3D Printer Creates Injection Molds. Source: Stratasys
3D Printer Creates Injection Molds. Source: Stratasys

Companies save time and money by combining 3D printing technologies with traditional manufacturing methods.

3D printer manufacturer, Stratasys, announced in a press release that businesses are using 3D printers to cut lead times for the production of injection mold tools for prototype parts by up to 97%. The injection mold tools are 3D printed using the Connex multi-material 3D printer. The tools are built layer by layer using Stratasys' Digital ABS material, which features distinct material properties needed for the mold tools including high-temperature resistance and toughness.

In the press release, Stratasys spotlighted Whale, a company benefitting from incorporating 3D-printed molds into its tooling process. Jim Sargent, 3D Technical Services at Whale, said the company is 3D printing injection mold tools in less than 24 hours at a fraction of the cost of producing metal tools.

"Traditionally, our lead times for metal tools were somewhere between 4 - 5 weeks and came with significant production costs,” said Sargent. “As a result, our R&D process was very time-consuming and fundamentally slowed down the launch of new products. With our Objet Connex 3D Printer, we are now able to design our tools during the day, 3D print them overnight and test them the next morning with a range of end-product materials. The time and cost savings associated with this new tooling method are significant."

3D printing the injection mold tool allows a company to benefit from the speed and cost benefits of 3D printing, but still create the end-use part or prototype out of the desired material.

"We are seeing an increasing number of customers exploring the potential that 3D printed injection mold tools offer,” said Nadav Sella, Solutions Sales Manager at Stratasys. “In addition to the dramatic cost and time savings potential, our Digital ABS tools enable companies to produce parts in the real end-product material, ready to test even in the prototyping phase. Our customers can therefore make quicker test iterations and bring products to market faster."

Companies that do not want to invest in the 3D printers and the manpower it takes to operate them, can still benefit from the time-saving technology by utilizing a 3D printing service that provides 3D printing on the Connex printer.

The Connex series of 3D printers use PolyJet technology to create high-resolution prints with a layer resolution of 16 microns. The printers use a photopolymer liquid and lay it down layer by layer. Each layer is instantly cured with a UV light.

The Connex can print in multiple materials including rigid plastics, heat resistant materials and rubber-like materials. More information on the Connex materials can be found here.

Click here for more information on 3D printing for rapid prototyping.