Functional prototypes: definition
Functional prototypes are made to represent the functions of the real product as faithfully as possible.
As far as the purpose is concerned, we identify three types: aesthetic, functional and conceptual.
The final uses can be different, the most frequent are:
- Dimensional check
- Mountability, couplings and assembly
- Mechanical, thermal and sealing tests
- Wind tunnel tests
- Electromagnetic compatibility
- Chemical resistance test
- Waterproofing tests
- Sterilization test
- Duplicate simulation in plastic material
- Productions from prototype moulds
- Test with certified materials V0, FAR25, FDA medical certification
- Conductivity and Dissipation
- Autoclave tests
- Light diffusion test with transparent materials
- Aesthetic validations
- Exhibitions at the fair
- Market tests and validations
- Internal presentations (management, marketing and sales)
- Fairs and events
In fact, thanks to functional prototypes it is possible to test a component and carry out all the considerations before starting production.
The objective of producing functional prototypes is to perform stress tests to validate functions and performance.
The functionality of the model is guaranteed by the material and the process we use for the production of the prototypes.
For this purpose it is necessary to have a clear understanding of the function that the prototype must perform by answering simple questions:
- Plastic or metal?
- What tests should I run?
- How many pieces do I have to produce?
- Does the material have to have certifications?
- What precision?
- Surface finishing?
On the other hand, having a very clear picture before production is essential in order to proceed with production and better meet customer expectations.
There are several processes that can be used to produce working prototypes.
The traditional process is manufacturing by CNC machining.
This process involves the production of the piece through the removal of material. We always start from a full block to remove the excess material using a tool until we reach the desired geometry.
This technology is being replaced, where conditions permit, by 3D printing. The two technologies are opposite, with 3D printing material is aggregated, only the quantity needed for the production of the prototype.
It is essential to have a clear understanding of the differences between technologies in terms of materials, part design and precision.
The technologies used for the production of functional prototypes
After having clarified the objectives and processes, it is possible to choose how to produce.
The technologies that can be used for the production of functional prototypes are:
- CNC machining: with this process it is possible to work metallic and even plastic materials. Among the metals, the most commonly used materials are aluminum, steel, brass and titanium. While for plastic we generally use POM, PA or PC.
- DMLS Direct Metal Laser Sintering with Steel, Inconel, Titanium and Aluminum materials.
- SLS Selective Laser Sintering: white colored PA12 nylon powder that can be loaded with glass fiber or alumide.
- MJF Multi Jet Fusion: gray colored PA12 nylon with resistance to temperatures up to 175°C and waterproof.
- FDM Fused Deposition Modeling with base thermoplastics such as PLA and ABS, engineering materials such as PA, TPU and PETG, and high performance thermoplastics including PEEK and PEI.
- Vacuum Casting or silicone mold replicas: it is a process widely used to produce pre-series in rigid, semi-rigid plastic and rubber, also co-moulded. There is a wide range of materials also certified by FDA, FAR25 which are often used in the military, aeronautical and medical fields.
On each prototype it is possible to perform multiple surface finishes on request.
Functional prototypes are often made with the material of the final product.
Our case studies
To date we have hundreds of projects in various industrial sectors with technologies and materials of all kinds.
The need to produce functional prototypes is very frequent and typical of the manufacturing industry.
Before starting any type of production, we believe it is essential to share the choice of production technology with the customer.
This operation is part of our operating standards and is always included in the production of working prototypes.
Each request is processed promptly and production takes place in a very short time, ensuring full compliance with the parameters and tolerance limits imposed in the project.
Consequently, for optimal production, we believe it is essential to view the file with an operator who can highlight critical issues from the 3D file, give support and optimize the geometry before starting production.
Why contact us
The value of our business is confirmed by over twenty years of experience in the production of functional and aesthetic prototypes which allow us to validate each project.
Our support is complete as it guarantees:
- Feasibility analysis and optimization of the 3D file.
- All the prototyping technologies used in the industrial field.
- Possibility of support in the industrialization steps.