As a designer in Automotive lighting, you may know that rapid prototype is a key milestone in your design stage before tooling kick off, but do you understand how the prototype work in the project design stage? what is the manufacturing process of prototypes for car lighting lamps? Here in this Article, KUSLA Rapid prototype manufacturer will answer for you.

Introduction of Automotive lighting lamps

Automotive lighting plays a vital role in enhancing safety, aesthetics, and functionality. there are various types of lights that serve different functions and enhance visibility and safety on the road. Which has to achieve the requirements of regulations in different markets.

  • Headlights: Forward-facing lights for visibility.
  • Taillights: Signal lights indicating presence, direction, and braking.
  • Turn Signal Lights: Indicates turning or lane changes.
  • Fog Lights: Improves visibility in foggy conditions.
  • Daytime Running Lights (DRL): Enhances visibility during the day.
  • Interior Lights: Illuminates the vehicle’s interior.

Usually, a lighting lamp is mainly composed of an Out lens, decorated bezel, optic components (reflector, light guide, inner lens), housing, and electronic system with light sources.

Explode view of a car lamp

What is rapid prototype for Automotive lighting lamps

A rapid prototype for automotive lighting lamps is a physical model manufactured for validation test in the design phase of automotive lighting systems. It allows automotive engineers to assess the fit, form, and function of the lamps rapidly, make any necessary improvements before moving to full-scale production.

Rapid prototype for car lighting lamps manufactured by techniques such as CNC machining, 3D Printing, Urethane-casting and then with post surface finishing and assembly.

Types of prototypes for Automotive lighting lamps

There are several kinds of prototypes for different functions of the lamps. Base on that, prototypes will be manufactured by different technologies.

  • lit appearance prototype, also called lit mock up, is used to validate the aesthetics aspect of the lamps from the design both for lit and unlit appearance. Compared with the optic simulation from the software, you will find the defects which not covered in the design and make the modification accordingly.
  • Optic prototype, also called Photometry prototype, which is used to validate optic photometry design through prototype, to ensure that the design is ok for mass production. This prototype requires a high quality of optic components to be same as tooling parts and achieve the part quality requirement from the design such as dimension accuracy, material, reflectivity of reflectors.
  • Prototype for assemble, this is used for assemble process validation to make sure the assemble sequence is easy to operate by workers and machines. so usually no need to be high accuracy, 3D printing is commonly used for this kind of prototypes.
  • Dimension prototype, this prototype is used to simulate the dimension status when the lamp is assembled on car so make sure that good dimension control on the car between each component. CNC aluminum is commonly used for a high-dimension accuracy prototype.
  • Prototypes for show car: which is used for assemble on the show car. Usually request a certain quantity, so silicon mold with Urethane-casting technology commonly used for this kind of prototypes to save cost due to the quantities.

we follow extacly customer non-disclosure requirement , this is very old project picture and we notice customer before post.

Benefits of rapid prototype for Automotive lighting lamps

  • Accelerated Development: Rapid prototypes can help engineers check and validate the design before tooling kick off, make the design change quickly in the design phase which is faster than that after tooling kick off, so it reduce the whole product development time.
  • Cost Savings: with rapid prototypes, manufacturers can identify design issue in the development stage, then make the design change on CAD data, which is a cost saving compare with steel tooling change.
  • Design Validation: Rapid prototypes allow manufacturers to assess the fit, form, and functionality of automotive lighting lamps before full-scale production.
  • Improved Communication: Prototypes can allow team members provide feedback base on the physical part, and then get alignment before going to next step.
  • Reduced Time-to-Market: Rapid prototypes can be show on a public show , this will allow automotive manufacturers to bring their lighting lamps to market faster.

Prototype manufacturing technologies for Automotive lighting

Most of the components of lighting lamps are plastic, so three main machining technologies commonly used for a plastic prototype.  

CNC machining plastic 

CNC plastic prototyping offers high precision and short delivery lead time, usually one to two weeks. CNC machining is ideal for creating appearance prototype for automotive lamps due to its high precision.

Automitive lighting lamp component such sa light pipe or a reflector cup require high-precision machining becasue this optic pillows on this parts is very samll but it is so critical for optic performance, Only CNC machining, especially 5 axis CNC machining, can these demands.

3D printing

3D printing for lamp prototype is used for those plastic components that do not have high strength and high aesthetics requirements due to their technology characters. It offers design flexibility for intricate geometries, accelerates iteration cycles, enables cost-effective solutions.

3D printing is Much cheaper and faster than CNC plastic machining, commonly half of the cost of CNC machining and could be finished in 2 days for lamp prototype components.

Silicon molding for Low volume

Silicon molding is commnly used for low volume production of car lamps due to its simplicity and flexibility. No draft angle need to be consider in silicon molding, so it is a convenient option in rapid tooling.

Urethane casting with silicon molding can dupilicate the surface quality of the Master pattern. so with a CNC machined master pattern, manufacturers can produce high quality prototypes with this method.

Surface finishing

In the later stage of lamp prototype production, deburring, polishing, bonding and painting, metallization and other handmade post-processing work is needed for the final appearance. for example, lamp outer clear lens and optic clear components requires mirror polish on the surface.

Prototype material and technique for each component

Here is a table to show the material used both for design and prototypes and also the common technique used in a real lighting lamp prototype project for lit appearance validation.  

Part NameProduction materialPrototype materialMachining methodComments
LensPC, PMMAPMMACNCPMMA is easy to be high polished to a tooling parts level transparency
BezelPC、PCHT、PBTPC, ABSCNC or 3D printingwhen bezel surface needs to be metallized, 3D printing will be not good option
LightguidePMMA, PCPMMACNCPMMA is easy to be high polished to a tooling parts level transparency
ReflectorPC、BMCPC 、AluminumCNCusually depends on the level of lit appearance requirement to choose PC or Aluminum
HousingPP+T40, ABS/PCABSCNC or 3D printingDepends on the strength requirement to choose CNC or 3D printing technique
Car bodySteelABSCNCPainting to be a same color look as real car


KUSLA Technology founded in Suzhou China is a professional rapid prototypes manufacturer focusing on Auto Lighting rapid prototype Service. As a leading lighting rapid prototypes supplier in China, we provide one-stop service for Auto lighting prototypes Assembly with High quality standard to realize your design intention.

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