How to make rubber prototypes: which technologies to choose for your goals

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What is rubber rapid prototyping

It is a 3D printing process that allows you to create functional rubber prototypes that in recent times has declined in various technologies. In the case of the Polyjet Objet, the printer deposits liquid layers of photopolymers on a tray which are polymerized layer by layer by UV rays until the object is completely realized.

In the case of the SLA Stereolithography method, the prototype formation process proceeds by photopolymerization of the material layer by layer with the aid of supports. These will be easily removed at the end of the printing process and the rubber prototype will be ready.

Also through the SLS selective laser sintering process it is possible to print rubber prototypes using TPU or an elastomer with characteristics of flexibility and functionality close to rubber.

In each process it is possible to use materials with different hardness, the critical point of each is the “memory” of the material so the prototype may not withstand repeated efforts over time or important deformations.

For this reason we recommend evaluating as an alternative to this process the production through replicas from silicone mold. The latter is not a direct 3D printing process but allows you to have more performing prototypes as well as being the only viable solution in case in which a prototype in rubber co-molded with material must be made rigid or with metal inserts. We also made moldings between rubber and glass to simulate the encapsulation of car windows.

With the silicone mold replicas there is the possibility of producing more performing prototypes from an aesthetic and functional point of view as well as having the possibility of molding the rubber with rigid materials or metal inserts and a hardness that varies from 40 to 90 shore A and possibility of pigmentation with dyes.

What is it suitable for

Rapid rubber prototyping is used to produce functional models and simulate rubber products or accessories. Our experience is closely linked to the needs of the manufacturing industry, so we have mainly made gaskets, parts with a flexible surface, buttons for commands. Certainly creating a prototype quickly that simulates the final material is a significant advantage because it allows you to have answers on functionality, assembly, liquid tightness, preliminary certifications, commercial tests and much more. This allows you to validate the product in the engineering phase and have answers before validating the production phase with significant savings in time and costs on the finished product.

What technologies are used

It is possible to produce rubber prototypes to obtain soft and flexible models or multi-material prototypes through different solutions

  1. Object 3D printing
  2. Stereolithography SLA
  3. Selective laser sintering SLS
  4. Silicone replicas

Object 3D printing

With Objet 3d printing it is possible to create prototypes with a hardness from 30 to 70 shore A with a temperature resistance of about 70 °. If only a few units of prototypes are needed for the tests to be carried out, indicatively up to 5, the first solution to think about is the additive jet printing Polyjet Objet. These are the most common materials to choose from:

  • TangoBlack Plus 30 shore A
  • TangoBlack 60 shore A
  • TangoGray 70 shore A
Rubber Prototype

The details obtained with this technology are made with layers of 30 microns therefore cannot reach a high level of detail, and the materials may not be very performing for repeated functional tests in the sense that the material tends to yield after the first uses.

STEREOLITHOGRAPHY SLA

The prototype formation process proceeds by photopolymerization of the material layer by layer with the aid of supports. These will be easily removed at the end of the printing process and the rubber prototype will be ready. These are the materials you can choose from:

  • Flexa GM08B 22-25 ShoreD
  • Flexa GM08B 22-25 ShoreD

SELECTIVE LASER SINTERING

Also through the SLS selective laser sintering process it is possible to print flexible prototypes using TPU or an elastomer with characteristics of flexibility and functionality close to rubber. These are the materials you can choose from:

  • TPU
  • DURAFORM FLEX
TPU prototype

SILICONE REPLICAS

With the casting of silicone replicas, more powerful prototypes are obtained from a mechanical and therefore functional point of view. In this way it is possible to obtain multiple advantages: the use of polyurethane material very close to a definitive production rubber, a wide choice of hardnesses, greater precision and high definition of details, possibility of producing up to 25 pieces, reduction of costs for productions that exceed 5/7 parts.

Rubber prototype with silicone replicas

The level of detail that can be reached is completely similar to that of stereolithography, the rapid prototyping process that is used to produce the first prototype that will be used to make the cavity inside the mold. There are different types of material with hardness that varies between 40 and 90 shore A and also rubber materials with V0 certificate.

Technical sheets of the materials used

For additive 3D printing technologies:

  • Tango Black plus with Hardness 30 shore A Black color, temperature resistance up to 70 ° C to download the technical sheet click here
  • Tango Black with Hardness 60 shore A Black color, temperature resistance up to 70 ° C to download the technical sheet click here
  • Tango Grey with Hardness 70 shore A Black color, temperature resistance up to 70 ° C to download the technical sheet click here
  • Duraform Flex with Hardness 45-75 shore D Black color, to download the technical sheet click here

For casting from silicone replicas there are the following solutions:


  • UPX 8400 with Hardness from 30 to 90 shoreA, neutral color, temperature resistance -40 ° C / + 70 ° C to download the data sheet click here
  • PX761 with Hardness 60 shore A, Black color, temperature resistance -40 ° C / + 80 ° C to download the data sheet click here
  • PX755 V0 Self-extinguishing rubber hardness 55 shore A, Black color, temperature resistance -40 ° C / + 120 ° C to download the technical sheet click here

Case Histories: practical examples

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