3D Printed Injection Mold In APSX Press

The following article is the transcript of a video available on the Catalyst Blog. Click here to watch.

Jason- This is where one of the final stages of the product development process takes place here at Catalyst. These presses range from 50 to 500 tons, and they churn out products that we design and engineer every day right here in this very building. So, what if you don’t need a 500-ton press? What if you have a small part that you need for your bigger project to come together? At Catalyst, we’re all about options, so we’ve got you covered. Let’s look at the small but mighty five-and-a-half-ton injection molding press and how we can put it to work for you. Let’s go!

So, we just came out of the molding compartment and this thing that’s way different. Levi, tell me what we’re looking at here today.

Levi- Yeah, we’re looking at the APSX Five-and-a-half-ton injection molding press capable of a one ounce shot size and 5000 psi injection pressure.

Jason- This small press gives us the flexibility to run smaller batches of parts while not having to wait on our larger presses in the production area. It speeds up the whole process while maximizing the efficiency where the screw maybe even bigger than the part in some of our other presses. So, one thing I’m noticing, besides the obvious size difference is that we’re not using a standard steel or aluminum mold. Tell us what’s going on here, guys.

Levi- Yeah. So, in this scenario, we needed a Molex plug for a client in the medical industry. Brandon and I actually 3D printed this mold.

Jason- So, Brandon, why not just 3D print the part? What are the advantages of printing the mold?

Brandon- Well, it helps you to get a really good representation of what that part is, and it kind of acts as a bridge between prototyping and production tooling. So, it helps us to kind of gauge problem areas and kind of understand what those issues might be and what it might lead to during the production process. And another advantage is that you get to actually use the resin that you would be using in production. So, it does provide a really good representation of what that part would be in the full production cycle.

Jason- Sounds like a win-win. Why don’t we just 3D print every mold then?

Brandon- Well, there’s still some limitations to this process. As cool as it is. You know, there’s limitations on certain geometries that we can put in here. There’s also limitations on just the overall mold size that we can put in this. We can only put in a mold that’s around five by six inches. So size is a limitation for us as well as what types of material resin that we actually use in this machine. We can’t really use materials that are super exotic or require super high melt temps or that require certain high mold temps either. So those are a couple limitations that we run into here.

Levi- The style of the press also makes a big difference. This is a plunger drive system versus our traditional presses out there that are screw drive. The plunger drive does not allow you to put any additives in or color, and it really restricts you down to fairly general-purpose resins. Such as polypropylene, polyethylene, TPU, ABS, and maybe Delrin in some cases. We really can’t move forward with polycarbonate or any of the more complex glass-filled engineered resins.  We’re actually helping customers by doing the mold design process and helping them get their products mass produced in APSX’s presses.

Brandon- And since we’ve been doing this at our company for a while, we’re actually able to really jump in and help them with this and take on this new technology that is still developing out there in the world right now. So, this is really exciting stuff and it’s cool to see in our company and use it on a daily basis.

Jason- Brandon and Levi, thanks for putting all your hard work into this development so far and showing us all the benefits of what we’re doing here. It’s really exciting stuff!

If you have any questions about the processes we develop at catalyst or maybe a part candidate for this press, go over to our web site at CatalystPDG.com and click on the Contact US page. We’d be happy to help.

Catalyst Product Development Group