Mechanical components are the backbone of any physical product. This refers to enclosures, frames, linkages, covers, hinges, bolts, wheels, threaded inserts, etc. - anything physically manufactured as part of your project.
These prototypes are required in order to test form, fit and function on our way to the final product.
We can produce prototypes from virtually any material a consumer product might require. Anything from ABS plastic to silicone, aluminum, brass, copper, stainless steel, and many more.
We've even helped formulate new, high-density, flexible plastics to client specifications.
We are experienced in integrating mechanical and electrical components into a single, aesthetically-pleasing product.
Our professional project and product management ensures all components fit together and work exactly as intended.
Electrical packages include any and all electrical components, microprocessors, displays, batteries, circuitry, buttons, motors, etc. - as well as the programming/firmware required to run it.
These prototypes are necessary in order to test functions, user interfaces and integration with the enclosure and any mechanical components.
Initial, proof-of-concept prototypes typically use breadboards and off-the-shelf hardware in order to reduce costs.
Later versions normally include custom-designed PCBs and final hardware choices based on prototype testing.
We can provide whatever programming/firmware your product requires. We've done everything from simply running motors and LCDs off of dedicated buttons and sensors to two-way radios, Bluetooth communication and SMS.
Development kits can be used to integrate your product with standard protocols and existing products.
Lab testing and certifications are required for products which are intentional radiators (radios, wifi and Bluetooth transmitters, etc.) and are recommended/required in other cases as well.
We have experience taking products through various testing and certification processes and provide guidance on when this is necessary.
how it works
Generally, 3D printing builds up material layer by layer until a complete product is formed. 3D CAD files which are created in the DESIGN phase are imported directly into a program which changes the 3D model into machine code which can be understood by the actual printer.
There are multiple types of 3D printing, and each has its own optimal applications.
The most commonly-used processes are Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), Stereolithography (SLA) and Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), although there are quite a few more which we can utilize depending on your specific project.
There is a wide, ever-expanding range of materials which can be 3D printed:
- Rigid Plastic
- Flexible Plastic
- Plastic with the appearance of wood or metal
- Common Metals
Most materials are additionally available in multiple colors and have options from opaque to transparent, high temperature, high strength, FDA-approved, castable, etc.
Due to the wide range of printing processes and materials, there is a correspondingly wide range of surface and overall print qualities.
FDM printing is generally lower quality, although it can still produce very good results and is the least expensive option in low quantities.
SLA printing can produce almost production-quality results, closely mimicking molded products, and is often used for presentation models/prototypes.
Other printing methods produce different surface qualities; we always provide recommendations on the correct process and material for your products.
In addition to 3D printing, there are a range of options for producing one-off and small quantities of prototypes which cost significantly less than paying for production tooling, especially when design changes may still be required.
We have created prototypes using a variety of these processes and will help you choose the best fit.
Presentation/final prototypes can be put together exactly like the final products will be assembled.
Even 3D prints can often include the same or equivalent fasteners, closures, etc. as the production facility will use.
Prototypes can include high-quality surface finishes, exactly matching the final products. This includes:
3D prints can be done in a matter of a few days while CNC machining may take a couple weeks and casting or molding might take four weeks. Lead times depend on scheduling, quantity and complexity.
Other manufacturing processes normally fall within that range as well. Your quotes will always contain delivery estimates.
Aesthetics and ergonomics are important considerations in the design of consumer products, and although you can get a great feel for the design through renders and animations, until you see the physical prototype and hold it in your hands, it's difficult to truly know if you've gotten all the details right.
The prototypes you receive from us will be as close to production tolerances as possible. This enables us to assemble complete prototypes with all included components and ensure everything fits together as intended and/or that the product can be used with whatever off-the-shelf components or products it may be needed for.
Whether your product is a kitchen spatula or a complex electro-mechanical assembly, it needs to perform its intended functions. Thorough testing of your prototypes is completed in order to ensure nothing is overlooked and all likely end-user actions are accounted for (and even the unlikely ones such as pressing every button at the same time or unplugging a power cord while in the middle of a programmed action).
Once your prototype has been built and tested, both by us and by you, we will work with you to determine whether it is appropriate to move forward with manufacturing/production or if any changes should be made.
We have had projects where the initial prototype turned out to be the final prototype, but it is much more likely that a new product will require closer to three prototypes before being reading for production.
If the design needs to be updated, we take all of your feedback into account and provide our recommendation on the best course of action to continue moving forward.
Until you are completely happy with the prototype:
Repeat as needed
Once we have the design and prototype you are satisfied with - whether that's a Minimum Viable Product or the perfect product - we will continue to work with you to line up manufacturers, packaging, shipping, etc.
Take a deep breath, you're almost at the finish line.