Since “success challenged development” often results in a seemingly unending cycle of design-test-redesign-test-repeat. This not only eats into the budget, but the project timeline as well.
Obviously, one sure-fire way to get to market fast and on budget is to identify design opportunities early in the design process-often easier said than done.
Plastic components-from internal mechanisms and supports to cosmetic enclosures and interfaces-obviously require testing as well. In the past, obtaining a short run of actual plastic parts to function test required a lot of money and a long lead time. If a developer wanted to test a few parts he was relegated to SLA (stereolithography) or RTV (cast urethane) parts.
These types of processes produced parts that worked well for form and fit, but basing functional test results on them had “recall” written all over the place. Many times errors can be caught during the medical devices prototype phase, when bench models are relatively inexpensive and changes can be quick.
But, errors that are discovered further downstream are usually more expensive to remedy. Not to mention that time lost deep in the development cycle is not only difficult to recover, but also very costly. And then there are the errors that are found not in development or testing, but after the product hits the hands of the customer.
Fortunately, recent technological advances in the realm of Rapid Tooling have presented product designers with new options. A few medical devices prototype have successfully honed their processes to such a point that they can produce actual plastic components that sometimes compete head-to-head with SLA and RTV in terms of both price and delivery.
The players in this game range from vendors who use only CNC machining (which often requires special part design concessions) to those who can produce a near production quality part that can be used for bridging into production as hard tooling is built.
Often a simple plastic part produced from a CNC cut tool is all that is needed, but if the requirement is a test part that will closely mirror a production part, it makes sense to use the process that closely mirrors production tooling.
Remember, the goal is to identify design opportunities and challenges early in the process. Before deciding on a process or provider, consider the following items that can have dramatic impact on the plastic parts you receive:
Does material specification fit the application? Not everyone is a materials expert especially when it comes to plastic resins. The plastics industry changes daily with new developments and advances. However, like most materials, there is usually one or two that will fit your needs better than others. Additionally, consider that custom blended materials will often carry a long lead time and higher price than an off the shelf stock color material. Contact a resin supplier if you have questions about your material spec.
Better yet, if your medical devices prototype company has a good knowledge base and experience in development, consult with them on materials. Be prepared to answer questions that refer to environment, application, agency approvals, UV stabilization, cosmetic issues, hardness, toughness, color, fillers, etc.
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