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3D Printed Metal Molds

I'm evaluating some ideas for manufacturing a mold, and I was wondering if anyone had tried "printing" a mold on a 3D printer with the metallic media that's available. I know some of the printers are capable of producing injection molds with the plastic material (specifically, the Stratasys machines,) which can be used for to check to see if the mold works as intended and for making a short run of test-shots (50-100.)

But, I was wondering if the metal media molds had been attempted and if so, how they hold up for a longer production run? Not necessarily in the millions of pieces, but for small runs of product.

So, my two questions are:
1. Has anyone tried it?
2. Has anyone seen any research on the matter?
I have never had access to 3D printers with materials hard enough to endure the pressure and the temperatures of the plastic injection molding machines.

I have 3d printed a small mold but not for our plastic injection molding machines, it wouldn’t stand the pressure. It was built for a Hand Plastic Injection Pump of one of our customers.

It was a 16 cavities mold for abacus beads for kindergarten kids.

It was printed in Nylon 66 with a resolution of .3mm the bulk of the mold; the cavities were of 0.05mm resolution. The cavities where coated with Teflon spray and given a second coat of silicon based demoldant. The mold was reinforced with a 1 inch cover at both sides.

Originally they ask us for an injection mold, but the profit margin for the production of this product was not profitable, and adding the cost of metallic mold was even worst. Then they ask for a simpler mold for a Hand Plastic Injection Pump, and with less pressure it would be a lighter and cheaper one. I suggested the idea of a 3d printed mold and the costumer was excited about the idea, mainly because of the speed of the process.
I run some material and CAD tests, design the mold and sent it to print. It took two days to get the mold but it worked perfectly. The mold was designed to support the pressure but they added the cover plates just to be safe.

This was a tiny piece, without critical measurements or tolerances and the melting temperature of the material was way below my mold material. Only because of that I suggested it. I believe that it may be possible but it is only viable in a little and selected group of cases.
- - - -> by: Daniel Lee

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