You may feel an ongoing pressure to produce rubber products with materials that are both higher performing and more sustainable. Your manufacturing facility also has to be a wizard in green chemistry.
However, you have the benefit of 3D printing. Here's how the most innovative manufacturers are using this rapid prototyping process in the sandbox to meet the higher demands of custom rubber products.
Rapid Prototyping With 3D Printing
Today, automakers are increasing productivity and reducing costs by making a higher percent of cars with rubber parts. At the same time, they need to meet the demand to use more sustainable materials with a low environmental impact.
Before rubber parts make it to the assembly line, another unit is stamping out a few rubber parts a day with 3D printing. That may not seem very fast, but it's space-time in auto parts prototyping. If you're seeking to improve prototyping time, rapidly 3D modeling rubber parts is one of the most important valued-added areas of auto manufacturing.
3D Printing vs Injection Molding
Once product developers are satisfied with the performance of the 3D printed rubber part, the part can proceed to a rubber part manufacturer for more testing and, ultimately, injection molding. In the injection process, the custom-manufactured rubber products must once again undergo rigorous stress and environmental testing. As the rubber composition is preheated and fed into the cavities of the injection mold—instead of depositing layers in 3D printing—it is subjected to heating and high pressure.
At this stage, the rubber parts and material specialists can provide you with recommendations on changes to the material composition, if required. If cure times are too long, for example, more tweaking to the material composition or molding process may be made.
Producing Your Custom Rubber Parts
Your custom rubber parts maker works with many clients across the automotive and other industries. This provides the in-house rubber parts materials specialist with valuable knowledge on how rubber compositions will react during the molding process and once assembled into products. Depending on the needs of your specific application, the rubber manufacturing experts may recommend transfer, compression, or other molding processes.
Older manufacturers did not have the advantages of 3D printing and rubber injection molding processes. Many today are 3D printing the tools used to make the prototyping parts. Next on the innovation curve, 3D printing is starting to be used to rapidly prototype custom rubber repair and replacement parts.
For more information, reach out to a professional who provides custom rubber parts.