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The Advantages of Prototyping Your Custom Rubber Parts

Posted by Zack Jordan

No business wants to find out that they’ve invested in custom rubber parts that aren’t right for an application. Whether a new component needs to be workshopped or there was an error in the design, it’s costly to commit to a full order of parts without some assurance that everything is perfect for your needs. Fortunately, there’s a low-cost solution that can help you test new parts, updated designs, and any other rubber component before you commit to a new order of parts: prototyping.

Prototyping Options for Rubber Components

Over the years, prototyping capabilities have grown significantly. Technology like 3D printing has allowed businesses to take advantage of cost-effective solutions to produce test parts. As a result, there are a variety of prototyping options available for rubber components.

One option is to have a single prototype mold to cast test parts. A traditional steel mold will still involve some tooling, but the prototype will be identical to that of a production part at a fraction of the cost. Molds can also be made with 3D printing technology, which cuts down the costs of tooling. These molds can be filled with liquid materials like silicone and urethane, which will mimic the feel of rubber, although not quite as closely as a true rubber prototype part.

You can also opt to forgo molds altogether and have your prototypes 3D printed. You won’t be able run diagnostics on the performance of a 3D printed part, but it’s much more cost-effective and will allow you to see if a part has the right look and fit. Of course, 3D printing does require CAD files, so that’s an important detail to remember when deciding between prototyping options.

The Benefits of Prototyping Custom Rubber Parts

Regardless of which solution you choose, there are a variety of reasons why it makes sense to turn to prototyping before you invest in a larger quantities of rubber components.

It Gives You Access to a Physical Copy

You can’t really test a new or redesigned rubber component without having a physical part. Prototyping gives you access to a physical product that you can hold in your hands to see what you’re building before you get too far into a project. Depending on the level of prototyping you choose, this allows you to do everything from checking the fit of a piece to part testing so you can identify any potential issues or to verify how a part will perform.

It Can Save You Money

While some businesses may argue that prototyping is just another cost to tack on to a project, the potential savings is well worth it. You can certainly spend a few hundred to a thousand dollars on prototyping, but it’s a minor investment if you’re going to produce a significant amount of parts, especially for any molded components. You don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on a mold only to find something doesn’t work the way you expected or that your design wasn’t right. A prototype will allow you to identify any mistakes so that you don’t have to eat the cost of a faulty, large-scale run and potentially pay for a new mold.

It Can Save You Time

An unexpected delay can throw an entire project in disarray. Prototyping does add an extra step to your process, but it also helps you gets everything right the first time as opposed to having to push back timelines due to unforeseen errors. You can even include prototyping time when you estimate project turnarounds so that everyone is one the same page for timelines and you don’t have to scramble if something’s wrong with your new parts.

It Can be an Option for Certain Small Runs

Prototyping is valuable for more than just testing custom rubber parts. If you need a small run of parts, you can actually use prototyping to make finished parts without cutting steel, depending on application needs. The use of urethane molds and no tooling can help you keep your costs low and still yield quality, finished parts.

Turn to Timco for Prototyping

It’s not always easy to identify the best custom rubber parts for your applications. Between design choices and material options, it’s good to work with a company that can work with you to identify the best, most cost-effective solution for your needs. Not only is Timco a supplier of custom rubber and plastic parts, we also act as a partner to prototype your designs and uncover ways to develop components that meet your performance needs and fit within your budget.

Ready to test out your new rubber products? Give us a call at 800-969-6242 or contact us online today to talk to one of our experts about how Timco can help your business.