Speeding Up Prototyping with 3D Printed Injection Molds

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3D printing is a wonderful technology on its own, but it’s also extremely effective when combined with other manufacturing methods, like injection molding. 3D printing molds for injection molding, rather than creating them in the traditional multi-step manner, saves time, allowing manufacturers to get their products to market more quickly. Every manufacturing company has to struggle to remain competitive in such a packed, fast-moving industry, and one of the ways to do so is to be the first to put out a new product. This is even more difficult for the manufacturers of electrical products, as international standards and certification requirements result in long certification processes for their parts, which must be prototyped using final materials.

One way for these companies to get to market faster is to speed up the prototyping process, and one way to do that is to produce the molds for injection molding using 3D printing. Schneider Electric is one company doing this. The company utilizes its Openlab to support product development.

“Our goal is to use cutting-edge technologies to shorten the product development cycle,” said Frédérick Choupin of Schneider Electric. “With 3D printing and agile project management, we’re in a position to overcome the traditional obstacles of long-established processes and market an innovative product 60% faster.”

Openlab has been working for over a year with Prodways and the Platinium 3D platform to incorporate Prodways’ MOVINGLight technology into the development cycle of its electrical components to 3D print plastic injection molds. Nearly 25 tooling molds were 3D printed using the technology; as a result, hundreds of parts could be injected on an injection molding machine under manufacturing conditions that resulted in parts that matched the final shape and complied with the certification prerequisites with the correct polymer grade.

“Typically, producing an aluminum mold for tooling prototypes of parts that need to be certified as final material has a lead time that can range from several weeks to two months, and that drastically slows down the development cycle,” said Sébastien Guenet, Deputy Executive Officer of UIMM Champagne-Ardenne (Champagne-Ardenne Union of Metallurgies Industries), Platinium 3D. “With 3D printing, we can produce tooling prototypes in a few hours, modify them immediately based on the needs of the functional tests and then inject final material parts. These final material parts are sent directly for certification while the aluminum mold is still being produced. Thanks to this process, we considerably speed up the new-product development cycle since the final material parts are already certified even before the aluminum production mold is finalized.”

Prodways’ 3D printing materials feature high mechanical and heat resistance, allowing Openlab and Platinium 3D to inject charged and nonflammable polyamide parts. Glass-charged polyamide is one of the most commonly used materials for technical components that require high heat resistance.

Working together, Prodways, Platinium 3D and Openlab by Schneider Electric are changing the way that electrical products are prototyped, making the process faster and simpler and ensuring that Schneider Electric can certify its parts and get them to market more quickly.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts in the comments below.

[Source: Prodways]

 

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