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Many 3D printing supporters claim that 3D printing is a good alternative to injection molding that requires mold opening. Is it real? Now let's see what your opinions are like?
Additive manufacturing (as we all know 3D printing) has had a huge impact on manufacturing. Those hand pieces that previously cost hundreds of dollars for weeks can now be designed and printed in the evening and delivered to customers in the morning. Some companies are already using 3D printing to make injection molds. It no longer takes months to wait for the manufacture of molds that can be used for production, or because of downstream design changes that result in a significant amount of money being used to modify mold or production site uncertainty. Whether it is mold verification or injection small batch production, molds can be quickly 3D printed. If the mold has problems or needs to modify the design, print a copy and repeat verification or production. Correct?
These arguments have some truth. The plastic 3D printing mold is a bit like the plastic shed in our backyard. It is cheaper than the metal shed. The plastic shed is quickly built and performs well under low loads. But if there is too much snow, they will break in. The 3D printing mold has its own seat on the land, and some enterprises have been more successful in the application of the 3D printing mold. Proponents say that 3D printed molds are 90% faster and 70% cheaper than traditional mold processing. This may be correct in some cases, but it is important to understand the advantages / disadvantages of metal molds on 3D printed plastic molds. ] Real Molds, a real rapid manufacturing company ProtoLabs has been producing rapid mold injection parts since 1999. It provides molds for manufacturing parts for engineering plastics, metals, liquid silicone (LSR) and other materials. The mold is mainly made of aluminum (sometimes steel), which can process thousands to thousands of parts, and the delivery time is 1-15 days.
Its industrial-grade 3D printing services include light curing (SLA), selective laser sintering (SLS) and direct metal laser sintering (DMLS). Printable materials include thermoplastic analogs such as polypropylene and ABS, industrial grade nylon and metals such as stainless steel, aluminum alloys, and titanium alloys. Since there is such a wide range of processing capabilities, why not print the molds, but process the molds? Mold makers beware ProtoLabs engineers have been thinking about playing but after 16 years of rapid mold business, some reasons still force them to insist on a reliable rapid injection molding process: Surface quality: 3D printing process parts one layer at a time, which will lead to step effects on the product surface. Directly printed dies have similar problems, and later need to be machined or sandblasted to eliminate these tiny toothed edges. In addition, holes smaller than 1 mm must be drilled, larger holes need to be enlarged or drilled, and threaded features need to be tapped or milled.
These secondary treatments greatly reduce the speed advantage of 3D printing molds. Dimension: If you want to design a skateboard or plastic toolbox, 3D printed molds may be fine. Part size is limited to 10 cubic inches (164 cubic centimeters), which is about the size of a grapefruit. Despite the high accuracy of current additive equipment, it still cannot be compared with machining centers and EDM equipment. The accuracy of the latter processing cavity is usually ± 0.003 inches (0.076mm), the volume of parts can reach 59 cubic inches, and the volume of 3D printed parts is about 6 times.
High temperature environment: In order to ensure good material flow properties, the injection mold needs to be heated to a very high temperature. Aluminum and steel molds typically experience temperatures of 500 ° F (260 ° C) or higher, especially in the processing of high temperature plastics such as PEEK and PEI (Ultem). Thousands of parts can be easily produced using these metal molds, or they can be used as transition molds before the final production molds come out. Mold materials made using SLA or similar 3D printing processes are usually photosensitive or thermosetting resins cured by UV or laser. Although these plastic molds are hard, they are quickly destroyed under the thermal cycling conditions of injection molding. In fact, 3D printed molds often fail within 100 cycles under mild conditions, such as high temperature plastics such as polyethylene and / or styrene. For glass-filled polycarbonate and high-temperature plastics, some parts can even be produced.
Comparative cost: A great use of 3D printing molds is its low cost. Production-grade machining dies typically cost $ 20,000 or more, which means they can compete with $ 1,000 printing dies. However, this metaphor is unfair. The evaluation of printing molds usually only considers material consumption, not labor, assembly and installation, spray system and hardware. For example, ProtoLabsd aluminum alloy molds cost $ 1,500 for production. What if you need to produce more parts? With 3D printed molds, you need to reprint 50-100 products and assemble machines to test new molds. On the other hand, no matter what plastic is used, aluminum molds are usually well maintained to produce 10,000 parts.