Injection molding is an essential manufacturing process used to make many plastic components. Everyday we are surrounded by products fabricated with injection molds. The traditional injection molding process shoots molten plastic into a metal mold cavity to create plastic parts out of an assortment of different plastics. The molds used in this process are machined from metal, a process that depending upon the mold can be very labor intensive and expensive.
Stratasys PolyJet technology offers a new and fast approach to the mold making process and has the capability to produce prototype molds out of an ABS-Like photopolymer at a fraction of the cost. Molds produced with PolyJet are a great fit for prototype materials that cannot be machined such as elastomers, as well as bridge to production tooling.
Diversified Plastics, a Minneapolis-based injection molding company, has adopted PolyJet technology to produce prototype molds for customers. Prior to using printed PolyJet molds, Diversified Plastics used aluminum and P20 steel to create prototype molds for customers. Annette Lund, the vice president of Diversified Plastics, found that the Objet260 Connex system delivered high quality prototype molds faster and cheaper than traditional prototype tooling. As Lund says “By being able to print the mold components, we can supply our customers with prototypes in a matter of days rather than weeks – and it’s actually less expensive.” In addition to speed printing, molds also allow more flexibility in the design process. “They are able to use these parts to test out their design concept early in the product development process and determine if the design is going to work.”
Another device manufacturer, Whale Pumps, has had similar success in its implementation of PolyJet technology. Located in Northern Ireland, Wale Pumps manufactures a variety of pumping and heating systems. Before using PolyJet technology, they relied heavily on traditional machining processes to create metal mold cavities. This was especially troublesome for Wale Pumps because the service bureaus that created their prototypes were located in China. As a result. R&D at Wale Pumps was costly and slow, leading to delays in bringing new products to market.
Whale Pumps decided to invest in PolyJet technology to speed up their R&D by enabling design engineers to print multi-material and multi-colored parts. For them the impact of having access to the technology in-house was immediate. As Patrick Hurst, a manager at Whale, explains “Literally a week after we received the machine, it was being fully utilized. Then, because of the overwhelming demand, we bought another Stratasys 3D printer a few months later.” As designers and engineers became more familiar with the capabilities of PolyJet technology, they found more ways to utilize it to make tooling for injection molding. Hurst understands that using PolyJet has positively affected the way Whale Pumps operates, “With our Stratasys 3D Printer, we are now able to design our tools during the day, 3D print them overnight and test them the next morning using a range of end-product materials. The resulting time and cost savings are game changers for our business.”
So as you can see, the development of new applications like PolyJet injection molding is a great example of how new technology and materials developed by Stratasys continue to offer new ways to leverage the power behind Additive Manufacturing.