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For the manufacturing sector in the plastics industry, bridging the gap between prototypes and production is a challenge. Howest aims to provide guidance to companies in building end-product-oriented prototypes, enabling them to make better design decisions.

Prototypes that closely resemble the final product often serve as the convincing factor to allocate time, budget, and space for production preparation. In the case of plastics, this involves approval for the construction of molds and specific tooling for production, which presents a significant hurdle.

Since the advent of a new generation of 3D printers that operate based on granules (= pellets), it is possible to print the right prototype for certain plastics. Manufacturers like Arburg (Germany) and Pollen (France) are unique pioneers in machine building. Their 3D printers have the significant advantage of being able to prototype with exactly the same material as used in production. However, this technology also has technical limitations and requires a substantial investment.

The goal of this project is to investigate how companies, interested in adopting the new PAM 3D technology in the design process, can build more end-product-oriented prototypes. This approach enables them to make better-informed design decisions. The target audience for this project includes (1) SMEs and public organizations producing plastic components or products, designing and manufacturing these products themselves, or outsourcing to (2) external companies such as design and engineering firms, assembly companies, and plastic experts like plastic suppliers, injection molding companies, and 3D printing companies.