Brilliant email from a printing system’s engineer:
…the question of tooling lead might be: You’re right, If it takes you x months to build a prototype with the tools you’re using, there’s no way to deliver functionality to the user and get feedback with a cycle of less than x months. On the other hand you’ve got to ask yourself if there’s not some other tool that’s much faster. Imagine that someone with another tool, say a carbon composite technique, entered the market as a competitor to you tomorrow. How much value can your competitor add by being able to deliver a new idea in a week while it takes you x months? If it takes you 18 months to deliver a prototype and in that time your competitor has generated 78 generations of product, how long will it be before his knowledge of and adaptation to the market space surpasses yours? It would take some very serious drawbacks to the faster technique to make it worth your customers while to wait for your product. Not THINKING about how to do the job with radically faster tools is a risk you can’t afford to take.
Sr. Software Engineer
I’d like to add on some information about ProtoMold: http://www.protolabs.com/protomold
“Get 25 to 10,000+ parts in less than 15 days starting at $1,495.” I’m not sponsored by ProtoMold, but deeply impressed that they can do same week turn-around of injection molds for $200. Apparently they were founded by an exec in a printing company, fed up with waiting months before he could try a new design, and now it is a hugely successful silicon valley startup.
Related, to fit molds made in house into a one week sprint: here is a quick lap around the WIKISPEED frugral composites process: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vy3h5rYuUM4. This clip is from the August 2014 eXtreme Manufacturing Certified Scrum Master Class. This next link shows our composites process, hands-on, in miniature: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VgqgoC0Pol8
The molds are machined out of foam, exactly as this timelapse shows us: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPORNz9TMdc
We use a $2,700 USD CNC router, available as a kit here: https://www.buildyourcnc.com/blackfoot48v40.aspx
For aluminum molds made within a week in house, Roland’s SRP machines may be a strong fit. I have not used them myself. With this $40,000 USD machine your mold shop can produce aluminum molds each week for hand-held sized devices: http://www.rolanddga.com/solutions/rapidPrototyping/pg2.asp
Related, QuickParts providing molds and parts as an outsourced solution: http://quickparts.com/LowVolumePrototypes.aspx?utm_source=bing&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=rapid_prototyping