Pre-series: what they are, technologies and services

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What are pre-series and what they are for

In the industrial field, the term “pre-series” refers to small production batches prior to mass production.

There are different solutions each of them adapted to specific needs.

Generally the technologies referred to for the production of pre-series are:

  • 3D printing
  • Vacuum casting or silicone replicas
  • Prototype molds

Each of them responds to specific needs, tests and checks that the customer must carry out.

To choose the most suitable technology you must know the advantages and the technical specifications of each process.

How they are made

3D printing

Rapid prototyping technologies are almost always used to validate engineering steps .

With the prototypes it is possible to carry out different tests : aesthetic, functional, assembly, thermal and much more.

When a customer asks us to make pre-series, we almost always refer to the possibility of producing a small batch that simulates the performance of the finished product .

In rapid prototyping, the technologies used for this purpose are SLS : Selective Laser Sintering, MJF : Multi Jet Fusion and FDM : Fused Deposition Modeling.

The pre-series made with these technologies have good mechanical resistance ; the pieces can be assembled as if they were a finished product, hot inserts can be positioned.

The disadvantage of these technologies is the surface finish which is rough or with visibility of the layers (construction layers of the prototype).

The surfaces can be optimized with sanding, grouting and even post-process painting operations which affect production costs.

Silicone replicas – vacuum casting

A very valid alternative to 3D printing is vacuum casting production.

It is possible download the technical data sheets of the materials and view product numbers made with this technology.

It is a process that involves the construction of a silicone mold where polyurethane is vacuum-sealed inside.

Rigid, semi-rigid and rubber materials can also be used co-molded .

The materials can also be co-molded with metal cores, inserts and accessory parts of the finished product.

Each mold is suitable for the production of about 25/30 units, and on average the initial cost for the construction of the mold is amortized with the first 5 pieces.

There are other advantages of using this technology :

  • Aesthetic : the components produced with this process are very similar to those from injection molding.
  • Functional : the pre-series obtained is used very often to assemble final machines. This testifies to the excellent performance of the pieces.
  • Material performance : it is possible to use materials of different nature with FDA, V0 food certification, materials resistant up to 220 °, transparent.
  • Rubbers : it is possible to use rubbers from 45 to 90 ShoreA, with excellent functional performance

To learn more about all the possible applications of this process, you can download the guide Quick guide to the production of plastic pre-series .

Prototype mold

The prototype mold is a process that allows you to have a pre-production with final material .

The pieces made with this process are identical to the molding ones.

This solution involves the construction of a temporary tool which remains available for a limited time.

At the end of the 12 months the tool is dismantled.

What materials are used

For the production of pre-series in plastic material it is possible to use different materials.

Each of them is characterized by technical characteristics which are described and guaranteed by what is indicated in the technical data sheets .

Below is a short list of the materials mainly used for the production of pre-series.

  • Selective laser sintering: Nylon, Nylon+30%GF, Alumide
  • Multi Jet Fusion: Nylon
  • FDM Fused Deposition Modeling: ASA, TPU, PA12, PA12 Carbon, PC, PC+ABS, POM
  • Vacuum casting: rigid, semi-rigid and rubber-like polyurethanes
  • Prototype molds: all injection molding materials

Case histories

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