Exploring 5 methods to manufacture plastic prototypes

In today’s fast-paced world, product development is becoming more competitive than ever. In order to stay ahead of the competition, engineers and designers must be able to produce high-quality plastic prototypes quickly and efficiently.

This blog post aims to explore five different methods for manufacturing plastic prototypes, highlighting the advantages and limitations of each method.

Whether you’re a seasoned professional or a novice in the field, this post will provide you with valuable insights into the world of plastic prototype manufacturing and help you make informed decisions about which method to choose for your project.

When do we need to make the plastic prototypes?

Businesses and entrepreneurs may benefit significantly from prototyping. It is a method of testing your concept before moving forward with large-scale manufacturing. Additionally, it enables the designer to present his idea to potential investors.

Additionally, prototyping is a crucial step in the creation of a product. A CAD model is a computer-generated illustration of your concept. Using a CAD model, you may evaluate how your prototype or model will fit together. It will also demonstrate how your product will work, which is more important.

A product’s usability and popularity among customers are improved by strategically placing interface elements.Prototyping also helps to save a lot of time. Additionally, it facilitates the design creation process, and during the prototyping phase, it is easy to spot extraneous components that are best left out. The workload of the designer during the manufacturing process is greatly reduced by this technique, ultimately resulting in cost savings for the client.

After checking the prototypes, the designer and client can more precisely assess the outcome. That’s why we need to make plastic prototypes.

Create a plastic prototype, there are five effective techniques, and these are listed below:

  • Rapid prototyping
  • CNC machining
  • Injection molding
  • 3D printing
  • Vacuum casting

Since there are some methods to get the desired objective, each has its unique benefits and drawbacks that should be considered. How to choose the suitable one? Continue to read!

Rapid prototyping

The method of efficiently manufacturing products is called rapid prototyping. Rapid prototyping is a tool engineers and product designers use for all types of product development. It is a paid professional service.

Therefore, if you are a skilled independent businessperson and can make a prototype by hand, it will only cost you in terms of time and materials.

In certain cases, a quick prototyping industry will simply require an initial design to start the production process and create a computer model. OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) that want a high-quality prototype quickly and have the financial means to do so may consider using rapid prototyping.

Rapid prototyping is appropriate for plastic products that must have an exact dimension or fit. Engineers and product designers sometimes have to test the plastic prototype several times quickly to fulfill deadlines to attain perfection. As the name says, rapid prototyping has this benefit.

The software needed to print prototypes is often exclusive to the hardware utilized; nonetheless, the following list of CAD applications is used to produce models:

  • Solidworks
  • AutoCAD
  • Autodesk inventor
  • Mastercam
  • PTC-Creo


CNC machining

The process of CNC machining is subtractive. In other words, it entails removing material from an unfinished item. A milling machine is used to do CNC machining on plastic components. A milling machine has many axes that may be manipulated.

By adding CAM software to the process, manufacturers can fully automate it. Plastic pieces may be machined at a reasonable price, and the whole process takes minimal time. CAD rendering is all you need to get started with CNC plastic prototyping.

Making prototypes before starting full-scale production of your items might be highly beneficial. The industrial sector has benefited from prototyping improvements by quickly producing plastic prototypes.

One of the most expedient ways to produce plastic prototypes is through CNC precision machining. CNC machines use a range of cutting tools and cutter paths that are specially designed for the desired cut when carving a 3D model directly from a solid block of plastic.

This plastic CNC machining technique is incredibly adaptable and practical for a wide range of product sizes, complexity, and threaded features, and it is especially well-suited to prototypes that need to meet strict tolerance requirements.

The following are the benefits offered by plastic CNC machining:

  • The intricate plastic prototype design is able to be meticulously produced by CNC machining. A CNC milling machine allows for tolerances as close as 0.5μm and radii as tiny as 0.05mm.
  • If you are manufacturing plastic objects to represent ideas or concepts, take into account CNC machining. It provides a high-quality surface finish and avoids the distinctive layer markings in 3D printing.
  • It is challenging to 3D print with plastics and polymers, including PVC, PEI, POM, and PEEK. These polymers can be machined using a CNC. As long as you have a block of plastic material, an operator shouldn’t have any trouble creating a plastic prototype design.
  • CNC is the best choice because CNC machines rely on 3D CAD models and computer instructions to manufacture machined components, making them ideal for working plastic prototypes that can be tested to identify design problems.


Injection molding

Another great technique for making plastic prototype components swiftly is injection molding. The procedure begins with the construction of an aluminum or steel mold equipped with a runner system, a channel that allows molten plastic to flow to the chamber of the mold. The required plastic prototype is created by injecting molten plastic ingredients into the mold, allowing them to cool and solidifying them.

Manufacturers can swiftly make a high-quality product thanks to injection molding. It works well for extremely small manufacturing runs. You don’t have to compromise product quality in the process of manufacturing. It helps you determine what you need for a full production run.

Additionally, a prototype using this technique will enable you to test every component you want. Additionally, it will serve as the basis for the succeeding mold that will be used for your whole manufacturing process.

Through the use of a plastic injection mold prototype, you may see a practically identical development of your finished product in reality. Many companies, including those in the automotive, electronic, healthcare, and packaging sectors, often use this strategy. It works effectively for items that need a lot of testing and certification.

Some of the benefits offered by injection molding are listed below:

  • A completed plastic prototype with an appropriate material combination possesses a final product’s strength and mechanical capabilities.
  • Products created with injection molding may also be used for marketing purposes.
  • It allows you to construct complicated geometries at a lower cost.


3D printing

Thanks to 3D printing, you may swiftly and effectively create parts for various applications. By using the appropriate 3D printing method and material combination, you may produce things with the desired mechanical properties, functional attributes, or aesthetics.

Numerous varieties of plastic are available for 3D printing, each with unique qualities that make it best suited for particular situations. The main categories of plastics used in 3D printing are described as follows:


This particular kind of plastic is the one that is most usually used. The key feature that sets them apart from thermosets is their capacity for several melt and solidification cycles. It can be heated to change its shape or geometric properties. The technique results in no chemical bonding, therefore, recycling or melting thermoplastics is a possibility.

Thermosetting plastics

After treatment of condensation polymerization, they are also referred to as thermosets and show the primary bond between molecular chains. In thermosetting materials, polymers undergo another process known as healing, which is triggered by heat, light, or other suitable radiation. Thermosetting polymers do not melt when heated; instead, they break down and do not reform when cooled. Thermosets cannot be recycled or converted back into their original component.

3D printing plastic prototypes can provide the below features:

  • Fused deposition modeling (FDM)
  • Stereolithography (SLA)
  • Selective laser sintering (SLS)

Some of the benefits offered by 3D printing plastic prototypes are listed as follows:

  • This technique makes it simple and affordable to manufacture complicated shapes. Because no additional material is required, 3D printing can occasionally be less expensive than subtractive manufacturing.
  • The cost of this manufacturing process is comparatively low because no molds are needed.
  • The process is fully automated with computer-aided design (CAD), so any changes in design are easy to make without affecting the manufacturing cost.
  • Because of the technology’s support for small-batch manufacturing, this procedure is excellent for prototyping and enables the creation of items more quickly than with more conventional methods.


Vacuum casting

Vacuum casting involves first creating a master pattern of the desired part using 3D printing or CNC machining. This pattern is then used to make a silicone mold.

Next, a two-part liquid material such as polyurethane or epoxy resin is poured into the mold cavity. The mold is placed in a vacuum chamber, where the air is removed, creating a vacuum that forces the liquid material into the mold’s cavities and ensures the part is free from air bubbles or voids.

Benefits of vacuum casting

  • It is a cost-effective method for producing small to medium-sized production runs of high-quality parts with complex geometries and fine details. It is less expensive than other manufacturing methods such as injection molding or die casting.
  • Vacuum casting is relatively quick, and the finished parts can be produced within a few days.
  • Vacuum casting produces parts with high surface finish quality and dimensional accuracy. The process ensures that the parts are free from air bubbles or voids, which can weaken the part’s structure.


Key Considerations for Plastic Rapid Prototyping

The five important considerations for a quick prototyping method selection are stated below:

  • Materials
  • Budget
  • Time
  • Surface finish
  • Accuracy and precision


The material greatly influences the quality of the prototype. Selecting components made via additive manufacturing may not be the best option if functional features are connected to unique material qualities, such as surface polish and durability. Following are a few examples of common plastic materials used in various industrial processes:

  • Nylon
  • PLA
  • ABS
  • PEEK
  • ASA


When choosing a prototype option, cost is always an important factor to take into account. The quantity of prototype components needed is essential in determining the procedure since some prototyping methods are only financially viable for lesser numbers.

Because larger parts take longer to print than smaller ones, the component volume also affects the cost of additive manufacturing. While some processes need a lot of labor and have high unit costs, other methods are significantly more productive and cost-effective.


Time is an essential factor when performing plastic prototyping. Post-processing and assembling parts from low-quality prototypes will take longer than from high-quality prototypes.

Vacuum casting would produce components that are almost comparable to those of injection molding and may be utilized without post-processing, but alternative procedures, like 3D printing, may require some post-processing time but are considerably more versatile for complex shapes.

Surface finish

What kind of technique and post-processing you need will depend on how accurately the final product must be produced. You should also think about how well your prototype compares to your finished product in terms of quality. Rapid plastic prototyping techniques provide prototype items with a high-quality surface finish.

Accuracy and precision

The use of rapid prototyping technologies during the production process guarantees a high degree of precision and accuracy. It is fair to believe that design drawings of CAD software are quite accurate. Precision is a crucial component to take into account since it guarantees that your product will be produced consistently.


We hope that this article has given you a solid understanding of plastic rapid prototyping processes. It is crucial for both the manufacturer and the client to learn about the features, advantages, and usage of their product globally. By choosing the best prototyping method and service provider, we can improve our product in line with how quickly the world is changing.

Worthy Hardware has the rich experiences to make your plastic prototypes. Conact us for quote by today!