The Urethane Blog

3D Printed Urethane Prototypes

LSR leverages Solidscape's 3D printing process to cut costs, time for urethane castings

By Clare Goldsberry
Published: April 23rd, 2015

Prototyping is a critical part of the product development process for industrial design firms. And thanks to 3D printing, that process has been made much faster and easier. LSR Design Studio, an industrial design company that enables advanced wireless technology platforms with product design, from inception through manufacturing, knows the value of 3D printing for rapid prototyping.

LSR wax part"For over 30 years, I have watched the birth and growth of the rapid prototype industry," said LSR's 3D Lab Manager Jim Hollister. "The Solidscape process represents a radical shift in the way things are done and we are excited to give our customers the best of the best."

Solidscape, a Stratasys Company, is a leading manufacturer of high-precision 3D printers, materials and software for rapid prototyping and manufacturing. The company's high-precision 3D printed wax patterns enable LSR to accurately produce fine details and a smooth surface finish for complex geometries that have been impossible to achieve with machined parts or traditional tooling methods.

By incorporating Solidscape wax pattern masters and mold faces into its process, LSR has been able to cut urethane casting production time by up to four weeks while consistently realizing a five-figure cost savings, according to the companies.

Solidscape collaborates with the LSR Lab to create complex 3D printed industrial part masters that are then used to manufacture the silicone molds from which the plastic parts are obtained. "It's a multi-step process, and the real challenge is how to get the silicone mold," explained Fabio Esposito, president of Solidscape. "First, you need a master model – and exact replica of the part – and traditionally there have been several options, including hand carving the model in wood, or CNC machining a metal model. But this process takes from six to 10 weeks. Once you have the exact master model of the part, you need the silicone mold from which to get the plastic parts."

Urethane casting is a prototype process for creating from one to 1,000 prototypes of traditional plastic injection-type parts. Esposito said that Solidscape 3D printing allows design firms like LSR to create the master model in a single process in a matter of hours, rather than weeks. "We can deal with complex geometries and we can print the model in a few hours," said Esposito. "LSR produces silicone molds directly from the wax masters – no finishing required – and then builds urethane casts from the silicone molds. This process takes a little over two weeks to complete, compared to a seven-week turnaround time with the conventional mold method."

The Solidscape process is additive and subtractive, laying down a very thin layer of build and support materials. It then mills off each layer, creating high-resolution parts up to 5,000 x 5,000 x 8,000 (x,y.x) dpi. The Solidscape 3D printer's tolerances, control and precision are vital to LSR's silicone tooling process, "as the silicone picks up every whisper of detail and finish," said Esposito. "It needs to be perfect."

Hollister added, "Our goal is to make better quality parts than production. So a high quality 3D printed pattern (master model) directly relates to less finish time and better results."