Clear Optical Prototypes

Many applications benefit from using clear prototypes with machining of transparent acrylic (PMMA) and polycarbonate (PC) to help view the process or improve aesthetics. Including automotive lighting and lamps, light guides and displays all require good optical components characteristics.

We focus on the details of the plastic optics and have the knowledge of clear optical prototypes required to machine without blemishes. The final product is clear and free of any marks or scratches.

Specialized In Complex Surface Machining of Clear & Optical Prototypes

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CreateProto offers a range of solutions for custom clear and transparent parts to meet all requirements, including CNC machining, vacuum casting, and rapid injection molding techniques. Clear prototypes and optical prototypes machining are mainly referring to the machining of transparent acrylic (PMMA) and polycarbonate (PC), and most applications choose them to get a mirror-clear effect.

During machining, we take care of your clear plastic parts and have the knowledge of plastics required to machine without blemishes. Optically clear finishes on plastic components can be achieved with the proper polishing methods. Createproto employs skilled craftsman with many years of experience in this highly specialized process. Our practical and flexible way of working allows us to fully support clear and optical prototype development projects.

Clear Acrylic (PMMA) Prototype Machining, CNC Milling & High Polishing

As a professional prototype manufacturer, we pride ourselves on creating clear acrylic optical components in the plastic machining industry. For optically clear acrylic machining requirements, we have developed precision plastic machining technology capable of delivering superior surface quality for CNC acrylic (PMMA), which the machined radius for the optic detail will not exceed R0.005" (R0.125mm), and the machined optical surface tolerance will be reaching +/-0.001" (+/-0.025mm).

Our continuous upgrades to machining equipment and cutting tools have allowed us to maintain the highest quality machined clear plastic parts in the industry. With more improvement of technical skills and advanced equipment, we are capable of machining all kinds of optical components in any complicated shapes as required.

We combine the machining capabilities of the best combined 3-axis, 4-axis or even 5-axis CNC milling machines. We also have adopted the latest diamond machining technology in ultra precision manufacturing. This is a technique called Single Point Diamond Machining (SPDM or SPDT) that can match the ability of 5-axis micro-milling to produce a range of lens and light guides types of excellent optical quality in an array or freeform pattern.

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Acrylic polishing can help present the best clarity and light transmittance of all the clear plastics. Although CNC acrylic (PMMA) is essential to achieve a good machined finish before polishing to ensure critical dimensions, it is difficult to achieve high clarity.

Acrylic polishing requires special skills since acrylic is a stress-sensitive material and is fairly brittle. Manual polishing requires different grades of polishing process used in conjunction with sand paper and polishing paste which will remove surface material and leave the surface a high quality finish and optical clarity.

Highly polishing requires the sanding work starting from 400# or 600# sand paper to remove the superficial tool marks initially, then the level will lift up to 800# -1000# -1500# and end by 2000# sand paper, the polished surface will be highly smooth without any machine line and mark. Finally we still need to use polishing paste to refine process, and the final surface is super clear and transparent without any sanding marks and scratches with optical quality finish.

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Polycarbonate (PC) CNC Machining & Vapor Machining


Regarding the polycarbonate (short as PC), the strength is much stronger than acrylic, and it can perform better mechanical properties when used in the room temperature environment. Polycarbonate is also one of the most commonly polished transparent plastic which is second to acrylic in clarity. We usually go through sanding smooth & vapor polishing, they are typical methods of choice for most applications.

With the rich polishing experience, CreateProto can get amazing appearance on both inside and outside of the parts. An excellent surface quality comes from the contemplated selection of machining tools, heat treatment, diamond milling, machining methods and processes technology, so that we can work out the best parts with minimum machining tool marks on key & important zones.

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When we apply the decent heat treatment, machining method and polishing ways, polycarbonate can also gain the similar optical performance as acrylic and it is usually widely used on applications such as lamps, light pipes and displays.

Vapor polishing can be used to enhance component features on materials such as polycarbonate, and is ideally suited to the polishing polycarbonate of small features and offers improvements to internal and external surface finishes. Minor scratches and other small surface irregularities can be removed from machining polycarbonate parts by vapor polishing. When done properly, vapor polishing can provide optical prototypes a good quality finish.

Polycarbonate polishing process, the same as acrylic manual polishing, we use the sandpaper to smooth the surface first to remove the tool mark starting from 400# to 2000# sandpaper. The vapor is created by boiling a container with methylene chloride, then utilize vapor to flow over the surface of the polycarbonate. When it hits the surface it melts at a molecular level and turns it out clear. The whole process must be operated in a closed and well ventilated room, which prevents the operator from contacting with the harmful fumes. After the polishing process, parts must be sent to dry in order to evaporate the methylene chloride.

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Clear Urethane Casting for Making Small Number Prototypes

Urethane Vacuum Casting is a fast, economical way for you to create multiples of a part when low-volume quantities are required. It will be possible to use urethane casting to produce the optically clear parts. However, this job requires rich experience in this area, especially when it comes to a case that the details of casting parts are complicated.

CreateProto uses various excellent materials and technology which allows us to succeed in getting super clear casting parts without excessive defects or rejects, since we can apply the combination of correct process and appropriate silicones and resins.

Choosing the right release agent and applying it effectively to avoid tackiness and surface defects is also very important, Silicone-based release agents normally reacts poorly with clear resins, thus it will cause cosmetic problems or other defects, that is why many molders will select a high-quality material of silicone mold to avoid such problems from releasing process, but it’s still a great challenge to casting clear resins.

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Prototype Optical Compnents of Automotive Lighting Lamps

CreateProto is focusing on automotive lighting prototype as a complete service which has allowed us to expand our knowledge and experience in this area, and now it’s the most important technology and production in CreateProto. Creating ways to develop the best automotive lighting prototypes in the industry ensures us to provide all our clients with the best automotive prototyping services.

Our proactive and flexible way of working allows us to fully support automotive lighting development projects. From mechanical component design reviews and photometric development engineering test to show car lamps projects, we are able to support at all levels.

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Craftsmanship of lamp lens and light guides manufacturing is a key area and can significantly affect balances vision with usability in all components design. Our experience in the automotive prototype sector has ensured that we fully appreciate this area and work with our customers to ensure their fit and finish requirements.

With more continuous improvement technical skills and advanced equipment, we are capable of machining all kinds of outer lens, inner lens, reflector, light pipes, flat guides, and massive guides in any complicated shapes, which required no matter 3, 4, or 5-axis CNC machining, even the latest diamond machining technology by Single Point Diamond Machining (SPDM or SPDT). 

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We also have rich experience to ensure the minimum machined tool radius of 0.1mm to process the detail for those optical surfaces and areas. The machined optical surface tolerance can reach +/-0.02mm. Then finishes can be achieved the best clarity and light transmittance through our specialized polishing process. The final optical components are ultra accurate, excellent optical quality and free of any marks or scratches.

Case Study 1: Precision Machined Light Guides for Photometic Development Engineering Test

Prototype light guides & pipes simulations accurately show you how your vehicle will look in real life, to help you avoid any costly design mistakes. This way, you can evaluate the final look of your aesthetics design idea and photometric development engineering test. The most important feature of them is the optical details for an entire light guides, the machining time for these features will be long and precise, the last tool for these features normally will be R0.1mm, which is short and small, the accurate finish machining decides the quality of the light guide optical performance.

We combine 5-axis precision milling with diamond machining technology that gives us the ability to machine more complex shapes and optical details, utilizing a single set-up, instead of performing required individual fixturing and repeat positioning for each operation on different machines. 

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Our Sales Manager, Jacky, adds: “So far, many of our customers have welcomed the news, and RFQ’s are starting to come in for more complicated parts. These are orders from customers with whom we already have a great reputation for turning out quality components and delivering on time. The good news is that I can now reach out to customers in new industries that required more complex machining capabilities.”

Case Study 2: Automotive Fuel Tank Prototyping In High Polished Clear PMMA for Trade Shows

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In this case, Creation of the animated mock-ups for the technological workshops related to innovative concept of clean diesel, pressurized fuel tanks for plug-in hybrid cars, hydrogen high pressure gas storage system.

As a prototype manufacturing company, Createproto knows the importance of being involved in the design community and technological workshops. Attending and exhibiting at a trade show provides extensive exposure for one’s product builds networks with other businesses and gives inventors the opportunity to be immersed in community of other design creative. We have experience, and enjoy working with all types of technologies that will quickly make your product a reality.

There are various methods of making models, and other processes available that can bring your invention to life. Whether you’ve created a concept model or a fully functional prototype, you have given actuality to your product to assure that your product is marketable to investors and valuable to consumers.