When it comes to choosing a method of fabrication for a silicone prototype, cost and speed are likely to feature highly on your list of key criteria.
Interestingly, the options available for silicone parts are more numerous than for their thermoplastic counterparts, which can make the development process for silicone parts decidedly more challenging.
Here is a brief overview of some of the advantages and disadvantages of the most popular moulding methods.
Many new silicone products are constructed from liquid silicone rubber (LSR). These undergo the injection moulding process; however, there are a wide variety of other manufacturing options available. Utilising the assistance of experienced design teams at specialists such as http://www.meadex.co.uk/silicone-mouldings will help you to select the most appropriate materials and moulding process for your prototype.
RTV moulds can be made from a range of plastics or metals, which means that the raw materials for this process are easily accessible and cost-effective. As soon as the mould has been constructed to specification, the moulding process can begin.
The downside is that the curing times for the RTV process can be relatively slow. RTVs effectively cure at room temperature, which can take anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours. The costs related to the production of each piece will depend largely on the processing time required; however, heat can be applied to accelerate the curing process and reduce costs.
As an article in Forbes explains, an array of sectors can benefit from 3D printing. The development of innovative elastomeric materials means that 3D printing can be used to efficiently manufacture small silicone prototypes in a matter of hours.
Although this process removes the need for the creation of moulds, this process can struggle to deliver part designs with thin walls and fine features. 3D printing large batches can be costly, which is why this method is only typically recommended for small runs.
HCR transfer moulding
This process involves pressing material into a heated mould before leaving it to cure. This is a very simple process that does not require any complex tools or machinery.
Transfer moulding is not suitable for complex designs. As manufacturing times can be longer than other methods, another option might be more suitable if you are under time pressures.