Developing a car involves manufacturing prototypes to check the design at different development stages. From the concept design up to the functional one, prototyping plays a large role in creating every component of the car.
Manufacturers can lose a lot of money if they neglect automotive prototyping.
The car industry is very competitive and is rapidly developing and always issuing new automobiles. Market pressure for design and development, as well as manufacturing time, is large. And since new models are being built every year, development is always in demand for the automotive industry.
Prototyping auto parts and assemblies enables design validation, which is important since car safety affects human safety. Apart from that, prototyping can help determine whether the material is the best possible or whether the manufacturing process is efficient. Rapid visualisation prototypes can help you present your product to potential investors or car buyers. Functional and engineering prototypes will show you your production weak spots so that you can optimise the process and get maximum profit.
Car prototyping involves every stage from the concept and up to the mass production of car batches.
Concept design is stage one for automotive development. At this step, designers are not sure what the final product structure will be. They may be trying different ideas and approaches. At this stage, making car clay models is enough. This way the designer can see for himself what the car may look like. In some cases, those figures are reverse engineered to obtain complex surfaces data and create a wholesome CAD model.
The figures can be used for demonstrations as well. Either to the investors or to the colleagues, automotive parts prototypes can be shown to support or decline the idea of the developers.
Once the concept has been decided upon, the next stage of development and prototyping begins. Some call it the “mule” stage. It is called like that because during this stage, a number of the developed car component prototypes are manufactured and mounted on the existing car models like a mule is loaded with cargo.
The prototypes may not fit perfectly all the time but they will give a general impression of how the component will look on a car, how it will perform. As a result, the design, the precision, and the materials can be assessed by the automotive prototype testing engineers.
Once the components have been validated, it’s time for live tests in combination with the whole developed car. Manufacturers will produce and mount a small batch of parts on the designed car and will monitor the performance of those elements in live tests and the direst of conditions. That way, actual performance, quality requirements, and durability can be assessed.
Safety tests are run on pre-production prototypes as well. A mannequin is put into the car for crash tests at this stage.
Since the pre-production prototypes are the same as the final product, the manufacturing technology is tested out in them as well.
Car prototyping technology permeates every design and development stage. Multiple reruns, remanufacturing and redesigns are inevitable during the process. In order to decrease the time for each iteration, the modern industry uses automotive rapid prototyping techniques. They typically include CNC Machining, Additive manufacturing, vacuum casting, rapid aluminium tooling, low volume injection molding, and sheet metal processing.
The typical parts that are used for rapid prototyping are the following: dashboards, consoles, door panels and pillars to exterior components such as bumper, grilles, headlights and taillights lighting prototypes.
Manufacturing tail lamp prototypes, headlamp prototypes, and other automotive lighting prototypes is a task that requires the utmost care and precision. There are a lot of automotive lighting prototype types to be considered: headlights prototyping, taillights prototyping, rear lamps prototyping etc. Even the smallest scratches and blemishes result in drastic changes in light performance.
That is why, automotive CNC lighting prototypes are manufactured with high -precision 3-5 – axis CNC milling centers. In order to perfect the surfaces of clear parts and make them ready for polishing, the latest diamond machining technology by Single Point Diamond Machining or Turning (SPDM or SPDT) is employed.
This technology uses a single-point diamond cutter instead of a regular mill. The resulting surface finish after a small polishing process is excellent and completely clear without any faults or scratches.
Functional prototyping of automotive parts means that the resulting prototype must be made of the same material and match the end product in every possible way. After the prototype is complete, it’s main properties are tested and its performance is assessed. In general, the functional prototype is used for the following purposes:
In order to be able to manufacture prototypes of this stage, extensive experience with processing engineering grade materials and at the same time staying on the production schedule is required.
Rapid injection molding is a specialised plastic prototyping process that was developed by the automotive shops specifically for the low-volume production and the latest stages of prototype testing.
The main feature of the process is rapid tooling. The rapid injection mold is made of aluminum, which is easier to machine but is not as durable as steel. However, outstanding mold durability is not required at the prototyping stage.
In addition, the cavity is a separate component from the base of the mold. That way, if the part needs to be redesigned slightly, you can easily replace or fix the cavity so that it fits new geometry. Rapid injection molding uses a significant number of different materials to fit the needs of every customer and produce high-quality rapid prototyping automotive parts.