Frequently Asked Questions

I want my prototype in ABS, like the production part. What can you do?

ABS prototype parts can be produced by injection moulding, CNC machining or FDM (additively). Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Ultimately, the aim is a functional, desirable and cost effective part.

A cost effective, strong material that produces a good surface finish

When designing a plastic part, material choice is critical. If you are looking for a cost effective, strong material that produces a good surface finish then ABS may be the one for you.

Prototype parts can be produced in a number of ways, however the best prototype is one that mimics the final part most accurately.  Size and shape are the immediate criteria, but the benefit of using the actual material, such as ABS, also allows the feel and functional parameters to be tested along with the added attributes of colour and texture.

A versatile material which can be injected, machined or 3D printed

ABS is a versatile material and can be injected, machined and even 3D printed to produce parts in quantities for prototyping, all the way through to mass production.  Ultimately, the aim is a functional, desirable and cost effective part. The best method of manufacture will depend on your requirements – here we run through the options.

  1. Injection moulding an ABS prototype is usually saved for mass production volumes although it can become cost effective from as little as 100 parts.  It is not considered to be a prototyping method due to the initial expense and lead time required to produce tooling.  However if production of your part is going to increase to 100’s or 1000’s off, you will need to design your prototype parts knowing that injection moulding is likely to be the method of manufacture in the future. See our 'Top 10 Tips for injection moulding' for additional information.
  2. CNC machining an ABS prototype can produce high quality prototypes, so much so that this is regularly used as the final process for actual finished parts.  Material properties are excellent and you have the ability to add texture and colour to the parts, meaning that you’ll have a part that looks, feels and works like the final production part. If ABS is definitely the material you require, then CNC machining is a common method of choice.  Thick wall sections and large part size are not a problem or an expense to produce through this method.  Internal geometry or features are also not impossible, but it may mean that the part would be joined (from 2 or more pieces) but if finished and painted, then the joins often cannot be seen. Leadtime is around 10-12 days depending on the quantities and finish you require.
  3. 3D printing an ABS prototype through FDM provides a quick turn around for parts, however this is at the expense of the finish, where a rough or rather ribbed surface would be expected. However, if time is of the essence, this could be a way forward, resulting in a fully functional ABS part.  Colours are possible straight from the build along with a multitude of variants to tweak the material properties to give exactly the requirements you need, eg PC-ABS, FR-ABS etc. Additionally, this process has the ability to create complex internal geometry, so may be the solution for a production process for those 'hard to make parts'. As mentioned above, lead times are short, typically 5 to 10 days.

So should I mould, machine or 3D print?

To summarise,

  • If you require large quantities of ABS parts with a low part cost, then design for injection moulding.
  • If you need a high cosmetic ABS prototype, then CNC machining (with options for adding texture and colour) is the optimal process.
  • If you are looking for an immediate ABS part/prototype, or need a fully functional but difficult to manufacture part - FDM might just be the process you need.

Still scratching your head? Is your requirement somewhat out of the ordinary?  Pick up the phone and we can advise the best solution for you!

  • “Plunkett Associates have excellent breadth of experience, work with high quality partners and have a flexibility that we have found enables challenges to be met successfully, cost effectively and in a timely manner.”
    Nick Skaer, CEO, Orthox Ltd
  • Plunkett associates always find a solution. Whatever we need to prototype, they have a great grasp on the technologies available, costs and lead-times so we get the right solution tailored to the project needs. Have always delivered and never let us down.
    Naim Audio
  • “I can’t recommend Tim and his team highly enough. We ended up with a design which can be produced and assembled quickly, efficiently and reliably, in volumes that make sense”
    Simon Leggett, Director, Olivewood Technology
  • "Tim's experience, expertise and supplier base have been fundamental to us getting this project off the ground."
    Sam Pearce, Jelly Products Ltd
  • “We were really surprised at how quickly they turned round such a high quality prototype and the parts certainly proved their worth. They were of high enough quality to provide a fantastic visual representation and to undergo rigorous testing."
    Stuart Wilson, Design Director, TRT Lighting
  • “Accuracy, finish and delivery all first class.”
    Andrew Peters, JMDA Ltd
  • “We use Plunkett Associates because we want someone we can trust, that knows what they’re talking about, has all the contacts, will provide reliable advice and feedback and will get the right result for us.”
    Jim Copestick. Design Manager, Thorlux Lighting
  • “We always know exactly what we’re getting and we know we won’t be let down on quality, price or lead times.”
    Mark Williams, Research and Development Director, Johnson Safety Products
  • “Plunkett Associates truly offer a complete turnkey solution with Speed, Effectiveness and Precision.”
    David Harden, Director, Enica Ltd
  • “Kirintec were thrilled with Plunketts. They made a complex process simple and we were just amazed at the lead times achieved. Plus, every single deadline was met without any drama.”
    Penny While, Marketing Director, Kirintec
  • “Thanks to Plunkett Associates flexible, bespoke and cost effective service I was able to produce the objects that I had originally had in mind.”
    Simon Ryder, Artist
  • To create such a consistent quality finish in chrome was an amazing achievement and the prototypes really gave our stand the wow factor.
    James Clark, Group Commercial Director, The Airdri Group
  • Interestingly, people who look at it in its own right with little knowledge of what it does, just like it! It’s tactile and it looks good…
    Tim Collings, Operations Director, Troika Systems Ltd
  • "With their simple to understand language, willingness to go the extra mile and approachability, Plunkett Associates were a great partner for our company. We couldn’t be happier with the results of our project. (A working prototype that they got right first time, by the way). Thank you!"
    Carolina Ballon-Forrester, Director, Kittyrama Ltd
  • Plunkett Associates worked on the design and production of titanium frames for an artificial heart valve where precision and consistency was paramount. Communications were efficient and productive with concepts readily incorporated into the final design, and suggestions for improvements all highly appropriate. The quality of the end product was ideal and I have no doubt that I will use the advice and expertise of Plunkett Associates again.
    David Wheatley, Wheatley Research Ltd
  • “Thanks for the present that arrived this morning, as promised. Parts look first class, as always.”
    Jon Todd, Design Manager, PHS Group
  • “Plunkett Associates have a fantastic supply chain, work with all sorts of production processes and will always do their utmost to solve a problem.”
    Naim Audio
  • “ Plunketts developed a solution that met our precision requirements at a cost significantly lower than alternative manufacturing approaches we had investigated”
    Nick Skaer, CEO, Orthox Ltd
  • “Doing business with you has been an absolute pleasure. You have made my goals a reality. You have been patient, helpful and above all, responsive. Best service that I have experienced in ages. I consider Plunkett Associates to be an integral part of my business plan moving forward.”
    Jet Cooper, Sculptor
Related Processes

CNC Machining

The benefits of CNC parts include substantial flexibility in material choice, high accuracy and repeatability.

more info

Injection Moulding

Produces production intent material properties. Injection Moulding is used for development as well as production parts.

more info

3D Printing

Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM), Polyjet, Digital Light Process (DLP); all are quick and provide a degree of accuracy that satisfies most design requirements. But which is the best option?

more info

Read more expert articles in our FAQ section where we discuss topics on materials, methods and products.

Back to FAQs
  • “Plunkett Associates have excellent breadth of experience, work with high quality partners and have a flexibility that we have found enables challenges to be met successfully, cost effectively and in a timely manner.”
    Nick Skaer, CEO, Orthox Ltd
    Nick Skaer, CEO, Orthox Ltd
  • Plunkett associates always find a solution. Whatever we need to prototype, they have a great grasp on the technologies available, costs and lead-times so we get the right solution tailored to the project needs. Have always delivered and never let us down.
    Naim Audio
    Naim Audio
  • “I can’t recommend Tim and his team highly enough. We ended up with a design which can be produced and assembled quickly, efficiently and reliably, in volumes that make sense”
    Simon Leggett, Director, Olivewood Technology
    Simon Leggett, Director,  Olivewood Technology
  • "Tim's experience, expertise and supplier base have been fundamental to us getting this project off the ground."
    Sam Pearce, Jelly Products Ltd
    Sam Pearce, Jelly Products Ltd
  • “We were really surprised at how quickly they turned round such a high quality prototype and the parts certainly proved their worth. They were of high enough quality to provide a fantastic visual representation and to undergo rigorous testing."
    Stuart Wilson, Design Director, TRT Lighting
    Stuart Wilson, Design Director, TRT Lighting
  • “Accuracy, finish and delivery all first class.”
    Andrew Peters, JMDA Ltd
    Andrew Peters, JMDA Ltd
  • “We use Plunkett Associates because we want someone we can trust, that knows what they’re talking about, has all the contacts, will provide reliable advice and feedback and will get the right result for us.”
    Jim Copestick. Design Manager, Thorlux Lighting
    Jim Copestick. Design Manager, Thorlux Lighting
  • “We always know exactly what we’re getting and we know we won’t be let down on quality, price or lead times.”
    Mark Williams, Research and Development Director, Johnson Safety Products
    Mark Williams, Research and Development Director, Johnson Safety Products
  • “Plunkett Associates truly offer a complete turnkey solution with Speed, Effectiveness and Precision.”
    David Harden, Director, Enica Ltd
    David Harden, Director, Enica Ltd
  • “Kirintec were thrilled with Plunketts. They made a complex process simple and we were just amazed at the lead times achieved. Plus, every single deadline was met without any drama.”
    Penny While, Marketing Director, Kirintec
    Penny While, Marketing Director, Kirintec
  • “Thanks to Plunkett Associates flexible, bespoke and cost effective service I was able to produce the objects that I had originally had in mind.”
    Simon Ryder, Artist
    Simon Ryder, Artist
  • To create such a consistent quality finish in chrome was an amazing achievement and the prototypes really gave our stand the wow factor.
    James Clark, Group Commercial Director, The Airdri Group
    James Clark, Group Commercial Director, The Airdri Group
  • Interestingly, people who look at it in its own right with little knowledge of what it does, just like it! It’s tactile and it looks good…
    Tim Collings, Operations Director, Troika Systems Ltd
    Tim Collings, Operations Director, Troika Systems Ltd
  • "With their simple to understand language, willingness to go the extra mile and approachability, Plunkett Associates were a great partner for our company. We couldn’t be happier with the results of our project. (A working prototype that they got right first time, by the way). Thank you!"
    Carolina Ballon-Forrester, Director, Kittyrama Ltd
    Carolina Ballon-Forrester, Director, Kittyrama Ltd
  • Plunkett Associates worked on the design and production of titanium frames for an artificial heart valve where precision and consistency was paramount. Communications were efficient and productive with concepts readily incorporated into the final design, and suggestions for improvements all highly appropriate. The quality of the end product was ideal and I have no doubt that I will use the advice and expertise of Plunkett Associates again.
    David Wheatley, Wheatley Research Ltd
    David Wheatley, Wheatley Research Ltd
  • “Thanks for the present that arrived this morning, as promised. Parts look first class, as always.”
    Jon Todd, Design Manager, PHS Group
    Jon Todd, Design Manager, PHS Group
  • “Plunkett Associates have a fantastic supply chain, work with all sorts of production processes and will always do their utmost to solve a problem.”
    Naim Audio
    Naim Audio
  • “ Plunketts developed a solution that met our precision requirements at a cost significantly lower than alternative manufacturing approaches we had investigated”
    Nick Skaer, CEO, Orthox Ltd
    Nick Skaer, CEO, Orthox Ltd
  • “Doing business with you has been an absolute pleasure. You have made my goals a reality. You have been patient, helpful and above all, responsive. Best service that I have experienced in ages. I consider Plunkett Associates to be an integral part of my business plan moving forward.”
    Jet Cooper, Sculptor
    Jet Cooper, Sculptor