Our in-house prototyping capabilities enables us to create world class product designs on accelerated timelines.

Process Overview

After modeling a part or assembly in Solidworks, we immediately test the design against product requirements, and iterate it as necessary. When applicable, we evaluate the design using FEA (finite element analysis) followed by fabrication of prototypes and physical testing. In many cases, we find it most efficient to proceed directly from 3D modeling to prototype testing. Our typical rapid prototyping methods include CNC machining, laminates, and stereolithography (SLA). Once the design meets product requirements in rapid prototypes, we produce your device using actual manufacturing processes, such as injection molding, and test it again against product requirements. Learn more about our development process.

Why is Internal Prototyping Capability Critical?

Speed. Using our SLA machine, our engineers have the ability to make a design change in the morning and test a working prototype in the afternoon. By comparison, obtaining an SLA prototype from a third party service bureau typically takes a 3-5 days. Whether we are using SLA’s, laminates, or machined prototypes, when multiple design iterations are required, our in-house prototyping capability saves weeks or even months of development time.

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Design engineers often send their CAD models to third-party service bureaus who provide SLA rapid prototypes in 3 to 5 days once the order has been placed. The engineer often must coordinate the quote, order form, purchase order and CAD models, which can take an additional 1-2 days. This inefficient process consumes time that the engineer could have used to further the design and testing.  On average, it takes five or more working days per SLA prototype iteration using a service bureau.

In contrast, Symbient’s engineers use our own internal SLA machine to fabricate rapid prototypes in a matter of hours, saving five working days per design iteration, and weeks or even months of development time. For example, consider a component whose function requires three design iterations in order to meet product requirements.

Service Bureau: 3 prototype iterations X 1 week each = 3 weeks

Symbient In-House: 3 prototype iterations X 0.5 days = 1.5 days

A challenging device can have several of these functions. If any of these functions must be developed in series, our internal prototyping capabilities will save several months of development time. 

Quality. Our SLA equipment is the most accurate available and produces prototypes that closely replicate molded parts. We also use a prototype fabrication process that takes the design intent of a given part into consideration, ensuring that critical features are fabricated correctly so that the test results based on those prototypes are valid. High quality prototypes, fabricated and tested in-house, allow us to gain valuable insight that we apply to the design to ensure that it meets the product requirements.

Critical Function Development. Our senior team of engineers develop novel devices quickly and efficiently through an incremental approach that minimizes variables, creating a more direct path to design solutions. We call it Critical Function Development and it is made possible by our in-house prototyping capabilities.

After selecting a design concept to develop, we identify its functions that are likely to require multiple design iterations in order to achieve product requirements. Next, we design and fabricate prototypes for each of those functions of the selected concept. These prototypes are iterated as needed until each critical function has been achieved individually. Then we combine these functions into a fully functional, integrated prototype and test it against product requirements. Critical Function Development is an incremental and iterative approach that would be impractical without the efficiency of our extensive internal prototyping capabilities.

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An engineer without Symbient’s in-house prototyping capabilities at their disposal would likely require a longer project timeline and exposure to greater development risk. Since SLA prototypes provided by third party service bureaus usually require a week per design iteration, an engineer would either need an extended schedule or must combine multiple critical functions into a single prototype. The latter approach would dramatically increase the number of variables present in each prototype, resulting in a corresponding increase in development risk. Critical Function Development dramatically reduces development time and risk by minimizing variables and incrementally developing a design that achieves challenging product requirements.

Why SLA, CNC and Molded Prototypes?

Stereolithography (SLA). Our 3D Systems Viper SLA machine uses a laser that is accurate to 0.003” to cure each layer of resin in a fine 0.0007” thickness. This level of accuracy yields high precision prototypes in a transparent material that has mechanical and functional properties that are similar to ABS plastic. These features make the Viper SLA machine the clear choice over other available rapid prototyping methods.

CNC Machining. In some cases, an SLA prototype’s surface finish, level of precision or material properties will not meet the conditions that are required for testing, often making CNC machined prototypes a better choice. We have four state of the art Hass CNC (Computer Numeric Control) machines that our experienced staff machinists use to fabricate prototypes in a wide variety of plastics and metals. In house CNC machining allows us to machine prototypes quickly and with a high degree of precision. This is facilitated by in-person communication between the engineer and machinist concerning the design intent and other details that lead to high quality prototypes. In addition, our CNC machining capabilities are indispensable for fabricating prototypes molds.

Injection Molding. The final step in our design process is to fabricate prototype tooling and mold parts using one of our two Arburg injection molding machines. Learn more about our prototype mold fabrication and injection molding.