3D Printing for Low-Volume Tooling
With the right material, 3D printed molds can withstand the steam and chemical exposure required for polystyrene molds. As an alternative to traditional machining, 3D printing molds directly from CAD data saves time and cost while maintaining accuracy.
EPS Polystyrene Molds
PPSF withstands high temperatures to manufacture helmet liners.
Gentex requires EPS (expanded polystyrene) parts in different shapes, sizes and densities to manufacture helmets. The EPS parts are typically manufactured in low–volume production runs, making traditional aluminum molds costly and inefficient. The molding process employs pentene gas and steam, so a durable material was required. Also, the PPSF parts had to be accurate to minimize post process machining, to fi t into the molding press precisely, and to produce accurate EPS parts that would fit the final helmet product.
Three separate builds were required – a cavity, core and frontal insert. Sizes were 14.8 x 13.4 x 7.8 inches for the cavity and core, and 10 x 4.1 x 3.2 inches for the insert. Fortus PPSF material was selected because of the application temperature (250°F), chemical resistance and abrasion resistance.
A high–temperature primer paint was used to fill in “stepped” spots on the parts. This allowed sanding and kept the PPSF part dimensions intact, preserving the overall accuracy of the part.
When Gentex received the mold pieces, they drilled and press–fit approximately 20 stainless steel vents into each mold half. The average out–of–tolerance measurement was 0.006 inches, which exceeded the demands of this application.
The mold pieces were also cycled through an autoclave system to test the PPSF material for future tooling processes. Again, the PPSF withstood the temperature and pressure without distortion.
Gentex saved $3,360 to $6,360 per mold assembly and shaved four weeks off the manufacturing process, compared to traditional CNC aluminum molds. Material selection, build envelope size, part accuracy and durability were key factors in choosing FDM. The ease of design iterations and flexibility for tooling design allowed for future projects.
Tools Without Tooling
3D printed tools, molds and tool masters add a new layer of cost efficiency and flexibility to the factory floor. Not only can you cost-effectively produce tools for prototype testing and manufacturing low volumes of final parts, you can create made-to-order assembly tools customized for each task. In addition, you can create a leaner manufacturing environment, enabling quick production of tools, when and where they’re needed to speed the manufacturing process and reduce costs.
Optimized assembly tools, made to order
Improve manufacturing efficiency with job-specific jigs and assembly fixtures, 3D printed on demand in just hours. 3D printing tools directly from CAD data, on-demand, saves time, lowers costs and reduces inventory requirements. In addition, you can easily create customized lightweight, ergonomic tools that increase workflow efficiency.
3D printed Injection molds
Imagine producing injection molds without costly CNC tools. With Stratasys thermoplastics and photopolymers, you can quickly 3D print injection molds to evaluate prototype parts or produce low volumes of end use parts. This is especially useful to test the design, fit and function of products before mass production. If changes are required, new mold iterations can be 3D printed in just a few hours at minimal cost.
3D print customized, low volume durable parts with fine details and smooth surface finishes
Stratasys additive manufacturing enables you to 3D print strong, functional final parts on demand directly from CAD data. Because the part is created digitally layer by layer, complex geometries and sophisticated features that would be difficult to produce using traditional manufacturing methods are now easily achieved with Stratasys additive manufacturing. Producing end use parts with Stratasys technology not only dramatically reduces your production costs and delivery times, it also reduces inventory while creating exciting new supply chain efficiencies and new business models.