An innovative new service from OGM, a leading UK injection moulding specialist, has been introduced to reduce the lead-time for producing mould tooling by up to 50%. Based on the combination of conventional subtractive machining and the latest additive manufacturing processes, to form a hybrid technology, the new Rapid Production Mould Tools (RPMT) service will help both to compress lead-times and enhance still further the quality and finish of most types of mould tool inserts.
Mould tool inserts have traditionally been manufactured using conventional CNC machining techniques. Although these produce high-quality inserts, the production time, especially for complex tooling, can be lengthy, the ability to create intricate shapes is limited and the costs are relatively high. In an effort to drive down tooling cost, many companies in recent years have outsourced production to the Far East, in the knowledge that there is then a trade-off in even longer lead-times and potential quality issues. Typically, the lead time for a new tool set can be between 12 and 14 weeks.
By comparison, the hybrid RPMT technology can reduce lead times to between 4 and 6 weeks. This has been achieved by using standard modular tool components, such as bolsters, blank inserts and ejector sets, which are then CNC machined and drilled to create a substructure with the appropriate cooling channels and fixtures to match the characteristics of each injection moulding machine. OGM then uses an advanced direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) system, to build custom designed mould inserts onto the standard tool base.
The DMLS technology incorporates an automatic milling capability for fine finishing of each design as it is sintered layer by layer. This allows extremely complex mould shapes to be built and finished in a matter of hours, and produces an exceptionally high-quality surface finish. The process can be carried out using a variety of materials, including steel, stainless steel and Inconel, to create tool sets capable of withstanding extended use. It can also be used to repair or modify tool inserts quickly and efficiently.
Paul Wightman, Managing Director of OGM, explains, “By taking this hybrid approach to the challenge of mould tool production, we are able to help customers compress lead times and produce a new generation of high quality, complex inserts that give them increased design freedom.
“Perhaps as importantly, the significant investment we have made in new DMLS technology means that we are able to offer a service that is both quick and competitive. This means that companies no longer need to offshore tool production – we can now do this faster, better and at similar costs here in the UK.”