I'm not sure if this is the place for this question but I couldn't find out any StackExchange website for this question so I'm posting it here.

I always wondered how companies build the plastic chassis/form-factor for their products. I mean there are some very sophisticated shapes like calculators, monitors, remote-control car toys .. etc all of these products have plastic chassis with colors. How the companies build these?

I mean I know there is 3D printing but as far as I know 3D printing is still at the early stages if I'm not mistaken.

p.s. if you can suggest a better website for this question please tell me.

  • are you asking about prototyping, or actual production? You seem to be asking about both. – DA01 May 5 '14 at 5:18
  • This question appears to be off-topic because it is about manufacturing techniques not home improvement. – Niall C. May 5 '14 at 11:20
  • @NiallC. yes but where to post this question?! – Jack Twain May 6 '14 at 19:28
  • @DA01 it's about both – Jack Twain May 6 '14 at 19:29

For prototyping, there are many methods. For plastic, 3D printing and CNC routing are two popular ones today.

For actual production, though, the methods would be different. Options include:

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  • how do they create the molds? I mean the entire secrete is in creating the mold itself, then any material can be put into the mold and we get the product. But creating the mold I see it extremely difficult. Especially with toys that have very sophisticated curves. I really want to know how they do it! – Jack Twain May 6 '14 at 19:50
  • There's many ways to create molds. Alas, I think you're asking for a complete description of the entire design and manufacturing process. That's an extremely broad question that isn't really suitable for this site. I'd suggest starting by following the links in the answer. That should get you pointed in the right direction. – DA01 May 6 '14 at 20:04

The company I work for uses 3d printing for all our prototypes. I think you'd be surprised how good the tolerances are for printed objects. You'll see print lines on these objects, but that's nothing a little sanding won't take care of.

To see how advanced 3d printing has gotten, see http://www.shapeways.com

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This is probably off-topic for this site, but I'll give it a shot anyways.

The typical process used to create plastic cases is called Injection Molding. The tooling for this is very expensive and might cost $250k for something like a plastic laptop shell. Generally companies will not use these for prototypes because making any change to the mold is very expensive.

For prototyping, 3D printing is certainly creeping its way into processes. Companies might also use foam that they shape either manually or on a CNC.

Other materials like wood or aluminum are also used because they can be easily modified after the fact (drill a new hole, bend the metal) and because the up-front cost is lower. CNC machines are affordable and can be programmed to cut almost anything.

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  • what does CNC mean? & I'm interested in the whole process. As exactly you mentioned: how a laptop shell is built. So do they prototype and then use that Injection Molding thing? – Jack Twain May 6 '14 at 19:32
  • @AlexTwain en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CNC_router – DA01 May 6 '14 at 19:42

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