” I have a silicone product idea in mind, but I’m not sure if it can work exactly the way it is supposed to. What’s the best approach?”
The answer is:
Look for a reliable silicone prototype manufacturer who can rapidly prototype the silicone rubber part you want, then you will have a chance to check and test your idea. Whatever the new custom-designed silicone part a customer intends to launch, getting a silicone prototype made is crucial to the silicone product launch process.

What is a prototype? why should I create a prototype?

The prototype is the early sample or original model built to test a concept or process, from which later forms are developed. Every product has a target audience and is designed to solve their problems in some way. In some cases, we just need some functional prototypes for verifying the design and testing the product’s application, to assess whether a product really solves its user’s problems.
This way, producing an early, inexpensive early version of the product can reveal any issues with the current design. So creating a prototype is an essential step in the custom product development process. As a silicone manufacturer that deals with custom-designed silicone parts, we offer rapid-prototyping services to our customers so they can check and assess their designs.
What are the benefits of rapid prototyping in product development? Prototyping your future product is important, with prototyping, you can enjoy the following 8 benefits :

1. Prototypes improve the understanding of the design.

Most people are visual when it comes to understanding a concept or idea. Prototyping can be a quick and effective way of bringing the client’s ideas to life. It simulates the real and future product and gives the customer a complete idea of how the product will look in the final result. You can present your idea to the customer more clearly.
As a custom silicone service supplier, we collaborate with many product owners and designers who are interested in designing and creating a custom silicone product from scratch. They either have the idea, draft drawing, or even 3D drawing. They are looking for a reliable silicone manufacturer who can prototype the silicone rubber parts for them, so they come to us.  With our fast prototype service, we always built the silicone prototype in one week.

2. Prototype makes it easier to sell the products to potential customers.

Just like it is far easier to understand the design by holding an actual working model, it is far easier to sell to potential customers when they have a prototype part to hold and manipulate at a marketing presentation. It can be much easier to get a potential client to commit to the purchase of a new product.
If you are looking for a silicone prototype maker, welcome to come to us. We have prototype tons of silicone rubber parts for our customers who need physical samples for trade fairs and product presentations.

3. Prototype helps in getting early feedback from target customers.

Every product has a target audience, and at the end of the day, the audience is going to have the final say. Prototypes allow users to test and experience, which provides a good chance for designers to gather more accurate requirements and valuable feedback about their products.

4. Prototype can minimize design error, and refine the product design.

On paper or a computer screen, design problems aren’t always noticeable. Especially for some functional parts that will be assembled with other parts such as silicone remote controller skins, verifying the design and testing the application of the product is crucial. By creating a prototype, it is easier to identify flaws or potential issues and determine what aspects do their job and which need refining. Let us test for any structural weakness in the product that could affect functionality.

Last month, we built a silicone cover prototype for a US customer who need protective silicone skin for the electronic products he launched. He offered us the 3D drawing of the skin, and we get the skin prototype manufactured and tested with the plastic shell he sent to us, but the prototype rubber case turned out to be a little bit too loose on the shell. We sent the customer the feedback and make improvements to the drawing based on past experience, then a new silicone prototype was made again, and this time, it is perfectly fit!

5. Prototype can save time and money, and lower the product investment risk.

Imagine this: It’s an exciting creative new silicone product, something your team had spent months brainstorming and designing, you tried to ensure it is just the right product with all the necessary features and functions. Then you look for a silicone factory to fabricate the product tooling mold and have a pre-production sample made, but then you find there is a defect you had ignored…then you have to improve the design and make changes to the tool mold, but not all changes can be made on a production mold if so, you will have to pay for another mold.
By developing a prototype to demonstrate the feasibility of your idea, major defects can be detected earlier, and enhancements can be made early in the product development process, so you can fix the issues and produce the best possible product before committing to full production.

6. Prototype makes it possible for you to test your product safety and regulatory compliance.

For silicone products, there is FDA / LFGB test requirement, for baby toys, there are ASTM F 963-17 Requirements, etc. Knowing the target market regulations and safety standards is a must you should know when launching your product. With prototypes, you can conduct a safety test before you go into mass production.
You can send the prototype to a third-party laboratory such as SGS to test your product and try to make sure your final product is as safe as possible and complies with the regulation standards. A prototype test can lower the risk of a product recall.

7. Prototype makes it easy for you to file a patent.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office uses the “first to invent rule,” which grants a patent to the first inventor who conceives and produces the invention. If your product is new enough or unique enough, patents need to be considered. With a prototype on hand, it is much easier to demonstrate the concept of your invention with a patent attorney.

8. Prototype makes it possible to adjust products’ colors, textures, shapes, and material durometers.

When we first see a product, the first thing that comes into our eyes is color and contour. Therefore, product color matching must be placed in a very important position in the product design process.
Silicones generally fall between 10A and 80A Shore durometer hardness. Different product application requires different durometer, say, for example, 45~55 Shore A is good for a silicone teether, and a 10 shore A sticky silicone mat will work better.
For customers who are not sure which color or durometer will work better, we always prototype the silicone parts with several different colors and durometer choices for customers to make the decision.
how to find a manufacturer to make a prototype
how to get a silicone prototype made

How to get a silicone prototype made?

When it comes to silicone prototypes, we’re very flexible. Speed, cost, and approximation of the final part design (including material properties and dimensions) are key criteria when selecting a fabrication method for making a silicone prototype. Available processes for prototyping silicone products include:

1. 3D Printing

Today, more companies in a variety of industries are embracing the 3D printing process as it presents many significant advantages over the traditional manufacturing methods. Speed, cost effective, flexible design, rapid prototyping, risk reduction…etc. As far as recent inventions go, the advantages of 3D printing make it one of the most promising technologies.
Can silicone be 3D printed?
The most commonly used 3D printing materials include PLA, ABS, HIPS, PVA, Nylon, Carbon Fiber, polycarbonate, etc. You may have the question: Is 3D printing with silicone possible? The answer is Yes. 3D printing in silicone is now an option for prototypes. But 3D printing silicone comes with challenges.
Silicone has a very high viscosity, making it difficult to 3D print with it precisely. It cannot be heated and extruded or cured with UV light like photopolymer materials. This material complexity means that silicone requires special 3D printers. For those reasons, several companies have attempted to develop materials with silicone-like properties although it was never truly the same.
Pros: 3D printing doesn’t require a mold. Quick in prototyping.
Cons: The material is not true silicone rubber, so the prototyped rubber parts lack the flexibility, elasticity, and durability of silicone.

2. Casting with RTV silicone

RTV (Room temperature vulcanized) silicone has been used in prototyping and product development a long time. Silicone casting requires a mold from which the silicone cast prototypes are made. The casting mold can be made of metal or plastic material. The mold can be created either by CNC machining or a 3D printer. Silicone resin is poured into the mold, wait until it is cured, then remove the mold.
Pros: Silicone casting can be helpful for those who have trouble visualizing the part from a drawing or for marketing purposes; in photoshoots and presentations. RTV molding is an inexpensive way to bridge the gap between prototype and production.
Cons: The casting process is slow, and the casted prototype parts don’t have the same properties the final silicone parts required.

3. Compression molding

Compression molding prototype is often the most cost-effective and fastest manufacturing method to rapidly prototype silicone rubber parts. Normally, a single cavity custom compression tooling mold (we also call it sample mold )will be CNC machined in one week, the tooling cost may range from $200 to $500 on average, depending on the size and complexity of prototypes to be built. Then 3~5pcs silicone prototypes (we also call them samples) will be produced with the mold by compression molding.
The silicone prototype manufactured can be exactly the real and future product with the function and properties the final silicone products will have. Customers can have molded silicone prototypes in different colors and durometers in case they are not sure which one works better.
Pros: Compression molding prototyping is the most economical way to make silicone prototype parts that are suitable for end-use functional testing. Silicone parts prototyped are of very high quality. The prototyping time can be relatively short.
Cons: The one-cavity prototyping mold can only be used to produce a few pieces of silicone samples. When the design is finalized, a multi-cavity production will be produced for mass production.
can silicone be 3D printed
How much does it cost to have a prototype made

How to find the right prototype maker for your silicone project?

You’ve developed an idea for a new silicone product and want to make a prototype. You may have the question “how do I get my prototype product made?” “How can I find the prototype maker to make the  silicone prototype?”  This page is for you.

1.  Who can make the prototypes for you?

There are different types of prototype makers and companies that build prototypes in order to turn your napkin sketch into a physical product.
  • 3D Printing companies
It is easy to find 3D printing shops that can offer rapid prototyping services near you as 3D printing is pretty common in recent years. 3D CAD files will be needed. The downside of 3D printing is the material is not true silicone rubber, so the prototypes can not fully reflect the feature of silicone needed. 3D printing shop lack DFM expertise to bring your idea from scratch.
  • Product designers
Some product designers can offer design and prototyping services. If you have a good product idea but are not good at sketches or 3D CAD design, it might be better to hire a product designer or engineers who can help you develop functional design drawings and make prototypes for you.
  • Silicone manufacturers
Silicone manufacturers who concentrate on custom silicone products always have their own design and engineering department. They can help with silicone product prototype-making and mass production.
  • Professional design company
This kind of big design company always has an efficient team of product designers and engineers who work cooperatively to assist you with design and prototype making. You can lean on the expertise of established design firms that go through the prototype development process regularly. The drawback is the cost is expensive for start-ups or self-employed business owners.

2. How to find the prototype makers for your silicone parts?

  • Seek references from your network.
  • Call your local prototype shops, product manufacturers
  • Online freelancers, artists and modelers.
  • Look for experienced prototype makers at trade shows, marketplaces and forums.
  • Recommends directories like ThomasNet ,Maker’s Row, MFG, Kompass,etc.
  • Search on Google, B2B platforms for oversea manufacturers and suppliers.

3. Who is the right prototype maker for your silicone prototypes?

  • Domestic VS Overseas prototype maker
Working with local prototype makers will allow you to visit their manufacturing facilities and view their prototype-making process. But they might either not be able to make certain parts because they don’t have the machinery needed, or these parts can be so expensive that can’t be affordable for startups.
Overseas suppliers are better equipped with the industrial equipments and manufacturing know-how that’s needed to efficiently manufacture the prototypes. The cost is cheaper, the turnaround can be faster and the quality can be better, with shipping to you only in just a few days.
  • Cost and lead times
What will be the cost and how long will it take to produce and ship the prototype? You will need to do research on which manufacturers may be best for you. Narrow down your list by comparing prices, and timelines. Try and figure out cost-effective ways to build your prototype.
  • Visual prototype OR Functional prototypes
Visual prototypes show how your product will look, the main purpose is to communicate the look and aesthetics of your design.
Functional prototypes show how your product will work, they simulate the final product’s mechanical function, material properties, product assembly fitness, tolerances, durometers, etc.
Ask yourself what is the prototype for. You need to understand the purpose of your prototype and know what you want to get from them. If it is a visual prototype, then 3D printing with silicone-like material, casting with RTV silicone, and compression molding, either way can be applied.
But for a functional prototype, it’s vital to use the exact silicone materials that your final product will be made in. This will bring to light any unforeseen issues, and help to prove and perfect your design. So for functional prototypes, compression molding will be the quick, economical, and low-risk way for silicone prototypes.
  • 3D CAD drawing
If you have a good product idea and you can work out the 3D, then you can go directly with these prototype makers. If you can’t offer 3d CAD, then you should look for a prototype maker who offers a one-stop service of product 3D CAD design and prototyping.

How to get your prototype made?

  1. Contact an IP lawyer doing a patent search, trademark, and patent-protect your design.
  2. Choose the right prototype maker for your project.
  3. Sign an NDA (Non-disclosure agreement) with your prototype maker.
  4. Build the prototype, check and test it.

A better alternative for startups- HB Silicone

HB Silicone is a one-stop silicone manufacturer for custom-designed silicone products. From design to prototyping to mass production, we are always ready to bring your ideas to life. We have a team of experienced engineers to help you develop the functional design drawing, then transfer the drawing into a physical prototype and mass produce your product. Our rapid prototyping service includes product design, 3D modeling, CNC machining, and LOGO processing.
Professional team, advanced machinery, quick action, and high-quality silicone prototype at low cost, we are the right prototype maker for startups and entrepreneurs around the world. To get your prototype made, Click here to request a quote.