Experience Rapid Manufacturing with 3D Printed Injection Molds

In manufacturing, 3D printing has turned the production of injection molded prototypes into a quick, easy and inexpensive process. Read on and watch how Stratasys PolyJet 3D printing technology helps a team at Budapest University create an injection mold with POM (acetal) for functional testing at dramatically reduced time and cost.

Commissioned to produce a fan that provides enhanced car engine cooling and reduced noise, Dr. Jozsef Gabor Kovács, Department of Polymer Engineering, Budapest University of Technology and Economics (www.pt.bme.hu), and his team needed to find an efficient, inexpensive method of producing injection molded prototypes to test the fan in the end-product material.

3D printed injection mold

Engine cooling fan made from POM (acetal) using a   Stratasys 3D printed injection mold

The design and development process involved subjecting the fan to extreme functional tests on a tight deadline, so the team had to produce iterations extremely quickly. Conventional methods of producing molds, such as CNC manufacturing with steel, are significantly more expensive and time-consuming, and therefore impractical for multiple design iterations. So Kovács took the innovative approach of using the Objet500 Connex multi-material 3D Printer using digital ABS material to produce the injection molds.

See the complete production process in just over 90 seconds!

This post is also available in: Chinese (Simplified), French, Japanese, Spanish, Korean, Portuguese (Brazil)

Comments

  1. Roger Davy says:

    This is clearly a faster and cheaper way to produce molds for injection molded prototypes.

    Taking things one step further, is there a technical limitation that prevents them from skipping the molding step entirely, and just printing the actual prototype fan directly?

    Or is it a requirement that the prototype be produced using the same method and identical material to the eventual volume runs, which will presumably be injection molding, at least for the time being?

    Thanks.

    • Hi Roger, At the moment there is no way to directly print a part from POM. Furthermore, there are advantages in using the same production method for the prototype and the end use part as you mentioned. In this case the reason was to test the design with smooth surface injected POM part, which was believed as the best suited for the final part material and withstand the extreme testing conditions in the design verification stage. We hope that there may be a possibility in the future “skip” this step, but for now that was the best option.

  2. JORGE MERINO says:

    iS IT NOT POSSIBLE TO PRINT THE COOLING FAN, INSTEAD OF THE MOLD?

    • Hi Jorge,
      It is possible to print the fan directly, however, at that stage, the customer needed an injected molded part from POM material to undergo extreme functional testing. Testing the design with the intended end product material gave the engineers the ability to test the final design with the final material and give them the maximum confidence that the product will perform as intended before production starts. POM parts cannot be directly 3D printed, hence this solution is highly valuable.

  3. Fredrik Backstrom says:

    How many shots can you make in the tool?

  4. Could you injection mold LSR material?

    • Nadav Sella says:

      Hi Mega,
      Since LSR requires a pre heated mold to very high temperatures, it is not recommended with the current printed tools.
      best regards,
      Nadav Sella

  5. good question, I want to know the same

  6. Jim Shifrin says:

    We are printing tooling/molds for wax injection presses used in investment casting. Working really well. Tools get warm but we are experimenting with printing in water passages for active cooling. Much less expensive than aluminum tooling and you can have them in 24 hours or so.

    • Nadav Sella says:

      Hi Jim,

      that is a great application! i have met several of our customers that use printed molds the same way.. would love to hear more about your experience and share some knowledge. please feel free to contact me via email.

      best regards,
      Nadav

  7. As Fredrik asked above, I would be very interested to know how many parts it would be possible to make off of that mold. What were the tolerances on the mold ?, and was there any degradation if you did multiple shots (so shift in tolerances after multiple shots) ?

    Great work ! The ability to rapidly test a mold is excellent (although hopefully won’t make designers sloppy since they assume they’ll just be able to physically iterate multiple times).

    • Nadav Sella says:

      Hi Bayne, Fredrik,
      at that specific mold we did some 8 shots with no degradation to the mold. the mold is ready to be used again. the reason for this number of shots is that we did not have any need for additional parts. of course, due to the different thermal conductivity of the printed molds vs. aluminum molds there will be a slight difference in tolerance, the printing tolerance is of about 0.1mm and the parts we tested so far put us withing 0.2mm tolerance of the injected parts.
      To prolong the mold life, it is recommended to wait until the mold cools down to about 55 Deg Celsius before shooting the next cycle.
      please share with us your experience as well when possible and we will try and update you on new cool usages as usual..
      thank you,
      Nadav

  8. Wow! That’s fast! I have known urethane casting to be really swift but this is a record breaker. Thanks for this information.

  9. Can Vero materials be used for injection molds? i.e. can the Objet30 be used for this application?

    • Stratasys Staff says:

      Yes the Vero Materials can also be used, however the Digital ABS material will be more durable. Let me know if you’d like me to put you in touch with the local Stratasys application team for guidance.

  10. Dr. Kovács and his team have done a pretty good job. I really would like to hear something more about this, if you could help me please.

  11. Susan Hudachek says:

    I am very interested in trying this technology for a very simple injection mold for a 6 inch by 6 inch by 2 mm piece. Does anyone have any suggestions as to who might be able to help with this project? Thank you!!!

    • Susan,

      Thank you for your interest in 3D printing. For your simple injection mold request, we suggest contacting RedEye Rapid Prototyping Service.
      Please let us know how it goes with them.
      Best of luck.

  12. John Chow. says:

    Do you have any agent/reseller in Penang.Malaysia?

  13. first of all thank you for this great useful option, as a rapid prototyping company, we are interested in getting a suitable 3d printer that is capable for making prototype injection molds but we are wodered about which printers of Stratasys are capable to do that, so could you please advice with list of corisponding printers showing thier prices (prefered < 70,000 USD)

    ALGengineer@gmail.com.

    Best regards.

    • We would be happy to get you more information about our 3D printers. Could you let us know your location? That way we can put you in touch with your local representative who can help you decide which 3D printer would best fit your needs. Looking forward to your response!

  14. nur jannah ali says:

    please advice how to contact your agent in malaysia. thank you.

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