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A high percentage of projects for customers seeking HQC’s input are product ideas, full concepts or even product enhancements that have never been done before.
To help mitigate risk, manufacturers in most high-volume industries will start with a prototype. With our CAD and in-house 3D printing, we can see what the product will look like and design it for manufacturability.
By its nature, after a plastic part has been ejected from its much-cooler steel mold, the part will continue to shrink as it cools, sometimes for up to several hours. To accommodate these changes, HQC must machine the mold to dimensions that are larger than what the part will be. This also lets us adjust to the right temperature and the right amount of time to cool as the mold acts as a type of a cooling fixture.
The process includes a lot of variables, and while we have computer-generated flow and cooling models, there can still be large differences between the computer-generated model and the actual molded part. Having a prototype mold made is like having an insurance policy for creating a quality part. Since many parts are used as a component of an assembly, the need for a prototype becomes more important.
Not every part will need a prototype. If a part is not complex, or if adjustments can be made at a reasonable cost to make an acceptable part, it can often go right to the production-mold phase.
A prototype also helps to fill the gap until a multicavity tool is built. While the parts are more costly, a prototype’s benefit often outweighs its cost. When automation is needed, companies need real production parts to validate it. All plastic parts vary to a degree, so those variances need to be known to construct automation.
Design changes often happen when molded parts are made. For example, maybe the part needs to be changed to fit properly in an assembly. Other times, using the part might inspire another idea to improve it. Whatever the changes might be, the prototype mold makes proving them out cost-effective. Changing a detail on a multicavity tool can cost thousands. Doing so also delays the manufacturing of the mold as well as the product launch.
When we work on projects with our customers, we often discuss whether to build a prototype mold and to show and explain its importance. We, like the customer, want everything to move efficiently and on time. With a prototype, everyone in the supply chain will have actual molded parts to help complete automation, packaging and even supply sales with samples.