Concept Design & Prototype Flexible Heaters
Polyimide flexible heaters that we manufacture are built to custom specifications to each application that we work on with individual customers. The challenge with custom build-to-print parts, such as etched foil heaters, is that it is difficult and costly to get small quantities of many different options to help the engineering department prove out their concept and provide working prototypes of the product.
The purpose of this page is to define the different types of small quantities prototype and production options available to engineers who need to incorporate all the benefits of a flexible heater in your end product.
Prototyping and small quantities are typically used for several reasons but are mostly defined by the following.
Concept Flexible Heater Prototypes
When you are doing your initial needs assessment and concept research. The parts are needed quickly for concept prototypes, which can give the designer confirmation (or otherwise) that the design works. Typically, this is a challenge as polyimide flexible heaters are typically made on 12” x 18” sheets of laminate and many manufacturers have minimum order quantities and high tooling charges to build parts.
At this stage however, we can give you a ballpark price for the production quantities that you think you will need in order to determine if the program is economically feasible.
- Polyimide Flexible Heater Sample Kit: This kit has 15 different samples that come in all sizes and wattages so that you can try many different configurations in order to prove out the design. You can purchase our sample kit online, as these are always in stock and ready ship the next day.
- OMEGA Engineering: This company has over 500 different unique flex heater types in stock at any one time. Square, rectangle, round, with or without adhesive, and many more options for you to choose from and you can order them as little as 1 piece at a time. This gives you the flexibility to try many different variations of size, shape, voltage, and watt density to precisely tune in your product design. Visit www.omega.com for more information on flexible heaters.
Presentation or Display Prototype Flex Heaters
These are usually finished to look like the final product or part but are manufactured using soft tooling in order to minimize the expense as there are usually changes made prior to the final part being developed.
At this stage, we will help the customer develop a drawing that has all the custom features that the customer will need for their end product. These can include custom shapes, sizes, thermistors, custom adhesives, and many others.
Once a drawing and a BOM (bill of materials) is created, we can then manufacture a small number of parts that will have all the needed customization. They will be more expensive than the production parts as we will use a laser cutter to depanelize the flex heaters from the laminate versus the low-cost steel rule die method that will be used in production.
Lead time on these can be 3-4 weeks and the tooling is usually less than $200.
Functional or Testing Prototype Flex Heaters
If the final product must exhibit certain properties (e.g. heat resistance) prototypes can be produced using the exact processes and materials that will be used when the parts go into production. This is usually completed when customers take their final product into certification testing (UL, FDA, IEC, etc.) whereby once they get the approval from that body, they cannot change out the flexible heater without having to go back through some type of testing.
At this point, the drawing and BOM have been finalized all the way down to the approved manufactures of the materials on the BOM. We can now provide you with a final production price, and we will produce all the custom tooling required to manufacture these parts in a production environment.
Lead time is usually 2-3 weeks for the production tooling and then 3-4 for the manufacturing of the flexible polyimide heater.
Tooling costs can vary from $200 to $2,000 depending upon the design of the flexible heater.
This final category is produced using standard manufacturing processes developed above to assess how you will best manage these components as part of your manufacturing process. Typically, these flexible heaters are supplied in individual pieces, but they need to be managed properly in the manufacturing process; if they are mishandled, it can lead to malfunction of the heater.
Lead time for these is 3-4 weeks depending upon the quantity needed.
Incorporate Flexible Polyimide Heaters Into Your Design
The best way to incorporate flexible polyimide heaters into your design is to try and use off-the-shelf parts to prove out your design and then work with a company like Epec to create the documentation and manufacture a first-class custom part to put in your application.