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Thread: I want to manufacture a simple plastic product, how to get started

  1. #1
    Associate Engineer
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    I want to manufacture a simple plastic product, how to get started

    Hi everyone,

    I hope this is the right forum to ask. If not please let me know where is a better place.

    I want to manufacture a new type of nock (the thing that holds arrows onto bow strings). It's basically just a piece of plastic that is inserted into the back of the arrow, with a pincer shape on the back. No moving parts.

    However I'm a software guy by trade, and have no experience with plastic molding etc.

    So I have the following questions, if anyone could be so kind:

    - What is the standard file format that manufacturers receive and use for plastic items?
    - Also what software is used to make that?
    - What are some good starting learning resources on how to design plastic items (model/structure and also material selection)?
    - How would I find someone who would manufacture a prototype for me? I'm thinking just to mass email any local manufacturer listed in google, with a rough picture of what I want for quote purposes, and see who replies back. But I'm worried they'll just ignore me if I don't sound like I know what I'm talking about.

    Thankyou!

  2. #2
    Technical Fellow jboggs's Avatar
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    Sounds like a perfect application for a small desktop 3D printer. I would recommend you invest one and the software required to create designs for it. You will learn A LOT about how these things are done. Plus you would be able to develop and refine the shape of your prototype at very low cost. I know of 3D printer kits you can get for less than $500. One source is reprapguru.com. Once you've finished massaging and adjusting your design you can approach professionals in the molding industry on how to proceed.

    I will leave it to others on this forum with more experience in the world of injection molded plastics to answer other questions.

  3. #3
    Project Engineer
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    There are several file formats that are transferable across different CAD systems. These include IGES STEP and the AutoCAD formats of DXF and DWG. For 3D printing the .STL file format is customary.

    3D printing is an excellent way to obtain a prototype. You might be able to find a library or local technical college that has one you can use. Use ABS for outdoor applications. Having built a printer from a kit, I would suggest you avoid that process and offer about $5 for a prototype from some 3D printing enthusiast.

    3D printing is not a good production method for a small part. For production you'll want to injection mold the plastic. Your big expense will be tooling. Making the mold in as few pieces saves money.

    So aim for a design that has only two parts. A so called open and shut mold. There is probably a small "Mom and Pop" plastics company near you that can handle the job and get you connected to a tool maker.

  4. #4
    Administrator Kelly Bramble's Avatar
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    jboggs and Hudson ....
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  5. #5
    Associate Engineer
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    Thanks all, yes it occurred to me after some searching that a 3D printer would be the easiest way to make a prototype. Actually there are some "3D printing cafes" near me so I can just go there and make some prototypes. Once I've got one I like I'll look into injection molding. Thanks for the advice of using ABS, seems a good enough material for the job.

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