You may have been attending exhibitions and had a glimpse of shiny products in the booths. Most of them are not end-use products but prototypes of the products. Nowadays, rapid prototyping can make products look like those of mass production. Their appearance can be the same. However, they are different.

1. Different manufacturing methods

End products are manufactured with costly steel molds. The minimum order quantity is often over ten thousand. If the amount is too low, the cost will be too high. The reason is simple. The cost of steel molds can only be offset when the volume of production is large enough. Then the unit price of the product is relatively lower. Mass production processes are more complicated and have higher requirements for machines, tools, and tolerances.

However, the MOQ of prototyping products is one piece, which requires cheaper machining ways. The most frequently applied process is CNC machining, and then vacuum casting, 3D printing, and sheet metal fabrication of products. If the quantity increases, there are also more cost-effective options, such as rapid tooling and reaction injection molding. We often call them rapid prototyping production because the lead time is much shorter than that of mass production.

Rapid prototyping, which aims at verifying the design of new products, is a process before mass production.



2. Material differences

Although there is a wide range of materials for prototyping products, the materials used for prototypes of the products are different from that of mass production. Take plastic parts as an example. CNC machining uses ABS plates at room temperature however plastic injection molding melts the ABS particles at high temperatures and injects them into the mold. So the properties of the prototypes of the product are distinct. For sheet metal fabrication products, we use thin metal plates. But die casting, a mass production process for metal parts forces molten metal under high pressure into a mold cavity. 

3. Surface treatment differences

Prototyping products are finished after machining, whereas mass production can have most finishing done during fabrication. For instance, there can be texture for end-use parts, which is realized by etching the steel mold. After molding, you can get textured products right away. However, the texture on the prototypes of the product is painted after CNC machining or vacuum casting. Sometimes, no surface treatment is needed if the designer only needs to test the product’s structure. Sheet metal fabrication products are seldom post-treated.

Despite the above differences, prototypes of the products cannot be avoided. They play vital roles in testing the structural, appearance, and functional design, thus avoiding risks in mass production. The specific processes such as CNC machining and sheet metal fabrication of products rely on the testing needs.

As a rapid prototyping service provider with over ten years of experience, X Rapid Technologies provides the best prototyping solutions. Whether you need CNC machining, vacuum casting, or sheet metal fabrication for your new product, we are here to deliver the best results.