How Often you use 3D prints in designing thermoform trays?

Hi There,
Just a quick question. What is your method in designing vacuum form trays for sampling before production when you have final CAD?

Do you create a 3D print to check then send to factory?


Do you send the factory an assembly file with products inside for them to make a plaster mold and sample and not use a 3D print?


For first prototypes I prefer to either do it myself for cost- and time-effectiveness and use a basic vacuum former such as FormBox and a 3D printer for the mold. Or hire a local service with the advantages of easier communication and fast shipping so quick iterations are possible. Only after approval of the design I will have the factory make a first production prototype.

Does anyone here believe that measuring the physical sample or having a CAD file of the product in the CAD assembly should be enough to produce a sample from the factory simply by looking at the tolerances?

Or You think it is best to make a 3D print anyways to check?

Say a pretty complicated product like a gaming joystick with other elements in the tray.

I think in general, it always benefits to have a physical model, even if it might be a first article from the factory. Until we have completely immersive VR, I’d stick to physical as much as possible.

Running in to this question at work. I feel physical samples are better development wants me to approve just from CAD. I find it quite hard to approve just from CAD. There are aspects that are hard to take in to account just by referencing CAD. One important aspect is does the object seem to big. Very hard to tell just with CAD measurements and no physical object to reference. I am in the camp that believes that more 3d Prints the better to a point. I don’t want to get in design lock because we have made so many prints that no one can decided on the best one. But right now we are only on are 3rd print and I think that is a reasonable number to still make another just to be sure we have everything the way we won’t before dropping the big bucks on tooling.

In the past we have designed the tool in CAD using the CAD models. THen we run an RP of the part and pull vac form pieces. If things are not fitting then you make tweaks on the tool and then on the CAD and do again.