A prototype is a simulation of a final product that is intended to be launched on the market. Prototyping is a necessary step in the creation of a product, as it allows checking that the product fulfils its intended function and characteristics for its application.
In many cases, it is necessary to rely on third-party services for prototyping. However, in some cases there are devices and tools that can offer a much broader service than one might first imagine, simplifying the prototyping process and even allowing the internalisation of the prototyping process.
Thermoforming or thermoforming is a process that consists of heating a sheet or sheet of thermoplastic, so that when it softens it can be adapted to the shape of a mould by the action of pressure and vacuum. This is undoubtedly an enormously versatile and relatively inexpensive manufacturing process that is widely used in industry.
Until now, the purchase of a thermoforming machine was an investment not suitable for all budgets. With the arrival of the Mayku Formbox, a desktop thermoforming device, any company, school, workshop or studio can now create moulds, prototypes or packaging from a die quickly and easily.
Image 1: Prototyping with Formbox. Source: Mayku.
In this article, we will explain the manufacture of a prototype using only two machines: a 3D printer and a Mayku Formbox.
Image 2: Different parts that make up the final prototype. Source: Mayku.
Various materials must be used to manufacture the various parts of the prototype:
1- Product casing
For the production of the product casing, the upper and lower part must be designed in a CAD program. Afterwards, the designs must be adapted and optimised for the thermoforming process.
Image 3: Design optimisation for thermoforming process. Source: Mayku.
The models are then printed with an FDM 3D printer. It should be noted that the thermoforming machine reaches high temperatures, so it is not recommended to use materials such as PLA for 3D printing the matrix.
Image 4: The process of creating the device housing. Source: Mayku.
Once printed, the part is thermoformed with Formbox using a 1.00 mm thick polycarbonate sheet. Once the mould has been created, the edges must be smoothed and the piece painted with spray paint.
In this case, the prototype has a series of buttons to be manufactured in silicone and resin. Formbox allows the manufacture of small runs of silicone and resin parts, so this is not a problem.
As with the manufacture of the housing, a model for the buttons must be designed and 3D printed. In this case, the thermoforming must be carried out with Mayku Cast Sheet, a transparent sheet for the manufacture of moulds. These sheets have a non-stick and slightly flexible surface, ensuring optimum die extraction.
Image 5: Button creation process. Source: Mayku.
EThese moulds, created with Mayku Cast Sheets, can be filled with various materials. In this case, silicone mixed with white pigment is used.
3- Customised electronic housing
For the manufacture of the electronic housing, a part must be modelled that includes all the components used. Creating small retaining clips for the circuit board is a great idea so that all the elements stay in place.
Once the model is ready, it is 3D printed and then used as a matrix in Formbox, using Mayku Form Sheet for thermoforming.
Image 7: Customised electronic housing. Source: Mayku.
4. Assembly of the device.
Finally, the different elements have to be assembled, the circuit board has to be placed inside the housing, the buttons have to be placed and the upper part of the housing has to be put in place.
Image 8: Placement of the different elements inside the housing. Source: Mayku.
Without a doubt, Mayku Formbox is a versatile and very useful device when it comes to creating prototypes. When combined with a 3D printer, the manufacturing and customisation possibilities are amplified, allowing professional quality prototypes to be created in record time and without the need to hire third parties, which means significant savings.