Cast urethanes or vacuum casting may be what you need to create custom production-quality prototypes without the lead times and costs of production tooling. Partnering with the right manufacturer allows you to take advantage of the manufacturing method that can let you make any part, regardless of size, from small headphones to massive bumpers.
Understanding how it works can familiarize you with the benefits and limitations, so you can decide whether it’s best for your project. We can summarize its process in three stages:
- Master model – A master model is created using SLA or SLS 3D printing or CNC machining.
- Silicone tool – Once the master model is ready, liquid silicone is poured around it and left to cure. Once dry, the master is cut from the mold, leaving a cavity.
- Casting – Your choice of resin is poured into the cavity to make the production-like replica.
Reputable vacuum casting service providers offer a massive selection of materials, allowing you to find the perfect one for your project. They can work with you when you need low-volume prototypes, rapid iterations, products for market testing, and rubber parts.
Cast urethanes deliver self-colored parts while requiring a low upfront investment. You’ll get production-like components and rubber-like parts in your preferred quantities, even for low-volume production. The process involves a speedy cycle that allows for fast turnaround, so your products should be ready within a few days or up to a week.
Vacuum casting may also satisfy growing production needs, such as when sales for your product increase or you need to build more prototypes. The process is repeatable and delivers the same type of product with consistent quality.
Vacuum casting may bring many complex and detailed designs to life. However, it may not work for hollow parts and designs with intricate details that require additional tooling. Moreover, the tooling parts and molds require regular maintenance to avoid mark-offs and blemishes. Regular cleaning could require extra labor, which can affect the price of the service.
Despite the limitations, a reputable manufacturer will work closely with you to help make the process effective and suitable for your project. They can review your project and provide tips to improve your design.