The Design 1st works with our network of prototype suppliers to build thousands of prototype parts for all kinds of physical products and demonstration units. We are experienced in the process of minimizing mistakes and, on larger builds, prototyping mistakes can cost as much as the entire design budget. We also do not put a mark up on the prototype parts.
Types of Prototypes
P1 Visual Cosmetic Models – aesthetic and working product for marketing purposes…
People create visual models to promote their product and to gain deeper knowledge of peoples reaction to the product form, use, size and proportions including brand reaction and color preference. Models can be non-working or can be a fully operating unit depending on what components are available.
Types of Visual Prototypes:
- Real Appearance Models - for photographs and product demos
- Virtual 3D Models (Quick Rendered Photo Images from 3D CAD)
- Scale Models for very large products
- Mock-Ups for quick hand build representations of a concept (hand made from foam, rubber, wood and metal depending on the requirements)
- Fully Working Cosmetically Finished production intent prototype
Throughout the design process our team creates the necessary models for the evolving needs of the marketing team from early concept images to late stage product renders and cosmetic finished prototype parts that can be verified with the target user market, buyers and other stakeholders.
P2 Bench Models – to evaluate and tune the operation of an operational part of a product…
The design team recommends early stage Bench Models for items that are seen as higher risk of working. Exploration of a real physical object or assembly in some cases allows the refinement of a feature much faster than exploring concept variations of the product on a computer model. Moving, interacting parts can be quickly refined and new opportunities identified while a craftsperson explores a concept with their hands and mind physically on a bench in a concept shop with the right tools and materials.
Bench Models can be many things:
- Styrofoam models with hot glue, wires and other materials
- Quick Cut in-house machined parts for surface analysis, fit, operation
- Purchased and modified components, creatively assembled to convey new functions
- Storyboarding user interface options to identify ease of use keys/controls
Throughout the design process our team creates the minimum physical representations of a product concept. The goal is to identify and build physical models to explore higher risk areas for opportunities and looking for ways to provide risk reduction.
P3 Engineering Prototypes – full working unit representing the entire final product (Alpha, Beta)…
When the detailed design is complete and reviewed the design team creates a first physical complete functioning engineering prototype that has all the anticipated production representative parts included. This is often referred to as the first or ‘Alpha’ Prototype. Further refined prototypes are often made to test operation, regulatory compliance, and can be used to run Market verification Beta Trials. The additional prototypes are often referred to as Beta Prototypes.
The Engineering Alpha Prototype Includes:
- The First Enclosure housings created by rapid prototype technique
- First Electronics, cables and functioning components
- Tens to hundreds of components in various materials and finish requirements
- Parts are ordered from several prototype suppliers, each specialized
- Parts arrive and are assembled in-house by the design team
Prototype Companies produce parts that are not useable for production. The materials used are specialized for overnight delivery at a higher price per part than production parts. The materials would not last or be used in production except in a few unique situations. Tooling is still required to get custom production parts.
P4 Product Demonstration Assemblies – fast build fully working unit to experience & promote…
Creating unique prototypes that work and function as real product are difficult to design and engineer and can be expensive to create. We are experts in design, material and finish selection for one off or low volume custom parts and assemblies that have to meet expectations of potential buyers and users in real environments. Clients use these prototype assemblies for tradeshows, client presentations and to promote an experience for users and buyers. The ‘One-Off’ products are generally the only product that is ever built.
P5 Unique Jigs and Fixtures – we create fixtures for Testing and Production Assembly assistance…
Our clients require individual component checking as well as complete assembly jigs for a variety of applications. The Design 1st team has built a reputation for creating reasonable solutions to technically challenging unique mechanical and electro-mechanical equipment, made in quantities of one.
Our engineering team understands specification of geometric tolerances, tolerance analysis and high precision nano-precision design and specification of drawings to ensure accuracy of specified parts and assemblies.
We are not specialists in production fixture design however we bring an objective set of skills and experience to a problem to find an appropriate cost effective solution.
BUYING PARTS – Ordering quick build prototype parts requires careful monitoring during part ordering, build and delivery. Dozens to hundreds of parts can be turned around in under 1 week. Our Commercializing Services help you with prototypes.
Quick Build Prototype Parts – Additive ‘Build’ Processes – SLA, SLS, FDM……
Stereo Lithography (SL or SLA) is an additive manufacturing technology for producing models, prototypes, patterns, and in some cases, production parts. This rapid prototyping process involves layering liquid photopolymer resin cured by a UV laser solidifying the final state.
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) is an additive manufacturing technique that uses a high power laser (for example, a carbon dioxide laser) to fuse small particles of plastic, metal (direct metal laser sintering), ceramic, or glass powders into a mass that has a desired 3-dimensional shape.
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) is an additive manufacturing technique commonly used in the rapid prototyping industry. It has a variety of applications but is most often used for modeling, prototyping and production applications. Fused deposition modeling is an additive process that layers the material to produce the finished prototype. A plastic or metal coil is unwound through a heated nozzle. melting the material in the desired shape.
PolyJet Technology works by jetting state of the art photopolymer materials in ultra-thin layers (16µ) onto a build tray layer by layer until the part is completed. The Technology was first created by Objet Geometries. This
PolyJet Matrix Technology provided businesses and consumers alike with the tools to produce multi-material parts, however complex, in a timely manor. This technology is continuously improving, allowing for smaller machines, more accurate builds, and cost effective solutions.
Sheet Metal Fabrication - Certain Fabrication shops are set up for very fast turn around sheet metal parts using lasers for cutting parts and automated or manual bending and welding. Part Price is slightly higher than waiting several weeks for traditional sheet metal shops to provide parts. With sheet metal the design team must understand the many decisions in punching, forming, material selection and thickness to design the parts for fast prototyping so they arrive on time and with predictable quality.
Machined Metal Parts - CNC Machining of custom parts can be done at numerous places. Specifying and procuring fast turn machined parts requires knowledge of the many suppliers and ability to send information and receive quotes quickly, then specification of the part requirements in a way that the machine shop delivers on time and with predictable quality.
There are many materials that can be selected for creating the machined parts. What material depends on what the prototype will be used for. The careful selection of material by experienced team members will ensure you meet objectives and save having to rebuild parts or entire assemblies.
Machined Plastic Parts - CNC Machining of custom plastic parts can be done at numerous shops with the skilled knowledge of how to fast fixture materials. Specifying and procuring fast turn machined parts requires knowledge of the several suppliers and ability to send information and receive quotes quickly, then specification of the part requirements in a way that the machine shop delivers on time and with predictable quality.
Cast plastics behave differently than molded plastics when machined. When machining blocks of plastic the design team and machine shop must have experience to avoid parts bending after the machining is finished due to internal stress of cast thick walled plastics.
There are many materials that can be selected for creating the machined parts. What material and color depends on availability of materials and what the prototype will be used for. The design team will recommend the right material based on the objectives of the prototype which could be constructed to pass regulatory tests or to evaluate shipping and drop requirements. The careful selection of material by experienced team members will ensure you meet objectives and save having to rebuild parts or entire assemblies.
Quick Molding Rubber Parts - The quick prototype industry has introduced flexible materials in the last few years. The materials generally can be fragile and tear easily along the slice layer direction. Careful set up of the parts during the build of the part helps to keep the higher stress direction more robust.
A knowledgeable designer has to tell the prototype shop the requirement before the build. Recently there are more robust processes for single and multi durometer (hardness and flex) part builds. Knowledge of the quick build material properties is necessary if you want the first parts made to arrive ready to use as you expect.
SLA – various materials are available and are designed to flex
SLS – various materials are available and are designed to flex
FDM – various materials are available and are designed to flex
Multi Material Builds – new innovative ways to overmold are now available.
Molding with Quick Tools – Our in house team overmolds very low quantity to prove out and refine a design before volume prototyping and production manufacture starts.
For realistic models quick build low volume and reasonable priced cosmetic treatments on quick build parts and assemblies are possible for those who know the suppliers to get cosmetic treatments fast.
Brand Plates and Silk Screen
Rub and Peel Decal
Paint - finish and painting of quick build parts requires a craftsperson
Label Mock Up
Optical Display Lens and Light Pipes
Hard to find Components – parts not easily available fast
Our in house machine and modeling shop has the latest in quick prototyping equipment. Overnight machining using specific plastic and metal materials helps us meet demanding schedules.
Our direct from CAD 4 axis machining center with tool changer allow us to create new concept parts and assemblies day and night.
One of the most difficult parts to prototype is rubber and over-molds. Many outdoor products require over-molding of assemblies. This is a two step process and is not available easily with the rapid prototype part creation techniques available today.