Evaluating The Cost for Machining Prototypes

Plastic Machining Prototypes

Many companies focus on creating product prototypes to show investors and industry professionals. After all, it is the best way to see if their concept will sell or not before creating the actual product.

Technically, the process of developing prototypes, receiving feedback, and switching from the concept to a physical product can take a lot of time and effort. The cost of plastic parts machining and production can also be a significant expense for your business.

But how much does it cost to machine prototypes? There is no straight answer to this question because factors such as the size and complexity of your part will determine the cost of production. Essentially, the final quote will be determined by various aspects, including the following points:

What and How Much Material it Costs

Typically, there are several plastic options for creating product prototypes. Each material has unique properties and characteristics and is available at a different price. So, understanding the difference between these materials can help you approximate the production cost of your plastic parts.

The most common plastic materials include polypropylene, Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS), polyoxymethylene (POM), High Impact Polystyrene (HIPS), and Low-density Polyethylene (LDPE). To ensure you select the most suitable material for your application, you will have to consider such factors as;

  • The overall appearance for your final product – finish and color
  • The application of your product
  • State of application – thermoset or thermoplastic
  • Regulations and standards – consider if the finished product will be used in the industry where compliance with plastics is required.

What Technique is Going to be Used?

The technique you will use has a huge impact on the costs of producing a prototype. The most popular methods for creating plastic prototypes are CNC machining, silicone molding, SLS, and 3D printing.

Perhaps you only need a single piece of plastic prototype and don’t care much about material property. In this case, opt for 3D printing (for small size) or CNC (for big size). Alternatively, rapid tooling and silicone molding are excellent choices for low-volume manufacturing. It’s best to use silicone molding for large volume productions, usually 10 to 100 plastic prototype pieces.

Rapid prototyping is another technique for fabricating plastic prototypes using CAD— computer-aided design. This process allows you to fabricate parts that look and function like the actual product. Rapid prototyping is largely automated and doesn’t require specialized tools, resulting in more precision and reduced material waste. It is also a quick alternative to check if an idea will work or fail.

How Much Manual Work is Required in the Process?

Making product prototypes can sometimes require a lot of manual work, significantly impacting the production cost. Depending on your requirements and the material you choose, the parts may require tailored finishing work, painting, assembly, and specific packaging for shipment.

How Much Margin is the Manufacturer Taking?

The markup a manufacturer charges for producing your plastic parts will also affect the total cost of machining prototypes. The average manufacturer’s margin ranges between 25% and 35% of the general production cost.  However, the cost will also depend on the type and quantity of material used and formulations made.

Bottom Line

Using a prototype model can benefit your company in multiple ways. Besides enhancing functionality and interactions, it can help you detect errors early enough, saving you money and time. It also offers room for refinement and multiple testing. Although the total cost of machining prototypes varies depending on different factors, the average cost can range anywhere between $100 and $30,000.