Circular-saw prototype with stock metal parts and blue FDM parts

Functional Prototyping

Prove and perfect your designs with tough, precise testing

Iterative, agile product development is the promise of advanced 3D printing. Functional prototyping with engineering thermoplastics or digital materials reveals how your next product will perform, well before you commit to production tooling.

Soft Touch Parts

GPS housing printed with multiple PolyJet materials using an Objet Connex-line 3D Printer.

During the design process, nothing helps you appreciate what a product will really be like more than a 3D model that looks and feels like the end product. PolyJet technology’s wide range of rigid materials and elastic rubber-like materials offer smooth finishes, high level of detail and ability to jet a variety of materials on a single build tray. Incorporate buttons, knobs and soft components to create a realistic look and feel to your prototype.

3D printing soft touch parts

Many industries use soft touch coating during their product design to validate future products. For example, the automotive industry uses soft touch in the design and development of interior products such as knobs, pulls and handles. Consumer electronics use soft touch coating for features such as rubberized buttons and coatings, typically to improve the product's ergonomic comfort. In the world of consumer goods, a vast array of products incorporate soft touch coating, including tooth brushes, shaving handles and glasses.

Why Connex 3D printing?

Connex printing systems can produce prototypes with possess properties that mimic traditional elastomeric materials including EPDM and NBR. This means you can evaluate a design that incorporates soft touch areas. In the example illustrated above, several rubber–like materials with different shore values were printed at the same time and evaluated on the design model. The model was then tested on a focus group as well as on potential customers to gain input regarding the product's comfort and ease of use. Issues such as a product's impact resistance can also be evaluated.

Tips for soft touch 3D printed parts

Save the design in separate STL files for each part of your assembly. This is recommended for the soft touch areas along with other rigid parts. Later the parts can be printed in different color tones to visually separate each area of the model.

Label each part that you evaluate with its relevant shore value. Labeling will help you later quickly determine which shore value represents the best score in your evaluation criteria tests. Also, create a mechanism that enables you to mount the soft touch part on your full assembly of rigid and soft parts. You can then use the Connex system's ability to print up to nine different materials in one build process and assemble each part on the model for evaluation.