MACHINED MOLDS






Machined molds are typically made from aluminum bar stock. The process starts by creating a CAD drawing of the plastic part you want to produce. That CAD drawing is then used to create a CAD drawing for the mold, and additional features are added, like the plastic pathways and air vents. The mold CAD drawing is then converted into a CAM program, which is basically a set of instructions for a CNC machine that tells it exactly where to cut the metal and what tools to use.

It does take a fair amount of skill and technical knowledge to successfully machine a mold, even for a prototype. So, most people usually just make a CAD drawing for the plastic part they want, then give that drawing to a machinist or moldmaker to finish the rest of the process. That said, if you do have some machining skills or desire to learn them, there are a number of benchtop size CNC machines on the market specifically designed for the hobbyist.

EPOXY MOLDS




Epoxy molds provide a low cost way for you to convert your hand-made models and prototypes into real plastic parts. You can make your original model from a 3D printed part, wood, metal, carving wax, random pieces of plastic glued together, or whatever combination of materials it takes to create the shape you want. That model can then be used to make the impression in your epoxy mold.

Epoxy mold making is not our expertise, but there are numerous how-to books, videos, and websites available that teach mold making techniques, so information is readily accessible.

Making an epoxy mold is easier if you use an aluminum master mold frame. The frame provides added structural support around the mold during injection. It also prevents the hot injection nozzle of the machine from coming in direct contact with the epoxy. The inside of the frame serves as the cavity where you'll pour in the epoxy to make your mold. Master mold frames also have alignment pins and holes built into them, so the two halves always stay in exact alignment with each other. Once the epoxy is cured, it can be removed from the frame, allowing you to use the same frame to make more epoxy molds. When you're ready to inject a part, just return whichever epoxy mold you choose back into to the master mold frame.

 3-D PRINTED MOLDS









3D printed molds are fast becoming a popular way to make experimental and low volume injection molds. There are several different types of technologies currently being used for 3D printers. So far, we have found those using stereolithography (SLA) technology are better suited for making injection molds than those using fused deposition (FDM) technology, also known as filament 3D printers. The main reason is because SLA molds can usually withstand higher temperatures than FDM molds, and can also produce better resolution.


The master mold frames we sell for making epoxy molds can also be used as a support frame for 3D printed molds.


We recently collaborated with Formlabs on a technical paper they published, detailing how their 3D printers can be used to make prototype injection molds. You can download the paper directly from their website here.

 


MOLDMAKING

Model B-100

Benchtop Injection Molder

Below are the most common ways to make custom injection molds for our benchtop molders.


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METAL CASTED MOLDS (experimental)

We only did one experiment to prove the concept, but we were able to successfully reproduce a 3D printed mold by casting it in metal. Click on the below button to see more details about the experiment.

We purchased the silicone mold making materials from Smooth-on.

Mold-Max 60         Mold-Star 16


We purchased the metal from Rotometals.

Zamak        Pewter alloy


We used a mini-soldering pot to melt the metal. Various sizes and types of melting pots are available on Amazon and Ebay.







EXPERIMENT DETAILS












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