Is this a prototype process?
It could be, although there are some issues, not the least of which is that our business model and engineering/proto pricing is based on repeat production (low volume production is fine) and your prototype should simulate your production process or you learn nothing about your manufacturing issues.
But can I use it to prototype my product anyway?
Yes, you can. We can usually simulate the function of your product, but the form and fit will not be the same as your production manufacturing technology – so you may not find value in using the Tool-Less process to prototype if your production process is different.
Is this an interim process before I go to injection molding?
Yes, it can be used for that purpose if you can live with the differences identified above. It is especially appropriate if the design is not stable and you need market or customer feedback and multiple design iterations prior to production. We regularly produce 500 units, make changes, build 500 more, make more changes and build another 500 before our customer releases tooling.
How durable are Tool-Less products?
We can design a pretty durable product – probably not as durable as an equivalent injection molded product. The weight of the product and your drop requirements, (whether the product has to survive with no damage, without catastrophic failure, or simply without creating a danger) affect our design direction and feasibility. We use thicker materials, add doublers in corners & reinforcing ribs to create a more durable product.
Can I get it in my color?
Yes, you can, there are minimum purchase requirements for custom colors, but we can match any color.
Can you hide your joint lines?
Not without causing bigger problems, so we don’t. We use the joint lines as an aesthetic feature and we can control where they fall on the part to maintain the best aesthetics, optimize clean-ability, etc. Our staff Industrial Designer is very good at using these features to your benefit.
Can you bend up all 4 sides like sheet metal?
No, our CNC heat bender does not have interchangeable or removable “fingers” like a brake press, and we put in our bending cuts (V-grooves) using a table saw, so we have to run the groove and bend all the way out. We are looking into modifying the tools we have to add this capability in the future.
What quantity can Toolless produce?
Our process is ideal for quantities between 100 and 5000 units, depending upon your application. We can easily produce one or two units, but then we have charge for setup costs.
Can you use special materials?
In general, if the material can be Thermoformed, we can work with it, but the best materials are ABS, Styrene, and Polycarbonate. See the materials page for more information. We can easily incorporate other components into your housing – form example, a sheet metal part for extra strength, or a wood part for appearance.
Can you do complex curves?
Toolless has invested research time to come up with a “rolling” machine making your enclosure unique. The only limitation is that we can only create compound surfaces in one direction.
How easy is it to make changes?
Generally, changes are very easy to make as they involve programming on the computer, not changing hard tools and molds. As a result, the cost of changes is usually small compared with other processes. We can often incorporate changes “on the fly”, especially if they are simple.
How strong are the parts?
As strong as injection molded parts, made out of similar materials. Our products can withstand the usual drop tests, and have mechanical integrity similar to injection molded parts. Occasionally we will add additional reinforcement to glue joint areas to enable a housing to meet a specific mechanical test.