Industry Insights
Meeting the Need for Speed: How Carestream Assists Customers with Rapid Prototyping January 23, 2014 | by Todd Arndorfer, Manager, Manufacturing Business Development, Carestream Tollcoating

Rapid prototyping is a method of inexpensively producing product prototypes for design testing purposes. It has the potential to dramatically change manufacturing design processes and reduce cost of manufacturing.

Prototyping is used to evaluate and test the design, safety, functionality, ergonomics, and other aspects of a device. A well-conceived prototyping process can enable companies to notice design errors and other issues that could later cause significant problems, saving time and money. Precision coatings are no exception.

Carestream Contract Manufacturing brings over 100 years of experience in precision coating of flexible substrates to help its customers achieve rapid prototyping. Carestream’s facilities enable customers to quickly adjust formulation and coating conditions for low-cost, small-run and experimental toll coating projects. Like other rapid prototyping methodologies, Carestream’s approach allows rapid material and product screening, small product sample coating and testing, and efficient scale-up to pilot and production coating equipment.

Rapid prototyping methods

A common type of rapid prototyping method involves additive technologies, in which models are built by adding material layer by layer. There are also subtractive prototyping methods, which create a model by removing material, typically by milling, grinding, laser ablation, or through the use of a photoresist layer that is imaged and allows etching of the underlying substrate layers. The most appropriate prototyping method for a product will depend on several factors, including the model’s function and material used.

Carestream Contract Manufacturing’s approach to rapid prototyping

When a prototype component requires precision coating of aqueous or solvent-based fluids on a flexible substrate, Carestream applies its unique assets to create multiple, testable samples in its Windsor, Colorado Coating Assessment Laboratory (CAL). The CAL Sample Coater can generate precision coated prototype samples up to six feet long using only a few grams of solution. For larger prototype quantity requirements, the CAL Development Coater provides small-scale roll-to-roll coating for up to 12-inch wide films, foils, paper and membranes.

The CAL facility contains custom mixing, solution delivery, coating, drying and analytical equipment used for small-scale, early-stage product and process development. The lab enhances Carestream’s ability to predict how a given coating solution and substrate system will behave in various manufacturing operations before scaling up to larger pilot-scale and manufacturing-scale equipment.

The Coating Assessment Laboratory is Carestream Contract Manufacturing’s center of excellence for laboratory-scale solution quality assessment and coating modeling. These capabilities are critical factors in rapid prototyping. The solutions and coating methods employed in the laboratory, along with various analytical test methods, are used to assess solution characteristics and coatability, the final coating quality and the physical durability of those coatings on various substrates. The experience of the engineering and technical resources provides a stream of ideas to customers based on past experience, allowing new constructions with greater functionality or robustness in production to be developed quickly.

CAL engineers and technicians assess physical and chemical properties of coating solutions and the resulting final products. Adjustments are made to the solution chemistries, mixing/solution delivery methods, and/or coating methods based on the data gathered in the lab. Models are then used to predict how coating, drying, and curing conditions will impact final product quality. This well-practiced assessment process is used to ensure product specifications are met on the laboratory scale before ever moving up to larger and more expensive pilot and manufacturing-scale equipment. The modeling capability gives enormous insight into perfecting long-term process economics and quality, as well as setting product development direction – at reduced cost.

There are many considerations in choosing a prototype developer. Among these are capabilities, cost, flexibility, specialization, range of services, protection of intellectual property, intended use for your prototype, and others. Carestream’s ability to provide, apply and test coating formulations can significantly aid the prototyping process without compromising a need for speed. We are uniquely qualified to apply knowledge from a variety of industries to new concepts.

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