molding.

In all industrial sectors, is more and more frequent the need to develop new highly customized products in a short time.

Why choose Coesum for molding

Our know-how has always been the development of custom solutions on the mechanics of industrial products, especially on plastic materials, aluminum and steel.

In our workshop there are all the technologies and processes suitable to quickly create prototypes and niche productions.

Our team has hundreds of projects developed in all industrial sectors, automotive, military, electronic, household appliances, medical and much more.

The added value is the experience in all phases of new product development, from industrial design to engineering, rapid prototyping, small series production and molding for plastic and aluminum die casting.

Thanks to our experience and structure we can always give the right answer to the project in terms of solutions and development times.

Examples of works carried out

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