There are many ways to apply direct additive fabrication of metal parts and injection molds which are as follows:
Laser Sintering – used frequently to create today’s tools and metal parts. A supplier that exclusively focuses on this process makes systems that are mainly dedicated to metal or plastic materials. It provides a range of metal material that include titanium, nickel alloys, cobalt chrome, aluminum, and stainless and hardened steels.
Selective Laser Melting(SLM) – is similar to laser sintering; however, ceramic powders or fully melts metal directly form fully dense parts. No steps of post processing, such as infiltration or burnout, are needed as with the production of porous parts by laser sintering even though it’s still necessary for some finish machining.
Electron Beam Melting(EBM) – originally developed at the Chalmers University, this process is powder based in which has much in common with laser sintering. However, the laser is replaced with a scanned 4KW electron beam that makes fully dense parts. Available material includes pure titanium, titanium alloy (Ti-6A1-4V), Arcam Low Alloy Steel, and H13 tool steel. Parts are fabricated within a vacuum at around 1000 degree Celsius to enhance material properties and limit internal stresses. The cooling process is also maintained to make well defined hardening. The parts also need some final matching after the fabrication.
Electron Beam Free Form Fabrication(EBFFF)) – a wire feedstock is melted by an electron beam, and material is deposited in layers up to 40 lbs each hour. EBFFF is able to utilize a wide array of material, such as refractory alloys, stainless steel, nickel, and titanium. Also, it’s energy efficient in comparison to laser based systems.
M-Print – the bonding of metal powder layers is done with selectively applied photopolymer with the usage of an inkjet head with a wide area. An UV lamp mounted on the head assembly cures in the photopolymer in layers. The formation of the green part is then sintered to create a porous steel matrix that’s infiltrated with bronze. Molds created by the method may be used to create 100s of thousands of parts of mostly any plastic.
Laser Engineered Net Shaping(LENS)) – developed by Sandia National Labs in which is commercialized by Optomec Inc., this is really similar to POM’s technology. This additive fabricating method isn’t self-supporting, and thus, it’s difficult in some applications to remove fully dense steel support structures. Molds and parts that are fully dense and tool steel are offered through this method from a lot of material. LENS is also stated to make better metallurgical properties than the ones available from intrinsic material. And furthermore, the parts or molds must endure considerable secondary finishing operations prior to them being used.
Direct Metal Deposition – is similar to LENS, but the main differences are in the machine control and implementation details. This method provides similar benefits in terms of several materials, capability of conformal cooling for molds, and possesses the same limitations. Additionally, this is a fairly slow process that deposits only .5 to 1 cu in per hour which makes it more appropriate for building details of the part’s pre-form rather than building it from scratch.
Ultrasonic Consolidation – offered by Fabrisonic LLC, a subsidiary of Solidica, this method is based on CNC cutting and bonding of thin, metal strip material in a tool or part utilizing a lamination technique. Strips are ultrasonically bonded together. Also, one of the spectacular provisions of this method in comparison to laser powder forming methods is avoiding expensive powder materials and high powered lasers which can be potentially hazardous and expensive. Another benefit is the reduction or elimination of EDM.
Space Puzzle Molding – a hybrid approach of Protofrom GmbH in Germany, molds are produced as complex small pieces’ series that fit together in a special framed like a jigsaw puzzle that’s three dimensional. CNC is usually utilized to create the puzzle elements. But, aluminum-filled epoxy casting and other methods have also been utilized as additive fabrication methods, such as laser sintering. Additionally, molds are removed and disassembled manually after each shot for part ejection that results in a higher piece/part cost than fully automated methods. Hundreds of parts can be produced by using the molds.
Laminated Tooling and Part Fabrication – is laminated object manufacturing (LOM) method adaptation to the problem. Usually, profiles are cut utilizing different means from metal sheets or strips that are either bonded in layers or held tightly in a frame for forming usable parts.
STAT (Sample Time Acceleration Technology) – from Catalyst PDG Inc., it is based on CNC machining of composite materials to create injection molding inserts. This method’s goal is reducing the time to get parts in final material. According to the company, a tool may be finished in six to 15 days.
Rapid Injection Molding – a fairly conventional technique used by many companies to offer injection molded parts on an expedited basis. These companies usually create modifications to the standard injection molding method and work flow that result in some minor restrictions. Nevertheless, a wide parts’ range may be manufactured in almost any plastic and at high volumes.
Protomold – a certain subjective fabrication that’s really cost effective. This company can deliver parts as fast as three days for tooling costs as low as $1,795 that include 25 sample parts. They also claim to have the capability to ship parts as fast as the day after a customer’s CAD file receipt and deliver up to 500 parts in only eight hours.
Advanced Technology – provides injection molding parts and tools within 10 days to its biggest customer base of the medical industry for several years. It’s called TCT Technology, and they claim that approximately 50 percent of jobs are completed within five days. The tools made can use any production thermoplastic with mold parameters and tolerances and guaranteed for 2 million parts. The mold parameters and tolerances are identical to standard injection molding procedures.
Stereolithography-based Tooling – epoxy based stereolithography material have been utilized to fabricate injection molds for several years. It may also require backing the mold with epoxy to offer strength, and perform secondary finishing operations for removing stair stepping and improve the finish.