The risk aversion that such industry displays toward new technologies and materials also extends to retraining and learning new methodologies.
It indeed expects new technologies to integrate seamlessly with its traditional applications and minimize secondary processes for cost efficiency. In addition to the right hardware and software solutions and the availability of suitable materials, mold and die manufacturers need dedicated training and support to prepare their teams for new manufacturing methodologies–all challenges that are best addressed through a single-source approach.
Likewise, any process that cannot achieve surface requirements fails to meet mold and die manufacturers' needs. In fact, a defective mold or die transfers its flaw to every part it produces. Along with flaws that originate on the surface, areas of subsurface porous metal typically create critical problems because they can emerge during post-processing as surface defects or shorten the life of the insert through thermal fatigue. To avoid these problems during AM production, manufacturers need process stability, one of the main challenges of metal 3D printing, especially in producing parts with large, bulky sections.
DMP Flex 350
With a build volume of 317,625 cm3 and a printing environment, that constantly maintains less than 25 ppm oxygen, the DMP Flex 350 metal 3D printer produces precise parts with maximum powder usage and minimal user intervention. Oxygen reduction in the vacuum chamber improves part quality and reduces oxidation, especially in reactive materials such as titanium and aluminum, while the finely tuned laminar argon flow efficiently eliminates fumes and spatters that may cause porosities. With a 60 µm repeatability on all three axes, this high-throughput machine generates features as small as 200 µm and produces outstanding density steadily from batch to batch and machine to machine. Specifically, its consistent performance ensures appropriately thin mold-insert walls for excellent conformal cooling.
Finally, a modular, removable print module adds multiple levels of flexibility to this system. Such modules enable shops to run a high-mix workflow that requires them to switch from one build material to another in rapid succession, from steel to aluminum for instance.
Tooling for AM
The complete GF Machining Solutions AM ecosystem includes exclusive System 3R tooling for AM and secondary processes, optimized to provide the best technological approach to an AM-based mold and die workflow. From clamping and automation to printing substrates, tabletop chucks and other hardware, this modular solution eases the transfer of workpieces from one step to the next. This integrated approach is key for mold manufacturers in order to optimize their complete manufacturing chain and reduce the cost per part.
Image: 3D printed dies built on printed on System 3R Tooling for AM solutions
Milling and EDM
Post-processing workflows can include various manufacturing steps, including part separation and milling, which shape and refine part features to achieve the final part geometry and surface finish. The CUT AM 500, a new dedicated wire EDM solution, separates completed parts from build plates with greater speed and precision than a bandsaw or standard EDM. A comprehensive, holistic production solution unifies this step with the AM process that precedes it and the secondary subtractive processes that follow it.
Image: 5-axis milling operation of 3D printed mold insert
The unique challenges of the mold and die industry have resulted in a rightfully cautious approach toward improving on reliable processes. Moreover, despite enhanced design capabilities, shorter production cycles, better inserts, and reduced overall costs, mold and die makers have still hesitated to make the investment in the AM technology.
AM, however, dramatically enhances the range of parts mold and die manufacturers can create.
If they look at metal 3D printing as merely another way to create the same parts they have always made, they lose out on the technology's greater design freedom. With comprehensive and integrated production technologies from GF Machining Solutions, mold and die makers can opt for turnkey additive solutions with transformative potential for their workflow and business potential.
Image: Hotrunners with conformal channels
- Optimized mold insert with enhanced thermal management
- Reduced injection's cycle time and production costs
- Reduced inserts manufacturing lead time thanks to dedicated software tools
- Reduced inserts manufacturing costs thanks to hybrid approach
- Integrated approach with unique GF Machining Solutions' AM ecosystem and expertise