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Prototyping and development

Prototyping with ultra high performance concrete

High performance cementitious materials like Ductal by Lafarge are bringing concrete to the forefront of product design. Products can be designed substantially thinner, lighter, and will be many times stronger than conventional concrete mixes. With advances in 3d rendering software, product designers can build products with programs like auto CAD, Solidworks, and Rhino or digitally scan objects, bringing them into the digital world. Szolyd works with product designers, other manufacturers, inventors and architects to develop UHPC and mix material prototypes. Sometimes the prototyping stage ends at a 1/4 scale rapid prototype model, other times a full scale UHPC model is needed. A prototype is best designed with molding techniques in mind, as costs are driven by the complexity and durability of the mold design. Szolyd helps designers consider material thickness, structural needs, embedments, surface finish and the draft of inner mold parts. The material properties of Ductal concrete mean that there are many products waiting to be designed that have not yet been conceived. Integrating heating, lighting, solar, charging stations, conduit and mixing materials is all possible with UHPC. Contact us to discuss the viability of your dream product.

Prototyping process

This is how it typically works.

3D Rendering

Creating a model usually starts with a digital file or a rendering. 3D Scanners can digitize models and import the files into software that can then scale and modify them. Szolyd can help educate product designers early in the process to understand material properties and limits. Our experience can help to establish material thickness, attachment methodologies and cantilever amounts. There is always a creative dance that happens when trying to push the boundaries of the material and meet engineering tolerances.

3D Printing

3D printing is quickly changing the way in which models are created. Often the cantilevered, thin walled shapes envisioned with UHPC cannot be built with any other materials. Often multiple parts will be 3D printed and assembled together to make a larger positive unit for molding. SLA models reduce the need for milling in some cases, and can save time creating a positive. Scale models can also help prove a concept, or aid in the mold design stage.

Advance mold design

Szolyd has developed proprietary mold building techniques related to casting UHPC concrete. Mold materials are selected for their ability to release from the cast object and the number of times they are to be cast. Szolyd is familiar with urethanes rubbers, silicone, fibreglass, and pretty much every modern technique.

THINGS TO CONSIDER

Financials

We are very proficient at developing preliminary budgets and educating our clients as to what they can expect during the process. Our subcontractors provide us with quick estimates that help us to determine project viability in the early stages. By going through the prototyping stage, our clients and our team get an idea of what’s involved and how to price later manufacturing stages.

3D modeling / shop drawings.

From napkin sketch to 3d rendering, we can help take your idea and turn it into a prototype. With complex shapes we like to utilize rapid prototyping to 3d print a small scale model. A small scale model can help work out challenges and with the mold design without as much risk and cost.

Positive models

With most projects and products we work on we require a full size replica of the part that we will be molding. CNC milling, hot wire cutting, sculpting, 3d printing can all be used in combination or alone to make a positive. Usually milling lines need to be sanded and smoothed, as the molding process captures every detail. Often it is not possible to create a full scale prototype in a cost effective way. A concrete prototype needs a mold, and often the mold is the most expensive part of the process. For this reason the milled positive is usually a fairly true representation of the end product.

Mold design

Mold design is a complicated subject and a craft that is often guarded in secrecy. Often two mold builders will go about a project in a completely different way, there is no right way. For this reason our team have open minds to processes and adapt to changes along the way if one particular methodology is not working. Mold design also needs to consider how many parts are needed to be produced.

Surface finishing

Our background in polished concrete has given us extensive skills pertaining to finishing concrete. Small run colour samples help to finalize decisions and give a customer an idea of the types of finishes that are possible. There are many combinations of colours, embedded sands, polishing, sandblasting and various other techniques. Virtually any surface and be replicated with UHPC.