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Rapid Prototyping for Plastic Injection Molding

The term rapid prototyping refers to any technology that takes a product from a virtual state to a useful form to test an idea in a very quick manner.  Another description of the term is:  is the automatic construction of physical objects using free form fabrication methods.  The main idea of the proto type or rapid prototyping is to quickly produce a model that you can see and touch and can also be used for a much wider range of applications.  Sometimes rapid prototyping methods are also to manufacture production quality parts in relatively small numbers.

In the field of injection molding, the need for rapid prototyping is huge when trying to bring a concept to life directly following the design phase of a project.  It is often very difficult to see on a computer screen, all of the nuances of the project you are designing.  Even though the CAD software technologies have rapidly advanced with the use of solid modeling, there is still nothing better than the ability to hold your prototype in your hand and allow the human eye to thoroughly investigate your creation.

One very common method of rapid prototyping for the injection molding industry used today is called Stereolithography or an SLA.  In today's fast-changing marketplace, especially in the automotive world, companies in various sectors are seeking shorter product development lead times, and smaller lot production capabilities, which in turn provide reduced production costs, and ultimately improved manufacturing efficiency.  Stereolithography is capable of performing 3D modeling at higher speeds and with greater accuracy is an essential technology for enhancing competitiveness. 

While for the purpose of rapid prototyping, the “SLA” method will give you a perfect model that is something you can hold and see, they are not sturdy enough to be practical for any real testing.  This is commonly where in the injection molding industry, the use of aluminum for creating a rapid prototype injection mold often comes into the picture.  Aluminum prototype injection molds are easy to mill because they are very soft in comparison to steel, yet rugged enough to handle the typical injection molding pressures and provide functional rapid prototype models and product.  Machining and finishing times for a rapid prototype aluminum injection mold, are typically produced in about two thirds of the time to produce a typical steel injection mold.

The only real downside to aluminum injection molds for rapid prototyping or short production runs is that they are easily damaged and extra care must be taken so as not damage them during these runs.  Either way they are a very viable option in today’s injection molding and rapid prototyping environment. This is especially true where speed and functionality are important to test or prove out your designs for products.  If you plan to compete in today’s injection molding environment, rapid prototyping is a must

 

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Written by: WM8C, February 3rd, 2007.  Not for use without written permission

 

Up ] Plastic Injection Molding II ] Plastic Injection Molding III ] Plastic Injection Molding IV ] Plastic Injection Molding V ] Plastic Injection Molding VI ] Plastic Injection Molding VII ] Plastic Injection Molding VIII ] Plastic Injection Molding IX ] Plastic Injection Molding X ] Plastic Injection Molding XI ] Plastic Injection Molding XII ] [ Rapid Prototyping ] Electric Injection Molding Machine ] Electric Injection Molding Process ] Electric Injection Molding ]

  

 

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