Vacuum Forming Prototyping
A Brief Introduction About Vacuum Forming Prototyping
Vacuum forming prototyping is a manufacturing technique for creating a limited quantity of custom-shaped plastic components, emphasizing post-processing stages, including assembly, polishing, and painting, to ensure a refined, professional appearance in the final product. By incorporating these steps before the parts are formed, a complete product can be made effectively. And Ditaiplastic have our own prototyping department since 2010.
Firstly, when we receive a customer’s project sample or drawing, we analyze the feasibility of the project based on 3D structure. As vacuum forming is essentially a stretching process, it can cause uneven thickness, which can result in differences in height levels between the components during product assembly, affecting the later stages of assembly. Then we will consider which components need to be assembled together based on the actual product, and whether to use positive molding or negative molding. When vacuum forming, the surface of the mold in contact with the material will have more precise dimensions. We also consider the thickness of the material before start making the mold.
The most important part of prototyping is the bonding process. Usually, we use three methods for bonding. We recommend using the same material for the entire product for the above two methods, as the same material is easier to fuse together, resulting in a more solid bond. Generally, we recommend using ABS material for prototyping products as it has stable performance, good toughness, and strong adhesion to paint.
Firstly, the most common method is to use adhesive, such as ABS-adhesive, which has a certain degree of chemical corrosiveness and can fuse two ABS components together.
Use Welding Gun
Secondly, we use a welding gun to bond two components together at the joint. This method is faster than manual clamping, save labor costs, and the bonding between the two components is less likely to shift, resulting in a more aesthetically pleasing appearance. Compared to using adhesive, welding gun drying is faster and the bond between components is more stable.
The third bonding method is to use screws to provide a higher-strength connection by embedding, grinding, and patching.
Typically, prototyping products using vacuum forming are combined with some CNC machining, injection molding, or 3D printed parts to achieve internal structure or provide strong support to the plane. Of course, at the beginning of the analysis of the drawings or sample products, which parts are produced by which process to achieve the best strength, quality, and lowest cost is already determined.
After bonding, the next step is to polish. When using a welding gun for bonding, a hole and protruding material may be left and the junction as the gun tip needs to be embedded between the two components. If adhesive is also used, it can result in some overflow. When screws are used, we also patch the gaps. These situations require rough polishing with a hand grinder. After rough polishing, we dill any remaining holes or gaps with putty and then polish again with sandpaper until the surface is sufficiently smooth.
After polishing, we move on to the next step of painting. Once the painting is complete, it is not possible to see the internal structure of the bonding parts, and it appears as a complete and independent product. For products with different colors, we use masking tape or stickers to cover one color before spraying another. There are many paint options available to achieve different surface effects, such as paint, textured paint, gloss paint, and PU paint, to meet different customer needs. Finally, before packaging, every product that has been painted is inspected by our quality control department to ensure its appearance and quality before it is released.
To Ensure That The Customer Can Also Put It Together Correctly
Generally, the external casing is produced using vacuum forming, while internal structures use CNC machining, injection molding, or 3D parts. We ensure that each component being bonded is consistent by using jigs and positioning and use physical object assembly to ensure consistency and beauty. For example, for products that require built-in displays, the customer is usually required to provide internal assembly parts. After each set of products is bonded, we will actually install them once. Each part of this set of products is marked to ensure that each bonded component is fully aligned and has been assembled in practice, avoiding imperfect assembly caused by the customer mistakenly taking parts during assembly.
The Advantages Of Choosing Vacuum Forming For Prototype
The advantages of using vacuum forming for prototyping products are that compared to injection molding, the cost of vacuum forming mold is lower and the cycle time is shorter. In the early stages of product development, the value after entering the market is difficult to estimate, or if adjustments to the structure are needed during the trial run stage, the cost of production will be high if injection molding is used because the mold cannot be changed. During the product development and trial run stages, using vacuum forming to product prototyping products is more cost-effective. For customers who want to develop similar products to those already on the market, can provide us with samples, and based on our past experience, we will design the mold for better market development.