Rapid Prototyping is the automatic construction of physical objects using additive manufacturing technology. The use of additive manufacturing for rapid prototyping takes virtual design from computer aided design or animation modeling software, transforms them into thin, virtual, horizontal cross-sections, and then creates successive layers until the model is complete. It is a process whereby the virtual and physical models are almost identical. DeviceLab, a full-service consumer and medical product company, provides rapid prototyping and stereolithography (SLA) for their clients.
The Prototyping Process
Dac Vu of DeviceLab recently had this to say about the rapid Prototyping process of product development: “Think of it as a softer plastic molded over a harder plastic. The inner hard plastic part is formed in a mold, then the softer plastic is poured over it. The softer plastic over-mold has a better grip and a softer feel. It is useful for hand-held devices such as cell phones and hand-held apparatus such as kitchen tools.”
Over the last couple of years, a new machine has been developed that prints the first mold and subsequently prints the second mold on top of the first. This has revolutionized the prototyping process by decreasing the turn-around time to overnight. Dac Vu states: “you can set up the process, push the start button, and the end product is ready the next morning. It saves time and money and achieves the same result.”
Large Panel Prototyping
DeviceLab is a leader in large panel techniques. “We work on medical carts requiring enclosures up to 4 ft. by 5 ft. by 12 in.”, comments Vu. There are many options for prototyping techniques but only four options for large panels. These include SLS, VFM, SLA, and CMC. Of these, the most common and effective large-panel prototyping methods are SLA and CMC. SLA parts are as large as 22 in. by 30 in. by 60 in. and cover a wide range of materials, including transparent mediums. The accuracy is high, the surface finish is smooth, and fine details can be recorded. CMC parts can be 2 ft. by 5 ft. by 10 ft., making them suitable for large MRIs.
Some companies take smaller panels and glue them together however this may compromise the integrity of the piece and there are apparent cosmetic flaws. It is much better to construct in one piece, as in DeviceLab’s SLA process. “It makes for a more robust unit and a better surface. The majority of our medical carts are made with the SLA process”, says Vu.
DeviceLab is a contract medical device design and product development firm. They are a full-service company for mechanical engineering, electronics, software, industrial design, prototyping, manufacturing, FDA regulatory consulting, and product testing services. Experience includes User Interface (UI) Design, custom and cart development, medical device, industrial design, hospital equipment, and lab instrument development. Based in Orange County, CA, they serve Southern California (San Diego, Orange, and Los Angeles Counties) and medical device firms nationwide.