General Question

pallen123's avatar

If you're an industrial designer and you want to make a model of a small handheld device, what materials would you choose?

Asked by pallen123 (1511 points ) May 10th, 2010

I’m designing a small handhelp mechanical device and I’m just trying to rough out a prototype. I’ve used FIMO dough but can’t quite shape that the way I want without a mold. I’ve used clay that doesn’t harden but I get something I can’t really carry around and have other handle. I’ve used wood, and that works okay but it’s a lot of work to carve it. What do professional prototypers use to fashion small one-off shapes for device packaging? Is it some type of foam product? What would you suggest?

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7 Answers

majorrich's avatar

Blue board foam or laminated presentation foam boards are things we used in college when we made mock-up’s of stuff. Now that I think of it, we used balsa and cork too. But that was 30 years ago.

Cruiser's avatar

There are foams in varying grades of density. I would try a 15 lb foam or even floral foam you could carve then hard coat with a gel coat epoxy can work in a pinch. Sculpy is a pretty good modeling clay that you bake to harden and is then still carveable.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Rapid prototype with resin. Done with a laser and a CAD / CAM program to convert your drawing into a full sized piece. Look it up there are lots of companies to do the work.

lilikoi's avatar

It really depends on the shape you’re trying to make. I can’t make a material recommendation based on the little info you provided.

Obviously if you have access to a CNC machine then that would be the most awesome way to go, but I’m assuming that’s not the case as you wouldn’t have bothered even asking this question if you had one of those.

You could try making your own or try to find a local company that will let you use theirs.

There are a LOT of different types of foams (make sure you wear a dust mask!!!). I used one of the types to make a canoe mold, then used fiberglass and resin to make the actual boat off the mold. With foam you want to make sure it sands into a fine dust so you can make smooth curves. Styrofoam is not a good idea unless you’re trying to make a very simple shape without curves or detail (a cube for example). I’ve also used this foam to make sculptures, then primed and painted it. You could also use the foam as a core and lay up fiberglass and resin on the foam to make a hard shell and then either seal the foam in place or get it out somehow to make a hollow object – like how surfboards are made.

windex's avatar

You can

1. Buy a 3D printer if you are loaded
http://www.zcorp.com/en/Products/3D-Printers/ZPrinter-310-Plus/spage.aspx
http://www.dimensionprinting.com/
http://www.objet.com/

Or

2. Have the 3D model printed online and shipped

http://www.redeyeondemand.com/Default.aspx
http://www.designcraft.com/index.html

I’m not sure where you live, but you might want to attend different conventions
(Packaging, food, manufacturing, printing etc.)

A lot of companies have some good stuff they can demo for you live.

Good luck!

jerv's avatar

I’ve seen them done up in wax as well, though not the type that will melt at anything near body temperature. Some waxes are nearly indistinguishable from plastic, can hold tolerances well, and are actually hard enough to be drilled and tapped.

dabbler's avatar

@windex 3D printing totally !
I add to your list of possible foundries :
imaterialize and Shapeways

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