Harvest Technologies is a rapid prototyping service provider that is can supply you with prototype components and assemblies made from a wide variety of plastics, elastomers and metals. We utilize our in-house capabilities, as well as highly qualified vendor partners, to produce prototypes that are manufactured to your specifications. Following is an overview of the to main rapid prototyping technologies we incorporate.
The SLS rapid prototyping process uses the heat of a CO2 laser to “sinter” or melt powdered thermoplastic materials in an additive layer fashion. The SLS process has arguably the widest range of engineering-grade rapid prototyping materials available in the rapid prototyping industry. For more information on the SLS process and the available materials, please CLICK HERE.
Stereolithography, or SLA, produces 3D rapid prototype parts a layer at a time by using the light of a solid-state laser to trace the cross sectional slice information of the 3D CAD data onto the surface of a container of liquid photopolymer. There is a wide range of rapid prototyping materials available for the SLA process and it is also notable for the large object sizes that it is capable of producing. To learn more about SLA and the available materials, please CLICK HERE.
One of the more common applications for rapid prototyping is functional testing. Customers want parts that can closely mimic and function just like the “real thing” and to assist in the evaluation of fit, form and mechanical performance. The materials most commonly used for functional prototypes are the SLS DuraForm PA and DuraForm GF rapid prototyping thermoplastics. Other SLS rapid prototyping powders such as Somos 201, FR85A and LaserForm A also produce parts that are capable of serving as functional prototypes.
In the SLA prototyping process, the Somos 9120 and WaterShed 11120 rapid prototyping resins have similar characteristics. The Somos 9120 is flexible and mimics polypropylene, while WaterShed mimics ABS and offers the additional functionality of being optically clear when sprayed with a clear coat. Other SLA resins, including Somos ProtoTool 20L, Somos 8110, Somos 8120, URE-FLEX MR45, URE-FLEX MR65, URE-ELAST HR80, Somos 14120 White, RenShape SL7560 and RenShape SL7565 offer functionality with capabilities such as high-temp tolerance, flexibility, elasticity and durability.
“Model” is a very common term used to describe what a customer is looking for when using rapid prototyping to produce a 3D object for visual purposes, such as concept review and/or sales and marketing presentations. These 3D models are generally expected to be aesthetic and cosmetic in presentation, and usually require high-end post-processing and finishing. SLS, SLA and other rapid prototyping materials can be finished this way, each requiring varying amounts of labor and materials to be applied. Most rapid prototyping users, however, really need prototypes that are robust enough for functional testing, rather than just having show models.
Patterns are utilized in the production of castings and short-run tooling. For investment casting of a metal part or parts, the SLS CastForm® PS patterns are considered more “foundry friendly” than SLA Quickcast®. This is because CastForm patterns can be autoclaved and easily burned out, as they are organic in composition, low in ash content and less likely to break the surrounding shells causing loss of production, time and money. SLA QuickCast® can produce larger patterns with slightly better detail and surface finishing, but the QuickCast patterns require more experience and special processing to cast successfully in the foundry, thus there are far fewer investment casting foundries willing to work with this rapid prototyping pattern material.
Patterns are also used to make short-run tooling, know as RTV or silicone molds for urethane casting and composite tooling for injection molding. For these processes, which are typically used to create a mold for the production of 10-1000 parts, SLA is usually the best process for making pattern masters.
Effective rapid prototyping requires meeting each customer’s specific needs by matching the right technologies with the specified material needs. Needs such as:
Durable thermoplastics that range in rigidity
Flexibility & elasticity
High-detail epoxy resins
Low ash patterns for foundry production of ferrous and non-ferrous metals and alloys.
In addition to the in-house rapid prototyping capabilities we have, we also utilize a quality network of partners to provide additional services. Following is a list of some of the services we provide through our partners.
RTV tooling and urethane casting
Investment casting, plaster casting, spin casting and sand casting
CNC machining & milling
CAD modeling and design engineering
Various other 3D printing and rapid prototyping technologies and processes.
Our rapid prototyping technologies allow you to save time and money by decreasing your time-to-market, and avoiding costly modifications to production tooling. Multiple versions of prototypes can be produced (iterated) and evaluated in days, versus weeks, allowing you time to refine your designs. In short, we can save you time and money, while helping you reach your desired goals.