Paragon Rapid Technologies Ltd
Paragon Rapid Technologies formed when one of UK’s leading toolmakers decided to withdraw from the rapid prototyping sector, giving the management team the opportunity to realise the businesses full potential. The company name was specifically selected as a statement of intent because we adhere to its dictionary definition ‘A Model of Excellence’.
Partners in the business Phill Adamson and Peter Humphrey have previously worked for the industry's leading companies and have some twenty years experience between them in rapid prototyping. Both were fundamental in establishing the former Styles RPD as Europe’s leading prototype supplier.
Paragon has established itself as one of the market leaders for quality and service in the rapid prototyping industry and has now developed to a 50 strong company with over £3 million annual turnover.
Paragon offer a quality and high value service which we believe is currently lacking in this market due to a shift in focus towards diversification and volume.
We believe it is of the utmost importance to offer a high level of service to customers and actively look to develop future relationships. With considerable investment in new SLA and SLS machinery, as well as the recent opening of a dedicated CNC facility, Paragon's growth strategy goes from strength to strength.
Stereolithography (SLA) models are physical components produced in an epoxy resin from supplied 3D CAD data.
The process involves the curing of photo-reactive, epoxy resin with an ultraviolet laser, layer by layer. Models are built to an accuracy of +/- 0.2mm, typically in layers of 0.1mm thicknesses.
Models can be built up to 500mm x 500mm x 500mm in one piece and larger parts can be built in sections and bonded together.
We have recently added the new "E stage software" which further minimises support structure contact and has improved both the efficiency of the process and the quality of parts.
Our standard WATERSHED XC epoxy resin allows the functionality for clip features etc but is also robust enough for fitting and evaluation, whilst also displaying good transparency.
Excellent optical clarity can be achieved when polished, making this material ideal for lens evaluation models or for fluid flow analysis etc.
Somos 9420 is a white epoxy resin with excellent strength and mechanical properties. It has very similar characteristics to PP/ABS and has always proven very popular with many of the product designers we work with, because it does have the feel of a moulded component.
ProtoGen 18920 is a grey epoxy resin with good thermal stability up to 97°c and allows really good, crisp definition. We regularly use this material to produce tooling elements for our in-house silicone moulding process.
Typically SL models are produced as master patterns for silicone tooling and vacuum castings, but models can be supplied in a raw state with blasted finish or can be sanded or painted to match specific colour and surface finish requirements or lacquered to provide a transparent model.
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) allows the production of components direct from supplied 3D CAD data, typically in a Nylon.
The process involves the fusing of nylon particles layer by layer to create a durable, functional component with excellent mechanical properties. Although this process is used heavily for prototyping it is now becoming more prevalent in low volume manufacture with many complex components being designed specifically for additive manufacture particularly in areas such as motorsport and aerospace. The SLS process is a very cost effective solution for small robust parts in nylon and a single build platform can accommodate several hundreds of components.
Both of our 3D Systems HiQ 2500 Sinterstations each have a build envelope of 330mm x 380mm x 457mm and build in layer increments of 0.1mm.
Larger parts are regularly built in sections and bonded together or if it is necessary to build in one piece, can often be sourced through our approved supply chain
Parts can be produced in white Nylon 12 PA650 or PA615-GS (Glass Filled)
Nylon parts can be sealed and fully finished to improve the fit and function of the models but also to achieve a more visually representative component.
We can offer extensive CNC machining solutions to fulfil most requirements for concept models, prototype parts and low volume production components.
Complex parts can be machined from a wide range of composites, plastics and metals with additional options for wire and spark eroding where necessary.
The CNC process is ideally suited to the manufacture of lenses, light guides and large transparent point of sale units etc as we can machine parts from clear acrylic with a vapour polished finish, achieving the ultimate optical clarity.
We also utilise CNC for the production of large master patterns for both the vacuum casting and RIM moulding processes, at times allowing a more cost effective solution than some of the laser processes.
The recent opening of a second site dedicated to CNC Machining underpins its commitment to this service offering.
For higher volume requirements of 50 up to several hundred, we offer RIM (Reaction Injection Moulding) solutions. This process is the moulding of PU components through a low pressure injection system. One of the main benefits is that the tooling can be tailored to suit the project and we have a combination of solutions available which are determined by the complexity and the quantity of parts required.
We produce tools from reinforced silicone, grp, epoxy or machined from composite materials.
All of our tooling processes offer good surface finish and part accuracy and also allow the overmoulding of threaded inserts or support substrates etc.
Although the RIM process can often produce up to 1000 mouldings from a tool, we've found through experience that it's really only cost effective up to about 300 units, before considering injection mould tools, but this does vary across projects.
It's ideal for high value, niche products or for initial product launch to test the market before committing to full production tooling.
Using the vacuum casting process we successfully simulate two shot injection moulding.
Excellent results have been achieved by moulding elastomer materials onto rigid plastic components for applications such as razor handles, rubber shrouds and robust electronic enclosures.
The process can also be used to produce split colour components such as automotive lenses, where both elements are cast in the same material but in different colours.
Components such as metal fixtures and fittings, threaded brass inserts, electrical contacts and metal substrates can all be encapsulated into the vacuum castings to give additional strength and functionality.
These over-moulding techniques can also be applied to our silicone moulding process allowing us to manufacture components with integral silicone seals or produce silicone components with embedded electronics or mechanical substrates.
More recently we have supplied silicone aero gaiters with encapsulated carbon fibre substrates to a number of F1 teams for both testing and race use.
Our versatility lies within our staff and their skill and experience. We regularly call upon their more traditional skills to combine with our state of the art technologies to produce complex, scaled, exhibition, display and architectural models. We have found that processes such as Stereolithography and Selective Laser Sintering can give very quick, accurate and cost effective solutions for producing some of the more complicated and organic geometries, but when brought together by our modelmakers with more traditional machining, fabricating and casting processes it allows a flexible solution for almost any kind of exhibition modelling.
We have created everything from transparent acrylic assemblies to complex cut-away turbine models, blue foam concepts, to fully painted scale replicas, architectural site models to TV props.
Models can be scaled up to demonstrate a very small component or alternatively scaled down to illustrate a very large product or architectural site.
Many of the models we produce are simply replicas of the original but at a fraction of the weight allowing for easier handling and transportation. Therefore it is important that we can create specific surface finishes such as cast steel or brushed aluminium to make the models look real or authentic.
Graphics can also be applied to represent screen or tampo printing, creating product branding control legends, etc.
With our team of fully qualified model makers, We offer a comprehensive finishing, painting and texturing service. Attention to detail at an early stage ensures high quality levels are achieved every time. To ensure technical compliance project ownership is a must.
We can supply models with any surface finish from basic to smooth to different grades of sparks and all the way to glossed and highly polished for any project requirement. A range of etched surface finishes can also be applied to simulate leather, wood grain or some of the more contemporary, geometric patterns found in the latest automotive interiors. Our fully finished Stereolithography Models are typically used as master patterns for silicone tooling and vacuum casting, but are equally suitable as a one off model for marketing or exhibition purposes. The models can be painted with intended production colours and textures and we can even produce text and graphic details from 2D artwork which can be applied to the finished prototypes.
Paragon is uniquely placed to offer a high quality prototype silicone service.
Using a combination of Stereolithography, CNC cut ureol, aluminium, epoxy and Polyurethane tools we can mould or vacuum cast silicone rubber components for prototype, pre production samples and low volume production.
We have invested in a dedicated department for the manufacture and on-going development of silicone components.
Keymats for mobile phones and remote controls, baby products, respirator masks, seals, gaskets, gland valves, gaiters and even prosthetics are just a few applications where this service proves invaluable.
We offer a range of silicones from 10 shoreA to 70 shoreA and pigmentation is also available. Keymats can be produced, incorporating carbon pills for use in electronic assemblies. Silicone parts can be produced in multiple shots to create colour breaks and in addition silicones can be overmoulded over polyurethane, composite or machined substrates for such products as hand grips, baby soothers, medical devices and motorsport components.
Paragon's vacuum casting service offers you the opportunity to have production intent components for the development stage. Using an unrivalled range of rigid and elastomeric polyurethane resins we can replicate virtually any production material, including polypropylene, polycarbonate, ABS, nylon and rubbers.
Vacuum castings are produced from silicone rubber tools, which exactly replicate the geometry and surface detail of the SL master models. The typical expected yield from a silicone tool is for 20-25 castings, though this is dependant upon part complexity and material choice.
Vacuum castings can be used for fit and function testing, marketing and sales aids for new products or as a low volume production alternative.
New products added to the range include a glass filled material to simulate glass filled nylon and a UV stable crystal clear material that has superb optical properties for lens and light guide production. Also a new comprehensive range of clear rubber materials from 42 shoreA up to 90 shoreA is now available, allowing accurate colour matching of rubber components or elastomeric overmoulding, which has previously been limited by the base colours of the resins.
Our in house colour mixing facility provides the opportunity to pigment the materials to Pantone, RAL or BS references or individually mixed to match swatches and corporate colours. This also applies to the colouration or tinting of clear parts to varying depths of translucency. Subsequent castings will closely represent the colour, surface finish and mechanical properties of the intended production parts. Recent additions to our pigment range include pearlescent and "day-glow" colours, ideal for replicating, safety equipment etc.
At Paragon we pride ourselves with the quality and innovation of our Rapid Prototyping solutions, but our focus is on fulfilling and exceeding all of our customer’s requirements and supporting them with their route to market.
Once the development phase is nearing completion and designs are finalised, following prototype production, we are often asked to provide either low volume solutions or a bridge to production. Typically this will be either to test the market with a new product or to launch a high value, niche product. We can offer a range of solutions to this end, but the key benefit is that the initial tooling costs are significantly lower than high volume production processes. Subsequently production parts can be manufactured quickly and with a lower investment allowing a quick route to market and the opportunity to make a financial return, helping to avoid cash flow issues.
Rapid Prototyping materials have advanced significantly over recent years and now offer enough stability and functionality to be used for low volume manufacture.
The solutions we offer at Paragon are tailored to each specific project depending upon the required mechanical properties and the production volumes and include SLS, Vacuum Casting, RIM Moulding, Silicone Moulding and outsourced Injection Moulding for higher volumes.
Inevitably there is always a balance between the processes mentioned above and the justification of aluminium or steel production tools, but for low volume manufacture, these routes are not only quick and cost effective but they also allow easy tool modification, giving the luxury of on-going product development during early production.