Fathom specializes in producing injection molding tooling with integrated conformal cooling channels using Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) technology. DMLS produces solid 3D printed metal parts by melting metal powder with a focused laser beam layer-by-layer. Building with layers allows for the manufacture of highly complex geometries directly from 3D Computer-Aided Design (CAD) data. This is especially true for part geometries where slides, inserts or other tool components with complex characteristics are required.
Tooling is a primary application for DMLS. This allows tooling inserts and components to be manufactured at a rapid pace. On top of the value of short turnaround times, additional value is created by the unique geometric freedom of design. This helps to improve both the quality and economics of injection molded parts by reducing cycle time and scrap while increasing productivity by 30%-60%. DMLS tools are used to produce millions of parts for injection molding operations. The challenge of integrating a system of this kind is to find the optimal design for the channels. Complexity of the channel design does not impact the manufacturing process, as the DMLS system builds channels directly into the tool. The advantages of these systems maintain a wide range of benefits for injection molding production.
The distance from cavity to cooling channel differs as only straight line drilling channels are possible in top figure, and as a consequence, the heat dissipation cannot take place uniformly in the material. This results in //
The drilling procedure itself is not without certain risks. In the case of deep drilling there is always a danger to hit ejector holes (wandering drill) or the drill could break. As a consequence, the whole insert could be unusable.
Design recommendations for the layout of heating/cooling channels with DMLS are the same as the ones given for conventionally designed channels as both are based on the plastic recrystallization and heat conductivity theories. In order to achieve a constant temperature level, the channel diameter should be chosen depending on the distance between the heating/cooling channel and cavity.
Depending on the design of the product, the optimal diameter should be chosen between 4-12 mm. Some inserts, such as closely placed ejector pins or parts with thin walls, make it difficult to adhere to this rule. DMLS can build channels down to 1 mm when using specially treated fluids to avoid clogging. Simulation software can be an especially useful resource to prepare your part for printing.
With DMLS, it is possible to vary the channel cross section shape of the manufactured tool inserts for a variety of complex shapes. The feasibility criterion supposes a self-supporting cross section, which means the angle of overhanging areas should be above 40° to horizontal.
On the last picture the cooling performance can be increased due to the ribbed shape and the increased turbulence in the channel.
DMLS opens new frontiers for the implementation of very efficient heat/cooling systems and also offers design possibilities for the manufacturing of high-performance tools without having to consider the limitations which can characterize conventional processes. The real challenge is designing the correct channels during the first steps of the project. The manufacturing process of the mold inserts is not influenced by the complexity of the chosen cooling solution. This is because the DMLS machine simply builds the channels at the same time, without having any major impact regarding production time.
If you have a product which requires injection molding tooling, steel/aluminum molds, or production manufacturing, talk to a Fathom expert today.
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