The role of CAD and 3D printing in mold design and manufacturing

By Tim Jiang

3D printing or additive manufacturing is the construction of a three-dimensional object from a CAD model or a digital 3D model. It can be done in a variety of processes in which material is deposited, joined or solidified under computer control, with the material being added together (such as plastics, liquids or powder grains being fused), typically layer by layer.

Traditional mold making process

  1. The application of 3D printing technology in the mold industry is mainly divided into three aspects:
    • Directly make prototypes. The above-mentioned 3D printing processes can make prototypes, but the accuracy, strength and surface quality of the produced prototypes are different, which is the most common application method of 3D printing technology at present;
    • Indirect manufacturing of molds. That is to use 3D printed prototypes to reproduce molds through different processes, such as silicone rubber molds, plaster molds, epoxy resin molds, sand molds, etc.;
    • Direct manufacturing of molds. That is to use SLS, DMLS, SLM and other 3D printing processes to directly manufacture soft molds or hard molds.
  2. Advantages of 3D printing in mold manufacturing:
    • 3D printing technology can achieve “zero” waste of production materials in the production process. The production process of 3D printing technology is to print layer by layer according to the three-dimensional design of parts. Compared with traditional “subtractive” processing, it realizes “zero” waste of production materials.
    • The use of 3D printing technology can speed up the progress of product development. 3D printing technology has changed the way designers think, and they will think according to the different load-bearing and stress-bearing parts of the parts.
    • Using 3D printing technology can greatly shorten the production cycle. From design to production, 3D printing technology eliminates the process of process design and verification in the traditional processing process, shortens the production cycle, and can adjust the production batch in time according to market demand.
    • The use of 3D printing technology can greatly reduce the human resources in the design and production process.
    • Uses 3D printing technology to manufacture molds with special structures, such as conformal cooling molds, which is difficult to achieve with traditional manufacturing methods, and is also a highlight of the application of 3D printing technology in the mold industry. The conformal cooling mold has many advantages, which can improve the cooling efficiency of the mold, make the cooling of the product tend to be uniform, and improve the product quality and production efficiency.
  3. Traditional mold manufacturing process
    • In the traditional mold manufacturing process, after the order is received, the project needs to be reviewed. After the review is passed, the production schedule is formulated, and then 3D software correction, mold flow analysis, parting line and feed point determination are performed, and finally Feedback to the customer to finalize the draft. Only after the customer is satisfied can the part diagram for manufacturing be determined and the processing process can be prepared. Its processing flow is shown in Figure 1. It can be seen from Figure 1 that using the traditional mold manufacturing process to process a qualified mold requires more manpower and material resources, and the production cycle is longer.
  4. Mold manufacturing process using 3D printing technology
    • The process of using 3D printing technology to directly manufacture molds is shown in Figure 2 (taking the SLM process as an example), which can be divided into three stages: pre-molding preparation, SLM molding, and post-molding processing. Pre-molding preparations include 3D modeling of the mold model, STL format conversion, adding support structures, determining process parameters, and performing data processing such as layered slicing; the SLM molding stage belongs to automated processing, and manual intervention is Only need to monitor the working status of the SLM equipment to ensure the normal operation of the equipment; post-molding processing includes picking, powder cleaning, sandblasting, surface grinding, polishing and other processing.

Conformal Cooling Injection Mold


Q: What is Traditional mold making process?

A: Directly make prototypes\ Indirect manufacturing of molds\ Direct manufacturing of molds

Q: What are advantages of 3D printing technology?

A: achieve “zero” waste of production materials\ speed up the progress of product development

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