Like many other manufacturing techniques, silicone molding is getting a 3D printing makeover with big resulting savings in production time and costs.
Also known as Room Temperature Vulcanizing (RTV), silicone molding is a very efficient, economical solution for producing relatively small volumes of plastic parts. The 3-step process begins with a pattern, normally made out of wood, metal or plastic. Silicone rubber is poured over the pattern to make the mold. Once the mold is cured, the pattern is removed and then it is filled with urethane to produce the final parts. Common applications include medical, aerospace, and electronics.
Additive manufacturing streamlines the most time consuming part of the process – the pattern making. Stratasys PolyJet-based 3D printing technology can be used to create the silicone mold patterns, reducing the pattern production time from a few weeks to a few hours. Equally important, this time savings does not reduce the accuracy of the molds. Even extremely complex or intricate patterns do not add time or costs to the design process when you go digital with 3D printing. The resulting patterns have smooth surfaces and are mold-ready, incorporating tight tolerances and fine details that are easily transferred to the urethane castings.
3D printing the silicone mold patterns is therefore a fast and affordable way to produce small volumes of parts to be used as the final product or to perform design verification or functional testing. For further proof, take two minutes to see 3D printing in action in the silicone molding process.
This blog post is part of our series Tools Without Tooling, where we are exploring the benefits of 3D printing in the manufacturing industry. To read more posts from this series, click here.