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  1. #1

    Possible To Print A Metal Injection Mold..????

    I'm new to 3D Printing and I have a product idea. While I was researching, it hit me that instead of spending 10k - 20k for a mold..., would it be possible and cost effective to 3D Print one?

    My object is 2 1/4" x 3 1/2".... not very big. What do you guys think? Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
    Yes it is. I have had parts of moulds printed in the past, specifically parts with intricate cooling.

    Printed parts do not have the longevity of solid machined steel parts. The finish is also not great and always require remachining to correct the finish and to achieve the required tolerances.

  3. #3
    Student AMID's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Stockholm, Sweden
    Yeah, for smaller series it's OK. I'd go to a professional service and get a proper SLS/BJ/MJF print in gipsum or other strong heat resistant materials. Over at Creative Tools, we did a test of this with a print from a Zprint 650 (now Stratasys ProJet 660):

  4. #4
    Super Moderator curious aardvark's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Not just metal either. Got an email about printing injection moulds from formlabs this morning:

    Long link lol

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2016
    SE Wisconsin
    Yeah. As answered this is not only possible, but is a standard practice in some portions of the industry. Steel is used to print intricate cooling channels within a tool (really only used for high performance applications), while plastic (with SLA machines) is used to produce cavity blocks for rapid prototyping. The life expectancy of the tool is only a hundred or so shots, but the goal is to produce test parts with the actual plastic they are intended to be molded with and evaluate tool/part design for molding.

    You do still need a steel mold base to insert the cavity blocks into, and you will not be able to run cooling in these blocks which leads to a long cycle time. That said, it is upwards of an 80% reduction in cost over traditional prototype tooling.

    Small volume production is certainly possible.

    I think this thread otherwise has covered the bases though.

  6. #6
    On a side note, the Chinese have come up with a best-of-both approach. They create a sand mould of the cavities and cast them with a few millimetres offset for finishing. Minimal waste and reduced machining time but still the strength of solid steel plates.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2016
    SE Wisconsin
    Yeah, that's actually a decent thing to do for small batch. The strength isn't up to par, so those cavities simply don't last as long, and there's a risk of voids messing up the surface finish of the cavity as well.

    But it is a pretty slick process if you have an application that's not too demanding.

  8. #8
    The answer is certainly yes as others have stated. The best looking results I saw were generally printed on an Objet machine in high res (16 micron) Durus material. Give me a shout if you need something like that made.

  9. #9
    MIM (Metal Injection Molding) has existed for about 4 decades and is a mature and advantageous technology. It is in fact used for the large scale production of small and complex components with high precision and that not require subsequent processing.
    What's the downside?
    Unfortunately MIM has a high cost, mainly due to the molds.
    Companies are therefore increasingly encouraging the development of a cheaper and more versatile alternative: 3D metal printing and in this case 3D Binder Jetting.

  10. #10
    Note that the term 3D printing in the common language it is often mistakenly used as a synonym for additive manufacturing, instead three-dimensional printing it is only one of the possible additive manufacturing technologies.
    How does binder jetting work?
    In short, a liquid binder is selectively deposited on a layer of metal powder and, layer by layer, the final object is formed.

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