The Future of Mold Manufacturing

By Janice Lee

Polymer materials are well-known for their wide application fields, and molds play an important role in producing polymer materials. Polymer materials’ manufacturing process and mold-making need to consider different properties and characteristics. The main characteristics of polymer materials are their plasticity and process-ability, which can adapt to the requirements of various complex shapes and sizes. For the mold manufacturing of polymer materials, it is necessary to select materials and structures suitable for the properties of polymer materials. At the same time, considered factors include the lightweight, durability, and affordability of molds, leading to the demand for polymer materials in the manufacturing process. With the continuous development of industry and academia, the mold manufacturing process for polymer materials is constantly improving. Through the introduction of new materials, costs and total manufacturing time reduced, and the quality of mold to meet the production needs of polymer materials enhanced.

Type of mold

The choice of mold material is closely related to performance, such as rebound size, process-ability, specific stiffness, compactness, hardness, thermal conductivity and service life. High-performance materials in pursuit of higher performance and versatility are gradually replacing traditional molds. Steel molds have better high-temperature precision stability. Composite material industry use steel molds a lot, while non-metallic materials such as graphite, glass fiber, epoxy resin and carbon fiber can provide higher precision and manufacturing efficiency. However, the development of new mold materials still faces some challenges, such as curing temperature limitation, limited service life, etc. In recent years, new mold materials such as modified resin system composite materials, carbon foam and shape memory polymers, and composite molds have developed rapidly, bringing new solutions to mold manufacturing.

Traditional mold

Mold manufacturing has a direct impact on the performance and shape accuracy of polymer material products. Steel dies are available for high rebound dimensions. The machinability, specific stiffness, compactness, hardness, thermal conductivity and service life of the mold also affect its performance. The development of mold materials has gone through several stages. From traditional materials to high-performance materials, mold materials are pursuing higher performance and versatility. The mobility and specific stiffness of the material are critical to the weight and processing of the mold. Compactness and hardness affect the service life of the mold, and thermal conductivity and heat capacity affect process efficiency. Tooling costs include material and process costs. The development of mold materials has gone through three stages, including traditional materials and new polymer materials. New materials are developed to achieve higher performance and versatility.

MOLD

New mold

Advanced aerospace industry composite materials manufacturing molds are developing rapidly. New mold materials mainly include modified resin system composite materials; carbon foam; shape memory polymer (SMP). The new resin composite material solves the problems of short mold life, low service temperature and storage restrictions. Benzoxazine resins are used as mold materials because of their high temperature resistance, fire resistance and storage properties. Carbon foam has dimensional stability at high temperature, but there are problems in the production of large-scale molds, and the production complexity and cost are high. The properties of carbon foam turns according to mold needs, but its open-cell structure can lead to structural defects in the material.

VEHICLE MOLDS

Composite mold

The composite structure combines the advantages of different materials and solves the problems in the traditional mold structure. By using a combination of mold materials with similar coefficients of thermal expansion, the structural integrity of the material can be improved. During the production of polymer materials, in order to provide a high temperature and/or pressure environment, it is usually necessary to continuously heat air or nitrogen, increasing costs and limiting production efficiency. To solve this problem, self-heating molds have become a popular solution. Metal forming uses internal piping and also has applications in polymer manufacturing. Induction heating is another heating method, which has higher thermal efficiency than traditional hot water or oil. It is used to build self-heating molds and mass-produce polymer material products. The development of local heating systems has further promoted the development of this technology, and self-heating molds offer great prospects for efficient and low-cost polymer material manufacturing. However, current methods and processes for self-heating molds still face some problems. Such as increasing process difficulty, adversely affecting mechanical and vacuum performance, and thermal stability, reliability, and cost issues. The properties of polymer materials make them highly flexible in design and realization of new functions. In-line sensing of polymeric material products has become a hot topic. Because it provides a direct method for monitoring the manufacturing process and lifetime performance of polymeric material structures.

Accessories

Summarize

Mold manufacturing has a direct impact on the performance and shape accuracy of polymer material products. Steel tooling is capable of providing highly resilient dimensional accuracy. In addition to dimensional accuracy, the machinability, specific stiffness, compactness, hardness, thermal conductivity and service life of the mold also have an impact on its performance. With the development of mold materials, we have experienced the transformation from traditional materials to high-performance materials in pursuit of higher performance and versatility.

Q&A:

Q: What is the challenge of new mold materials still face? 

A: Such as curing temperature limitation, limited service life, etc.

Q: What is the advantage of the new resin composite materials.

A: The new resin composite material solves the problems of short mold life, low service temperature and storage restrictions.

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