Last Updated on February 15, 2023 by Leizi
If you get any plan on creating small batch prototypes, 3D printing and CNC machining will be ideal choices. You will probably get the prototypes within days.
As for medium-scale production projects, if you choose the traditional method of forming molds, you will probably need to spend a lot of money and wait for several months to complete it. At the same time, rapid tooling can meet you needs on the efficiency and quality of the project. It is an essential step for injection molding.
This article will start from the production process of rapid tooling, the selection of materials, and its advantages and disadvantages.
1. What is the production process of rapid tooling?
There are two types of methods are used to make molds: metal laser sintering and conventional machining.
Metal Laser Sintering
The first one is to make the mold by “sintering” the metal with a laser beam to fuse it into a solvent. It can create complex molds in a short time, but the disadvantage is that it can not create molds with tight tolerances and obtain precise volumes .
CNC Machining and EDM Machining
The second way is traditional processing. Generally speaking, the processing methods commonly used to make rapid molds include CNC machining and EDM machining. CNC machining is often applied to make high-precision metal molds by removing excess metal materials with custom cutters, and its maximum tolerance can reach ±0.001mm. But the machining cutters also have certain limitations. For example, it cannot use round tools to cut square corners.
In this case, we will choose EDM processing to finish it. The extra metal material will be removded by corroding by electric sparks. No matter how complex the geometry of the mold is, we can apply EDM machining to make it.
After machining, there are may some marks left on the surface of the metal molds. It’s necessary step to keep their surface clean and smooth. Thus, the craftsmann would apply custom tools to remove these marks carefully.
The surface of some mold parts or thimbles is not smooth enough, we usually achieve this effect by grinding. There are always sparks flying while grinding.
2. What materials are suitable for making rapid molds?
There are two kinds of materials commonly used to make rapid tooling: aluminum and mild steel. Both materials are of relatively lower cost and easy to process.
3. What are the advantages and disadvantages of rapid tooling?
Advantage 1: The production time period is short.
Compared with traditional mold processing, rapid tooling reduces the time for mold making and tool making. We can greatly reduce the product evaluation cycle from design to production. Rapid tooling is a time-saving and labor-saving tooling option for projects with medium-volume part production.
Advantage 2: Wide range of applications.
Rapid tooling has a wide range of applications in traditional processing fields, including injection molding, overmolding, insert molding, compression molding, die casting, sheet metal manufacturing, and more.
Disadvantage 1: Short life cycle.
Aluminum and mild steel are prone to wear after many injection pressures, which cannot last within a long time. If you want to do high-volume parts for a long time, you may need to use hard steel to make steel molds instead of rapid tooling.
If you are going to make medium and high-scale parts, but the budget and time cost are limited, rapid tooling will be a good processing choice. If you want to know more about our rapid tooling capabilities, pls contact us now.