At some point 3D printing technology will evolve far enough that it can eliminate the need for traditional manufacturing processes like injection molding. Not only would this allow consumers to produce and customize products in their own homes or at nearby local micro factories, but it would reduce the waste and pollution often associated with mass production. That being said, realistically we are still decades away from that being attainable on a large scale. The fact is, injection molding is still significantly faster, more efficient and less expensive than additive manufacturing. But by no means does that mean that additive manufacturing technology doesn’t have a major role to play in making that already efficient process more efficient.
This week Ohio-based plastics manufacturing equipment distributor Milacron announced a new partnership with metal additive manufacturing pioneer Linear AMS to produce a new state of the art process to create more efficient molds for injection manufacturing. The DME TruCool line of conformal cooling products allows the creation of highly customized molds that can be optimized to dramatically reduce cooling time and molding errors. The TruCool molds will reduce waste, speed up production time and productivity throughout the molding industry and offer a greater complexity in mold production.
“We build the unmachineable! The Conformal Cooling solution places cooling channels at the optimal distance from the mold surface, consistently following the geometric shape of any mold insert for any customer part, allowing the mold to maintain a targeted, consistent temperature that allows for complete thermal control with cooling times reduced up to 100 percent. This technology also allows for conformal venting solutions for those hard to reach areas of trapped gases, when requested by the molder,” said DME Product Manager David Baucus.
Using 3D CAD modeling and Finite Element Analysis (FEA) software, the DME team can generate molds that include optimized cooling channels and even individual insert temperature controls. With Linear AMS’ state of the art direct metal laser melting (DMLM) process, the TruCool molds can be 3D printed with highly precise cooling channels in a wide range of geometries far too complex for traditional manufacturing and tooling techniques. These optimized cooling channels allow for the even distribution of part cooling regardless of the shape or geometry of the mold. By using DMLM technology rather than the more commonly used direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) process, the final DME TruCool molds will be significantly stronger and denser. That means the molds can be made lighter and lead to improved reliability and reduced mold failure.
“Conventional mold cooling has remained largely unchanged for decades. DME’s partnership with Linear AMS is a huge step forward for the industry. Our real world, in-field results show a significantly reduced total cycle time – between 15 and 60 percent depending on part complexity, shortening the time needed to run the part and improving part quality. That’s a significant cost savings every molder would be interested in. Likewise, OEM/product designers will benefit from the technology as it broadens the scope of part design allowing for advancements in plastic part production and application use,” explained DME President Peter Smith.
By combining new additive manufacturing technology with traditional manufacturing technology, moldmakers can dramatically improve the efficiency of their injection molding processes. The TruCool Conformal Cooling solutions will reduce production cycle time, offer complete control over the distribution of heat and cooling during the molding process and reduce wasted material. The new molds will also lead to improved individual part quality and a greater flexibility in mold design. Manufacturing may not yet be able to use 3D printing to produce all of our consumer and industrial products, but it can still use it to make higher quality products faster for less money. Discuss in the Milacron Linear AMS forum at 3DPB.com.