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Precision metal stampings

Originally Published January 2000

SPOTLIGHT
On
Rapid Prototyping

Precision metal stampings

A company's rapid prototyping system allows for quick turnaround of precision metal stampings with a process that closely simulates the results of a high-speed progressive die. Engineering and development costs are kept low through the use of interchangeable tooling components. Only the tooling that is specific to the product design is custom-made, and this tooling is inserted into a prototype system that cuts and forms with the same process used in the production operation. Using this method, prototypes most closely resemble the end product by displaying typical cut-by, shear, and other features that only result from stamping the parts during high-volume production. Meier Tool & Engineering Inc., 875 Lund Blvd., Anoka, MN 55303.



Enclosures

A company can produce rapid prototype enclosures for high-end medical analyzers and laser surgery carts. Reaction injection molding (RIM) allows the rapid prototyping of client designs in epoxy molds without the tooling investments associated with steel molds. RIM polyurethanes cover a range of physical properties from rigid to elastomeric. Structural foam RIM is characterized by tiny cells inside a tough outer skin. By controlling cell size, the density can be varied from 0.6 to 0.9 to allow the part to be thermally insulating. Strength, on a weight basis, exceeds sheet steel. Rimnetics Inc., 433 Clyde Ave., Mountain View, CA 94043-2209.



Laser microfabrication

A company provides laser microfabrication and contract services for rapid prototyping and production needs. Features from customer-provided drawings or CAD files can be machined through various laser processes such as drilling, cutting, patterning, marking, and micromolding. The company specializes in feature sizes from 2 to 200 µm. Using either UV or infrared lasers, a variety of materials, including plastic, metal, glass, diamond, and ceramic, can be processed into 2- and 3-D structures. Proprietary technologies such as software for automatic microinspections allow fast and accurate machine control and measurements. Potomac Photonics Inc., 4445 Nicole Dr., Lanham, MD 20706.



Stereolithography services

A company's rapid prototyping services include rapid tooling, stereolithography (SLA) and laminated object manufacturing (LOM), advanced 3-D CAD solid modeling, and urethane reproductions. Its SLA machines can build a single part as large as 20 x 20 x 23 in. Larger parts can be made by using additional operations, such as bonding the smaller parts together or CNC machining. In order to produce parts that require superior finishes, mold-ready masters, and AIM tooling inserts, the company uses Somos 7100 resin; for parts that require more functionality, such as snap-fit applications, the Somos 8100 resin is used. Morris Technologies Inc., 11988 Tram Way Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45241.



Rapid prototyping services

A company employs a team of engineers, machinists, finishers, and quality-control personnel to assist clients with their rapid prototyping needs. The company is equipped with PRO-E CAD/CAM systems and CNC precision Swiss-style machines, and provides CNC turning and milling, wire EDM, as well as secondary processes for deburring and finishing. MedSource Technologies Inc., 110 Cheshire Ln., Ste. 100, Minneapolis, MN 55305.



Stereolithography and selective laser sintering

Using stereolithography (SL) and selective laser sintering (SLS), a company can produce components from CAD files in a matter of hours. When verifying snap fits or when employing secondary operations such as sonic welding or heat staking, SLS is generally a better choice because of its durable properties. With a higher degree of accuracy and ease of finishing, SL components are used for design verification and appearance models, and for creating masters for urethane casting. Urethane castings produced from SL masters allow multiple models to be produced in an accelerated time frame—often in 7 to 10 days. Phillips Plastics Corp., N4660 1165th St., Prescott, WI 54021.



Product development & rapid prototyping

A rapid prototyping model lab is a key element in a company's user-driven medical product development process. Detailed product definitions and technical inputs from human factors and ergonomics are used to produce product models at regular intervals in the development process. Models appropriate to the stage of development are used to help manage development risk and to communicate concepts to clients, and also to provide visual and tactile points of difference to the end-user. Battelle Medical Products, 505 King Ave., Columbus, OH 43201.



PCB prototyping

A company can provide production-quality prototypes of bare boards in 24–36 hours, while fully assembled boards can be available in three to five business days. Its four vertically integrated divisions offer a full range of services from engineering and design through PCB fabrication and final product assembly. The company also undertakes the electrical, mechanical, and software design and assembly of custom test equipment used for such applications as product validation and burn-in testing, among others. DSI, 3939 W. 56th St., Indianapolis, IN 46254.



Surgical electrodes prototyping

In one day, a company can design, make, fire, and test a complete batch of prototype electrodes for probes, scalpels, and scissors. The prototypes are designed at the AutoCAD station of a MicroPen direct writing and precision dispensing system. The system then automatically writes the electrodes in thick-film inks on substrates of virtually any material and topology. No hard tooling is used, and production parts are made on the same system. OhmCraft Inc., 93 Paper Mill St., Honeoye Falls, NY 14472.



Expanded rapid prototyping services

Anticipated growth has led a rapid prototyping provider to relocate to a larger, 26,000-sq-ft facility. The move has allowed the company to expand its services to provide prototype injection molding for small to medium-sized injection molds with quantities from one hundred to several thousand; quick and cost-effective casting of high-quality parts in quantities of 2 to 200; and expanded stereolithography services with larger capacity and improved engineering materials. Some of the standard services already offered are SLA, CAD/CAM, two- and three-axis CNC milling, conventional modeling, RTV rubber molding and urethane casting, plastic tooling and silicone castings, vacuum forming, and painting and finishing. Triple S Plastics Inc., 14320 Portage Rd., Box E, Vicksburg, MI 49097-0905.




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