Rapid Prototyping, 3D Printing, PolyJet Technology, FDM Technology, Engineering Services

Using 3D Printing to Quickly Create Your Mold Designs

By John Baham on October 5, 2020

Every day people walk around without realizing just how much mold manufacturing impacts their lives. The mouse being used to navigate around this post was built with molded parts. The shell of your cellphone, the plastic cup you use to get a drink of water and parts of your shades or eyeglasses are made through manufacturing using molds. Manufacturing with metal molds is a large part of today’s manufacturing process, but these aren’t the only kinds of molds that can be beneficial to companies.

Bi Valve MoldMolding has been around for many centuries. There are historical artifacts from 1400-1000 B.C. that have been found that were used to mold spearheads. Commonly used today, bi-valve molds are used when a part can easily be split in two. It is called a bi-valve because the two halves of the mold come together to generate one piece.

Articulated MoldArticulated molds are used when multiple pieces are needed to form the complete mold and then disassembled to release the finished part. They are more expensive than bi-valve molds, but are necessary when the part being made has complex overhangs in the shape.

Rapid Prototyping Your Molds with Stratasys PolyJet and FDM Technologies

3D Printed MoldMold design through traditional methods like casting can be a lengthy and time-consuming process for any type of product and it can slow down, if not halt, your ability to test or move forward with your design. Most molds have at least a six to eight-week turnaround, if not longer, before they will be ready. Depending on the complexity, a 3D printed mold can be made in as little as one or two days. This allows you to print the mold, run a part and test the product in less time than it would take to make the traditional mold without breaking the bank. In most instances, depending on the complexity of the mold, the cost of a 3D printed mold can be massively less than the cost for a traditional mold. The Stratasys PolyJet and FDM technologies provide different alternatives to molding that can help you save time and money.

Molding with PolyJet Technology

Silicone Molding PolyJet 3D printing is similar to inkjet printing, but instead of jetting drops of ink onto paper, the printer lays down layers of curable liquid photopolymers onto a build tray. The printer instantly UV-cures these tiny droplets of liquid photopolymers. Fine layers accumulate on the build tray to create a precise 3D prototype. This process takes only a few hours. After the prototype is finished, any support material that was used can be removed. It should fall away easily with a gentle wash with water. The model is then ready to use with no post-curing needed. 

PolyJet 3D materials such as Agilus 30 provide a realistic rubberized performance and can be blended with Vero materials to produce parts with hardness (or more literally, softness) ranging from a Shore 30A to a Shore 95A. PolyJet is a great replacement for older molding methods with a cost savings of anywhere from 30 to 85 percent. PolyJet patterns have smooth, nearly mold-ready surfaces. They have subtle details that can be transferred to the urethane castings. For high-gloss or clear finishes, a little polishing is all that is needed.

>> Read our blog article, PolyJet 3D Printing for LSR Molding and Soft-Touch Jigs and Fixtures to learn more about the  molding process

Molding with FDM Technology

FDM gum_moldFDM uses thermoplastic polymer materials to create a structure from an initial CAD file converted into .STL format. The materials are in a filament form and one acts as the modeling material and the other as a support material. The process begins with the materials being fed through a nozzle to heat to melting point and is then moved in X, Y and Z directions. The process is repeated layer by layer with cooling in-between layers to bind touching layers until a structure is formed.

With materials such as Specialty ABS, FDM 3D printers produce stable, durable and accurate parts with complex geometries. These parts are easily post-processed to address the surface finish requirements such as glossiness or textures. FDM patterns can
endure the mold-making process. They can withstand the weight of the rubber
and heat from an accelerated curing process. Additionally, the strength of the
FDM material makes it possible to extract complex patterns from the molds
without breaking, which means that patterns can be reused to make
multiple molds.

>> Learn more about using FDM for molding

Outsourcing Rapid Prototyping Services for Molding

TriMech's Project Engineering Group offers different services, including rapid prototyping of molds. We offer the latest printing in FDM and PolyJet and we work with our clients to ensure that the prototype is done with their intent in mind. This will help guide them in the direction of the correct technology for their prototype.

As with any of the services that we offer, we strive to work with our clients to showcase how the rapid prototype molding can help them to reduce costs and time loss with their projects. We have the expertise and experience to work with mold manufacturers to design and perfect the product to ensure our clients are completely satisfied. PEG works hard to provide support to our clients which will result in stronger, more profitable businesses for both our clients and TriMech.

Are you interested in learning more about our engineering services? If so, please reach out to us with your questions and we would be glad to help you with your needs.

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