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Keywords of this article:  injection molding 
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injection mold 
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3D mold insert in a game-changing-system.
3D mold insert in a game-changing-system.
Photo: 123

If only small batch sizes of a plastic part are required or if the component is still in the development phase, modern 3D printing technology can help to save mold costs, especially in the prototype construction and in the increasingly individual designs of the components.

However, a direct part production from the 3D printer differs significantly from an injection molding part. Thus, for example, the physical properties of a 3D-printed component differ considerably from injection molded parts. The solution is 3D printed mold inserts with which the plastic parts can be manufactured very cost-effectively in a cassette mold.

Based on the CAD data of the plastic part, the print data of the mold inserts can be processed accordingly and 3D printers create the mold. Depending on the size of the components, this can already be done within minutes, while longer processing times are required for larger designs. Nevertheless, these mold inserts are designed much faster and more cost-effectively than their "steel competitors".

In the past two years, low mold costs thanks to 3D printed mold inserts as well as the fast implementation of modifications have revolutionized the mold manufacturing in the plastics processing industry, according to Dr. Boy GmbH & Co. KG.

The problem of these molds is, however, their life span. High temperatures of the materials and large injection pressures affect the mold inserts more significantly and the operating times of the 3D printed molds dwindle. Especially in the case of small batches and average quantities, many users are looking for a more reliable solution.

This solution is offered by the use of 3D printed metal mold inserts. Higher stability and the possibility of a partly required mold temperature control/-cooling are provided with these metal mold inserts and thus they represent the next upgrade level of the additive production.

The layer-by-layer print of the plastic or metal mold inserts is clearly different in terms of preparation and planning. In the case of the metal mold inserts a large number of additional elements have to be taken into consideration in advance.

For complex and highly 3D dimensional parts, temperature control channels and their connections must already be provided during the planning stage of the mold inserts. In the case of the metal-printed molds, the parting line still has to be processed, since the structure of the surface of the molding part comes from the printing process. For the achievement of a defined and desired surface, this additional processing step is necessary.

The fact, that the technological and monetary expenditure of the 3D printed mold inserts is manageable and much more efficient for small quantities than the conventional steel molds, is not fully applicable for metal mold inserts, depending on their design and complexity.

Already during the design phase of the molds or of the metal mold inserts the decision should be made on a metal mold insert or on a conventional aluminum or steel mold. The engineer should be familiar with the capabilities of 3D-technology to find a good and affordable mold in light of the additional possibilities.

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