A revolution in toolmaking technology is driving up the quality and speed of manufacture of injection mould tools that produce plastic parts. At the heart of this revolution is the way additive and subtractive equipment work together in an integrated process.
Mould tools incorporate cooling channels to prevent distortion in the moulds they form. These so-called ‘conformal channels’ enable cooling water to be directed close to the surface of the injection mould tool to optimise cycle times and the quality of finished parts.
This forces moulders into a difficult trade-off. Either accept higher levels of distortion or slow the production process to allow the part to cool in the mould for longer, increasing the overall cycle time, damaging productivity and driving up part costs.
Hybrid metal additive manufacturing solution
There is, however, a solution, which is based on a new hybrid metal additive manufacturing and machining technology. The resulting conformal cooled inserts can incorporate complex curved, shaped or spiral cooling channels that are easily formed in small, narrow or awkwardly-shaped inserts.
This allows the creation of a new generation of mould tools, with consistent and accurate cooling across the entire forming area. It also eliminates many of the problems of distortion and poor part quality traditionally associated with inefficient cooling.
Benefits of hybrid technology
ConformL Cool hybrid machines combine laser sintering and milling in a single process to manufacture injection mould tools quickly and accurately, with conformal cooling channels, in an integrated build process.
But the benefits don’t stop there:
- Injection mould tools are often manufactured in the Far East to drive down cost, but it typically takes between 12 and 14 weeks before they are available for use in the UK. Using a hybrid machine locally can cut these lead times in half.
- The ability to build complete mould tools with complex cooling channel geometries and designs in a one-hit automated process also helps shorten design-to-part lead times.
- Hybrid machines allow mould tool parts to be built in a range of metals, with conformal cooling channels printed in complex circular shapes that accurately follow the profile of the tool surface.
- The hybrid manufacturing process allows better control of fluid flow within the channels themselves. Special features encourage turbulent flow to increase heat extraction while maintaining a smooth surface finish within the channel to prevent blockages caused by mould growth or trapped debris.
- Applying ConformL Cool technology in production applications allows cycle time reductions of up to 20% and dramatically reduces defect rates on challenging parts.
To find out how OGM can help you with your next project, contact us now.