Flexible and rubber prototype and production parts. What are the options?

Flexible Parts

Flexible Parts

Flexible parts are often referred to colloquially as ‘rubber’ parts. Whilst rubber forms a substantial proportion of them, there are also flexible polyurethanes and thermoplastic elastomers to consider. As an ISO 9001:2008 Quality System certified supplier, we work with all these materials, in low volume quantities of just a few parts through to full production, and in a range of Shore hardness.

Flexible partThe advantage of prototyping parts designed from rubber or flexible elastomers such as silicone, is that it enables you to confirm the required rigidity of the material. However, prototyping options are quite limited and the quickest option is to 3D print rubber or other flexible parts. Whilst this alleviates the need for tooling, little can be done to improve the layered surface finish.Rubber Part

An alternative option we can offer is to use vacuum casting and produce custom flexible parts in an elastomeric polyurethane. This can provide prototype options of Shore A hardness' ranging from 15 (simulating soft rubber) to 95 (simulating hard rubber). Surface finish is dictated by the silicone tooling and aesthetically pleasing parts can be produced.

Shore Hardness comparisons can be seen in the chart below. There is more information on selecting hardness in our FAQ article here.Shore Hardness comparison chart for rubber

If higher volume quantities are required, or functionality demands production intent materials, a range of rubbers such as EPDM, Viton, Neoprene, Nitrile and Silicone can be moulded by aluminium development tooling, or full production tooling.

To find out more about process options for rubber prototyping and production parts talk to us today. We will be happy to discuss your project with you.

You might find some of the FAQs we've included about flexible materials, custom rubber parts and Shore hardness useful. You can find them here.

Flexible Parts Processes

Injection Moulding

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

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Compression Moulding

Compression Moulding is a great process that is commonly used for thermoset materials, such as silicone and a variety of rubbers.

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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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Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) is the second most commonly used process after Stereolithography (SLA). SLS parts can be produced with high functionality in very short lead times.

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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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