Plastic Prototyping: How and Why

plastic prototyping

The Key to Product Success?
Use plastic prototypes

  • Prototype injection molding
  • Plastic rapid prototyping
  • Ensure proof of concept

If you’re going to invest in a new product, you want to be sure it’s exactly what you need to complete the job. In other words, you need to first build a prototype before moving forward with full scale production. Without a prototype, you may find a flaw later in the process, leading to an unexpected increase in costs. The problem is, many people think building a prototype is prohibitively expensive. However, creating a plastic prototype with methods like injection molding, 3D printing, and prototype machining is highly cost efficient and beneficial to your business.

Why use plastic prototypes?

Plastic prototyping gives you a chance to find potential flaws without committing to mass production. It also gives you a glimpse of the production process, helping you properly allocate costs.

Prototypes allow you to test the concept in preparation for a full scale production. Some of the ways this approach is useful include:

  • See if anything can be modified to make the production process more cost effective and time efficient
  • Confirm the best method to mass produce the product
  • Conduct more in depth consumer research, so that potential consumers can look at the prototype and provide their valuable insights.

By testing in advance, prototyping gives engineers flexibility to improve and make changes, producing the highest quality final product possible at the best price. Plastic prototypes allow you to confirm proof of concept, so you know how to make your product work most effectively before a full production run.

Prototype injection molding

Prototype injection molding is the more traditional way of creating plastic prototypes. The way it works is by injecting molten plastic into a mold of the product, then letting the plastic harden in order to adopt the shape. Here are some of the benefits of plastic mold modeling:

  • Time Effectiveness—If you are creating prototypes with 100+ parts, it is more convenient and time efficient to use prototype injection molding.
  • Cost Deductions—Injection molding is cost effective, especially if you are considering high volume production.
  • Weight Reduction—Plastic prototypes are lighter, especially compared to metal prototypes.
  • High Quality—Prototype injection molding lets you create high quality, fully functioning product, so you can test its actual functionality.
  • Color—Plastics can be molded in any color with various other decorative features.

Plastic rapid prototyping

Plastic rapid prototyping or 3D printing prototypes is a relatively new process for creating test products compared to injection molding. While there are many different 3D printers and printing technologies, Fused Deposition Modeling or FDM printing is the most common method. Unlike the injection molding process, one drop of molten plastic is added at a time during FDM printing, reducing the amount of material used.

Plastic rapid prototyping offers many benefits:

  • Low cost—If you are creating only a few parts (1-10 parts), use 3D printing. Unlike injection molding, 3D printing does not require costly mold tools.
  • Time effectiveness—Even if you are creating your prototype from scratch, 3D printing makes your prototyping experience extremely fast and painless.
  • Innovative—3D printing is quickly improving and so is rapid prototyping. You have various options when it comes to different printers and technologies.

Depending on what you want to get out of the plastic prototyping process, one method may work better than the other. At Aztec Plastic, we have knowledge and experience with a variety of prototyping methods, and we are happy to guide you through the process to ensure quality plastic prototypes.

Prototype machining

Another method for creating plastic prototypes is through machining. This process uses a CNC machine and cutting tools to shape the plastic to match your product’s geometry quickly. Prototype machining is applicable to a large range of sizes, complexities, and tolerances, allowing an accurate prototype to be developed for a wide variety of products. The most common plastics used for prototype machining are PEEK, Teflon, acrylic, acetyl, ABS, and PC.

Benefits of plastic prototype machining include:

  • Versatility – A wide range of plastic materials can be used to create a prototype.
  • Subtractive manufacturing vs. additive manufacturing – Certain complex product geometries are better suited to subtractive methods like machining instead of additive methods like 3D printing.
  • Highly accurate – Prototype machining is ideally suited to products requiring very tight tolerances or with threaded features.
  • Speed – Plastic machining is a very fast, accurate, and streamlined process that is used to create high quality prototypes.


See the Benefits of Prototyping: Prototyping and 3D Printing

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