Choosing the right prototyping method can help cut time and costs for your injection molding program. Empire offers several options for prototyping both precision plastic parts and plastic optics, each with its own benefits. Often a combination of these methods is used leading up to full-volume production.
Whether you require small volumes or a quick ramp-up to full production, Empire will work with you to determine the best approach for your project.
Often, following one of the other prototyping methods, prototype tooling involves the same gating, ejection, and cooling procedures as will be applied in full production. Once the final design is established, production intent prototypes are created using rigorous Scientific Molding processes. This type of tooling is necessary for high-volume injection molding programs.
Some customers prefer a rapid tooling option in which they own the tool. Considered a prototype tool, aluminum tooling allows customers to easily move into to full-volume production. Rapid tooling allows for easier design and mold changes, more resin choices, and higher-volume runs. Parts can also be grouped in a family tool for greater cost savings.
Precision machining is a subtractive method of prototyping that uses CNC mills and lathes to shape stock materials. This option is useful for low-volume runs and is typically low cost and high quality.
Single Point Diamond Turning (SPDT) is an optical manufacturing process that is useful for producing low to moderate volumes of high-quality plastic optics, most commonly used for prototyping and R&D projects. This is accomplished by utilizing a precision CNC lathe with a diamond cutting tool specifically designed to cut the surface geometry of the lens. Using a CNC lathe makes the process consistently repeatable to create uniform parts ready for coatings. SPDT can be used for aspheric lenses as well as optics with more complex features.
Along with the ability for rapid prototyping, SPDT allows for plastic optical designs to be created without the added first step of building and expensive injection mold. This can also be useful in helping our customers meet early demands before moving to full scale production. 2-4 week turnaround times are completely achievable with this process.
Empire’s SPDT, boasts a Moore Nano 350; with resolution of 0.4µ” (10nm) coupled with on-board profilometry, Empire Precision’s technicians can generate and verify optical surfaces in real time, with surface and form accuracies to the sub-micron level and surface roughness measured down to the angstrom level.
Single Point Diamond Turning is a fantastic choice for a customer looking for faster production/delivery, reduced tooling costs, with high quality at lower volumes. Reach out to us and see how Empire can make your next project take shape