It is never a good idea to start production of any item right from the product design stage. There are chances of failures due to many reasons. Therefore, in between your product design and production, you must build a prototype too.
There are several defective products manufactured and sold in China almost every day, and while quite a few of those can be genuine manufacturing defects, however, one can easily prevent that to happen only if there were a prototype made and tested thoroughly first.
Usually, Chinese manufacturing companies make their products entirely based on the engineer’s specifications or samples of products provided.
If there exist certain faults on them then you cannot blame the manufacturer for making the defective product.
Therefore, you must be very clear, before you go for production of your product. You must get a prototype made and then test it thoroughly to approve it. That will act as your reference for further production.
These days, outsourcing production to China has become a norm for many companies, however, the outsourcing of quick prototypes from China, which is a preliminary version of that product is relatively less common.
There are many processes available for making quick prototypes from China and let us discuss them one by one.
1. Conventional machining
A prototype should ideally be produced when the machining centre receives a 3D CAD design. This is frequently an excellent approach to get a few prototypes that should appear the same as mass production, whether or not the machines are numerically controlled.
Pros of conventional machining:
- Mature technologies available to produce high-accuracy components
- The product will be exactly the same as mass production
- Any testing carried out on this form of the prototype will be as good as developing the actual indented product design. Thus, any strength or material problem found at this stage can be addressed and design modifications made.
Cons of conventional machining:
- Solid blocks of material are frequently used for fabricating parts, which can result in significant material waste
- To complete the item, a variety of machining techniques may be necessary. Each of these lengthy procedures would typically be carried out by professional machinists. From the perspective of costs, everything adds up.
2. Stereolithography (SLA)
With the aid of an ultraviolet laser and a vat of liquid ultraviolet-curable photopolymer “resin,” SLA creates quick, precise prototype models by layering components one at a time.
Pros of SLA:
- Speed: completed within a day.
- Accuracy within the thickness tolerance of each layer, which is characteristically 0.05mm.
Cons of SLA:
- The ideal size of parts that are produced is 19.685”x 19.685” x 23.622”. You cannot make larger parts with SLA. Note that many parts can be glued together.
- The finished product will be quite brittle.
3. Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
SLS is another additive manufacturing technique. Several materials will be fused by a laser.
Pros of SLS:
- Strong prototypes
- Wide range of materials
Cons of SLS:
- Less accurate as compared to SLA because of the powder granule size.
4. 3D printing
3D printing is also another additive technique where an object is created by laying down consecutive layers of material.
Pros of 3D printers:
- 3D printers can be inexpensive.
- At a low cost, you can run multiple iterations of your new products.
Cons of 3D printers:
- Size constraints: It is difficult to find a 3D printer that will make large parts.
- Material choice can relatively be limited.
- The surface finish is highly textured
5. Vacuum casting
Silicone moulds are first created, and then this mould is used for creating parts.
Pros of vacuum casting:
- You can produce multiple parts. Good for making a small number of a certain product.
- Parts are almost of perfect production quality.
Cons of vacuum casting:
- Usually, products are in rubber material.
- A relatively high cost is needed to produce the silicone mould and the parts.
What issues are faced with Chinese prototype manufacturing?
1. Chinese will follow exactly your drawing
Chinese manufacturers will NOT change the design for you unless it is specifically stated in your contract; hence, you will receive EXACTLY what you request, regardless of how fundamentally flawed the product is.
Therefore, if testing is not done, there is a very high possibility of receiving large quantities of subpar goods with no question of getting your money back.
Product development and prototyping are highly involved processes, thus good communication between you and the development team is crucial for quick prototypes from China.
Make sure that anybody you choose to interact with has excellent communication abilities, not just the capacity to convey concepts in general. The problem with the language barrier is genuine, and not all Chinese employees have flawless English skills.
3. More time needed
Months must be spent trying to communicate your ideas, or you must spend at least as much time online searching for suitable companies with English-speaking workers.
The most time-effective strategy, however, is to look for an experienced outsourcing agent who is skilled in English and has the technical knowledge and appropriate industry experience.
4. Intellectual property considerations
When working with Chinese businesses for prototypes, this is yet another major problem. The good news is that things are drastically getting better.
The likelihood is that everything produced on the line will be yours and yours alone if your contract is unambiguous. Just make sure to mention it clearly that no clones of the goods may be made!
5. Where you should look for a great factory?
Shenzhen, China’s digital capital and a well-known leader in manufacturing and consumer electronics, is the logical choice. It was only a modest fishing community outside of Hong Kong just thirty-five years ago.
Deng Xiaoping, the head of China’s Communist Party, changed things when he declared the city an economic zone and allowed foreign investments.
While finding trustworthy business partners for quick prototypes from China and securing contracts may seem intimidating at first, with time and practise you will soon catch on and locate the ideal prototyping and manufacturing arrangements.
If you have hired a Chinese sourcing agent then your job can become easier.