The toy manufacturing sector makes major efforts each season to launch new products. The highly seasonal nature of this sector means designing new items in a short time frame, which means that there is the risk of manufacturing a design without knowing what its level of acceptance will be by the market. Manufacturers rely more and more on the use of prototypes to show the product in fairs and to identify the factors of success of the design at a lower cost, as well as to test functionality and technical characteristics of the model.
Each company develops its own methodology in the construction of prototypes, according to the specific needs of the product and to the resources to be invested. The method used currently is a completely craft based one, and it presents big disadvantages and limitations, due to the fact that prototypes can only be made with certain materials and the finish does not permit proper testing of the performance of the product.
One problem in the product manufacturing phase is the high level of investment required for the construction of injection moulds. This is a slow process and it is difficult and sometimes complicated, to carry out trials on the piece, experimental assemblies and product validation. Later on, if the result is not satisfactory, modifications are made directly on the mould, which increases the problem. This investment is difficult to amortize, since the series are short and the prices of toys can not be increased.
Therefore the toy sector requires the development of products defined through the construction of the first model in a quick and effective way and at a lower cost. This project was concerned with the transfer to the toy manufacturing sector of the technologies of SLS and rapid tooling used in aerospace and automotive manufacturing. By means of Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), different materials can be used in order to give this technique great opportunities for use in the manufacture of prototypes. Another urgent need of toy manufacturers is cheaper moulds for preparing series of 100 to 5000 pieces and rapid tooling (a technology arisen from the SLS) can permit the launching of short series in plastic materials.
Funding SchemeCSC - Cost-sharing contracts