Functional Prototyping


While concept modeling tests the physical appearance of the product and it’s mainly, but not solely, aesthetic qualities, functional prototyping stressed on the different performance qualities of the model.
Product and designs are rarely static, they perform various purposes for which they must move, bend, transform and react to the environment. A proof for these applications cannot be taken from a 2D sketch or even 3D software model. A prototype must be built and tested of its functionalities and will it carry out the mission which it has been designed for.
The need for tests is unquestionable; however the creation of functional models remains an expensive, time consuming and inefficient way of doing so. Solid Fill 3D printing services in Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) and SLA – Stereolithography can change that. We will create your durable, high-performance prototypes that withstand thermal, chemical and mechanical stress on demand. You will be able to use realistic models that replicate the look and feel of your final product without unnecessary waste of lead time.




Industrial Design


The design of industrial machines and elements is essentially different than the creation of commercial products, but as equally important. The stress here is even more exacerbated on the proper functionality of the object as, more often than not, it is part of an intricate design construction where interconnectivity between functional elements yields the final outcome.

Precise dimension of the elements are of the utter importance when it comes to industrial operations. As models are usually created on the same machines that also built the end product, every error in the creation of the prototype means arrest of the entire production process. The time span of fixing  erroneous elements is long and diminishes any possible competitive advantages and slow any incremental processes. Reproduction is also a burdensome and costly option .

Using 3d printing technology eliminates a large part of the possible risk involved in industrial design prototyping and also turns the shortcomings of conventional methods into advantages. Using specially designed software and utilizing the printer’s capabilities Solid Fill can produce models with the required dimensions in one quick single built preserving the functionalities of the design.  Any unwanted  defects can be fixed using additional finishing techniques. As the process is faster, in times, relatively to the traditional methods  3D printing gives you the opportunity to create and  test several versions at one time at lower expenses.. Any changes in design are easily implemented and reprinted if necessary.




Dynamic Friction


Products designed to perform movement usually incorporate two or more surfaces contact. This friction between parts of the model can be of utter importance of the very function of the product and its handling by users.

3D printing with Solid Fill can guarantee you fast; singe build, creation of a functional model to test the durability and performance of such movement. The Technology can use different materials to simulate friction between two or more surfaces with different properties. Design adjustments are easily incorporated and printed anew to retest and reevaluate.




Living Hinges


Another example of a moving product property is the Living hinge. A living hinge is a thin flexible hinge (flexure bearing) made from plastic, as opposed to cloth, leather, or some other substance, that joins two rigid plastic parts and allows them to move along the line of the hinge. The commonly accepted method of creating living hinges is the inject molding process that created, which although creating the three parts (two rigid surfaces and the hinge itself) is a slow and costly way with lack of flexibility of change if design.

Models created with Sold Fill 3D printing service can incorporate living hinges in one single built and if necessary with multiple materials. The 3D printed hinge is a ready to use functional part of the product. Depending on the material use for the creation of the model, the hinge can be flexed and/or bended for the entire lifetime of the product. 3D printed living hinge models are a cost efficient way of testing the functionality of the concept and are a perfect mean of design alterations and adjustments. The method allows a quick reprint of the adjusted design to reinsure the efficiency of the change or indicate the need of further improvements.




Simulating Overmolding


Products are rarely designed and produced from one single material, i.e. the functionality of the product requires more than one surface to fulfil its  designation. The process in which more than one material is used to produce a single object is usually referred as overmolding. The general application of such models is the design of handles with partially rubber-like surface for a better grip.

In order to to combine a rigid thermoplastic material with a rubber–like elastomer (TPE) there are two main conventional and wide spread options: insert molding or multi–shot molding. Both processes are expensive, require big complex machines and take a long time to production outcome. The first is a two step process where the rigid material is molded first and then placed into another injection mold so the TPE can be shot in the specially left out cavity. The later build the model in a single process where both materials are injected one after another in one machine.

3D Printing  represents not only an actual alternative to the above mentioned methods  for overmolding, but has the potential to turn into the preferred technology. Solid Fill’s dual material enabled Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) and  SLA – Stereolithography printers overmolding models can be printed easily quickly and most importantly affordably. A dual material, not only rubber-like ones, can be put together in one built. The diversity of printing materials with different properties opens up the opportunity to test various options and combinations to increase the efficiency of the functionality.




Soft Touch Parts


It is very important for a testing prototype to be as close to the real product as possible, to imitate or replicate  all the functional features of the end goal. In times like these the designers appreciate the need for materializing all tiny details to evaluate and remodel if necessary. 3D printing attention and focus on details secures an easy way to to create such a model. The ability to build object with two or more materials in a single step gives an advantage of the user of the technology.

This distinction is evident in the need to simulate soft touch parts. Rubber-like materials can be easily combined with rigid plastic parts in a single process to yield a prototype that encompasses




Surrogate Parts


Quite often in product design parts of the product are meant to only fill a predefined space. Despite their at first sight simple role , their function is as important as any other part of the design. When testing the overall functionality of the product via functional prototyping these parts play utmost importance. Further such parts have intricate shapes that are difficult to reproduce as a physical form. The conventional creation of such parts  through traditional manufacturing, such as cast metal, bears the risk of unrealistic high costs, very long lead time and prolonging the work in progress. In addition these parts are dependable on the proper function and shape of the surrounding other parts of the design. Thus every change in the neighbouring elements will result in change of the shape of the part in question. Thus would require adjustments that again will be very costly to implement through the widespread manufacturing machinery.

In simple product  prototypes usually make mock-ups of the parts that need to vill the void inside of a design. However mock-ups are oversimplified versions of the real elements that are not fit to test the functionality of more complex designs.

When the element is more complex and its installation details are  needed to be preserved surrogates parts come into play. Surrogates parts can test the clearances and interfaces for installation; highlight serviceability issues; and validate routing interfaces for wiring harnesses and fluid conduits. When using 3D Printing (FDM) to create the surrogate, test can be performed with diminishing lead time and thus work in progress and cost for production reduced to minimum. Prototyping will benefit of utilizing the most up-to-date version of the design. Adjustments to the part can easily reprinted to match the exterior parts design change or improve functionality.

Surrogates parts can be  printed in different colour to highlighted their functionality and, if needed, easily indicate flows in the design. Additionally RFID sensors can be implemented into the 3D Printed surrogate part for gathering data for design and material improvements




Wind Tunnel Testing


Аs the name suggests these type of functional prototyping tests the behaviour of, usually, solid object in movement or stationary position, whether in air, water or other matter. A number of industries utilize this type of testing as it is vital to the behaviour of the end product, safety of the users and its successful commercialization –  automotive, aerospace and architectural firms.

3D printing in all its diversifications is very suitable for wind tunnel testing. Creating the prototype of the product with this technology has a number of benefits:

  • Reduced cost for creating the prototype
  • Reduced time for creating the prototype
  • Testing internal cavities and passages
  • Swift redesigns and retests
  • Option for transparent prototypes for evaluation of internal flows
  • Lightweight materials