Clear prototype and production parts. What are the options?

Clear Parts

Clear Parts

Many assemblies include clear component(s), the clarity required being dictated by the application. Whilst translucency may be sufficient to detect whether an LED is on or off, lenses, lightpipes and displays all require good optical characteristics.

Clear prototype partAs an ISO 9001:2008 Quality System certified supplier, we offer a range of solutions for custom clear parts to meet all requirements, including hand polished acrylic and polycarbonate to allow function testing.

The usual options for clear, or translucent, parts are glass or plastic. Whilst glass becomes practically impossible as soon as you move away from fundamentally flat geometries, there are far more options for clear or translucent plastic parts.

We can produce custom clear parts from CNC machining, vacuum casting, injection moulding, or rapid prototyping techniques. The degree of clarity required, part complexity, quantities and timescales will all determine the appropriate process.

Injection mould tooling for clear plastic partFor low volume clear parts the ultimate solution, in terms of clarity, has to be to use CNC machining and hand polishing in materials such as Acrylic or Polycarbonate. As quantities rise, we would then move away from hand polishing a part, to polishing a tool that can then impart the required surface finish to the part, i.e. moulding.

Obviously, the nearer the manufacturing process can get to a smooth finish, the less polishing is required. Less polishing means less labour and therefore less cost. From this perspective, CNC machining has an advantage over additive manufacturing techniques, where the layering will always need to be dressed.

Clear partRapid Prototyping offers other solutions, for example, Stereolithography (SLA). When combined with the right resins and some hand dressing, this will achieve very acceptable levels of clarity. If time permits, it may also be viable to lay down a prototype injection mould tool and achieve the production intent material.

If you would like to know more about process options for custom clear prototype and production parts please talk to us today. We will be happy to talk through your project with you. Or look at 'What are my options for clear prototypes?' for further support. 

Clear Parts Processes

CNC Machining

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

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Injection Moulding

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

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Vacuum Casting

Ideal for producing small quantities of plastic and flexible rubber parts, especially if aesthetics are important.

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Stereolithography (SLA)

Produces accurate 3D models with a range of material choices. High Res SLA and Micro SLA for smaller parts.

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3D Printing

Offering one of the largest ranges of materials, Polyjet can produce hard, flexible and multi material parts.

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Extrusion is a manufacturing method where long lengths of the same cross section can be produced quickly and repeatedly.

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