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The Quickparts online portal lets users get rapid prototypes for parts that will be plastic injection molded. To check out the site, the company sent me a STL part file of the cover for a handheld fire-detection device. The quoting process comprises five steps: upload files, select process, modify quote, view shopping cart, and confirm/checkout. I began by visiting www.quickparts.com, typing in my name and e-mail address, and creating a password. This opens a window with an option to download a free injection-molding tooling guide.

An e-mail from Quickparts confirmed my login information and provided a phone number should I run into problems. With that data in hand, I clicked on the “Go To Quickparts QuickQuote Login link” on the Web site and signed in to My Account. Straightforward buttons there let me get a new quote or retrieve an existing one, see my order history, or view my profile, and find additional helpful phone numbers.

Uploading the CAD file was a matter of clicking on the Get New Quote button and selecting the file. The Web site automatically and quickly uploaded the file. In addition to STL, the site accepts IGS, STEP, and SLDPRT formats. However, the site can only quote the STL format instantly.

Because the prototype was intended just for checking fit and form, I selected the stereolithography (SLA) process. Assuming the part would be needed quickly, I went with a standard finish and the “first-available” resin. Results depend on how quickly you need a part. Next-day delivery in this case cost around $400. A 10-day wait lowers this to $196.

The quote page also contained helpful information on finishing options such as painting or nickel plating. Additional links gave plenty of data on material choices such as ABS-like grey, providing information such as tensile strength, hardness, and heat-deflection temperature.

For a reality check on my process selection, I called the company. Within about 2 min, I was talking to “Adam,” an extremely helpful technician. He said that SLA in this case was a good choice. However, should it have been necessary for the prototype to withstand temperatures up to about 280°F, a better choice would have been fused-deposition modeling (FDM). Also, if the part had included a living hinge or needed to be chemically resistant, a better process would have been selective laser sintering (SLS).

Just to see what would happen, I clicked Re-Quote and this time selected the new Machined Plastic Prototypes option. This requires a lead time of eight to 10 business days. With a standard surface finish and using ABS material, the cost for one prototype part in this case was $295. Instant Quote parameters included a maximum part size of 12 × 12 × 3 in., maximum part quantity of 10, and tolerances of ±0.010 in. A project manager contacts you should your part include features that cannot be manufactured.

After receiving an acceptable prototype, users have the option to order injection-molded parts. According to Adam, the company injection molds parts in several facilities in the U.S. and China. Press sizes range from 20 to 1,000 ton and part quantities can range from 25 to high-volume production runs.

The online service comes from Quickparts.com Inc., 301 Perimeter Center N, Suite 500, Atlanta, GA 30346, (877) 521-8683, www.quickparts.com.

Leslie Gordon, Senior Editor

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