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 Prototyping Process

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.

A Quick Review

Advantages of HQC Prototyping

  • Prototype molds can be an added cost, but when needed they help protect against extra expenses and time delays.
  • Prototype parts are the same as production parts, so any link of the supply chain that needs parts to complete their contribution can move quicker and prevent possible problems or mistakes down the line.
  • The prototype mold can allow time-saving changes to the mold manufacture and most of all allow us to see and make changes to avoid issues.
  • A mold is not like other commodities we’re used to, such as cars. This mold is a true original. Building a prototype takes a lot of risk out of the development process.
  • Changes to a single cavity are much more cost-effective than changes to a multicavity tool. There have been rare times when changes needed require a new mold. It’s better to retool a prototype mold than a multicavity tool.
  • When reviewing concepts and designs, HQC will explain the value if a prototype mold is needed.
  • We do not build prototype molds out of metals different from those of the actual mold. Having the same cooling and steel types is important when we replicate what we learned from the prototype to a production tool.
  • Prototypes can be used for sales review and for building products for test markets before you invest in building a production tool.