3D Printed Cavities are a True Prototype Mold
3D Printing creates fit & function parts in hours. We also now are making 3D printed molds for short run prototyping. fit & function from 3D printing is great but even better is understanding quickly how well the design works in an injection molding process using production materials in injection molding equipment. This is where Phoenix Proto is bridging the gap between 3D printing & injection molding & tooling.
Rapid Prototyping More Options = 3D Printing
Phoenix Proto purchased a 3D printer to offer more options to our clients prototyping needs. Many of our clients require prototypes that prove out their designs by the fit & function, and an Aluminum Tool can create more production parts than they need. Aluminum Tools if we know on the front of the program can run up to a million shots of unfilled resin.
Depending on the resin and part geometry, 3D printed molds are well suited for about 100 shots in general. This is especially useful for prototypes, which can now be created on site in just hours, from mold design to final test product. From what our client’s designers learn and our mold makers learn from the process, we can go straight into Aluminum Tooling to prove out the design and create production quality parts. Depending upon the number of parts required, the Aluminum Tool is generally sufficient to fulfill those requirements.
We have taken 3D printing for fit and function to the next level. Prototypes are wonderful tools but if you do not learn from them the next step into production can be rather painful. Unfortunately we have had so many clients come back to us to run production quality parts off of the Aluminum bridge tools we created as their “Production Tooling”. On occasion, P20 or other hardened steels molds don’t perform with the same level of quality that Aluminum tooling does.
The Rapid Prototyping Dilemma = 3D Printing
We started seeing more and more clients using 3D printing and not learning anything from the process. Here were clients looking for fit and function with the exact thermoplastic resin needed for production, yet once they got to that point… recreating it in the production process was quite another thing.
It was like Aluminum tooling all over again. So we were advocates of building Aluminum Tooling for their prototypes, so they could validate their design and go into the production process.
The Rapid Prototyping Solution = 3D Printing + Injection Molds
To help these clients, we are now building 3D printed molds. Yes we are! We can quickly create custom injection molds that produce low volumes of parts in the final production plastic material required. They are fitted with everything a traditional mold is fitted with… water lines, cam slides, etc. 3D printed molds are far less costly than a traditional steel mold or Aluminum tool. They are perfect for 100 or less prototypes, depending on the exact grade of resin. The information that’s learned on how the design worked using the normal plastic injection molding process, allows the customer to confirm their design with the chosen production resin.
What was learned from the 3D Mold injection molding process can be tweaked into an Aluminum Tool for perfecting the production process. Aluminum Molds are perfect for several hundred thousand to a Million + shots depending upon the resin. So the term “Production” is very subjective when it comes to Aluminum Molds.
Contact us today to see how we can “bridge the gap” from your prototype to production needs.