A key benefit of using 3D printing is the ability to produce short-runs of end use parts for testing or for direct use in hours. The engineering and design team at Wehl & Partner has been able to help customers realize these benefits using additive manufacturing and Somos PerFORM material. What would often take weeks to produce with a traditional machined metal tool is achieved in one third the time or even less.
The engineers have used traditional methods for injection molding projects for years and still offer traditional aluminum tools when hundreds or a few thousand parts need to be produced. Now, however, they also offer tools produced with additive manufacturing, specifically made by SL (stereolithography). They have experimented with different materials and multiple technologies and have found tools made with SL and Somos PerFORM offer excellent results.
PerFORM made tools have high strength and can handle injection molding temperatures. They retain their strength properties and can be molded with fine features.
“We tried creating the tool with digital printing and stereolithography,” said Javier Garcia, CEO for Wehl & Partner Iberica. Somos PerFORM let us inject with real conditions with mold temperatures up to 120 degrees Celsius.”
The life of a mold is based on the materials and properties injected into the mold. If you are injecting polypropylene, the tool will stay intact for hundreds of parts as the material is soft. If you are using a glass fiber filled material, the life of the tool will be much shorter. “If the mold is designed properly, you can produce up to 40 to 50 parts using a 30% glass fiber filled material without problems,” said Mr. Garcia, CEO for Wehl & Partner Iberica.
The engineering team at Wehl & Partner is one of the first to make a mold tool with Somos PerFORM. Such tools can be made for testing in injection molding applications in a few days, which is about 70% faster compared to conventional methods. They have already made 30 different molds for several customers in the ten months since adding PerFORM to their portfolio.
If parts are simple, then you can mill a mold using traditional methods. If the mold is more complex or if quick turn-around time is needed, the additive manufacturing route is the way to go. “Our customers are delighted because you can send parts out in a few days,” said Javier Garcia. “This product and process combination buys you time. You are not buying parts, you are buying time.”
Wehl & Partner