Rapid Tooling using stereolithography (SL) 3D printing technology and composite materials is proving a popular solution for short-run end-use part production compared to traditional methods.

Advantages of 3D printing tooling and moulds:

  • High strength properties and heat tolerances of the ceramic material
  • High accuracy and outstanding side-wall accuracy of SL technology
  • The ability to create complex mould designs that cannot be traditionally milled
  • Increased sustainability – 3D printing decreases storage costs of metal tools

The most common applications for rapid tooling are injection moulding, jigs and fixtures, vacuum form tooling and composite tooling.

Injection moulding

Mass produce plastic parts with complex designs – faster.

Injection moulding is a process of creating end-use components by injecting melted thermoplastics under pressure into a mould. The thermoplastic fills the hollow cavities of the mould and when it cools it solidifies, taking the core and cavity of the mould. When the mould opens, the solid plastic part is ejected, and process is repeated.

Traditionally the injection tooling mould is created using metal such as aluminium or steel.  The process can often be very costly and can take weeks to manufacture. Changes to design is also highly difficult due to the costs to iterate the design.

The 3D printed injection mould process can speed production to 1-2 weeks versus 5-7 weeks, reducing time, costs and the ability to bring end-use parts to market faster. The 3D printed ceramic tool can also withstand high temperatures up to 120 degrees, allowing to produce real parts in various materials and real injection conditions.

Usually more suited to applications for low-run production (50-100 parts) of small end-use parts (less than 150mm), 3D printing injection moulds is already a proven technique within the industry.

Jigs and fixtures

Reduce production costs, accelerate product delivery to market and improve ergonomic safety.

Jigs and Fixtures are important manufacturing aids used within production and assembly. The tools not only help deliver simpler and reliable methods to accelerate product delivery, but also improves ergonomic safety for workers due to improved handling and ease of use.

Traditionally, Jigs and Fixtures are produced using the traditional injection moulding technique. 3D printing has replaced this, producing Jigs and Fixtures with lightweight, complex designs with improved ergonomic functionality, decreasing worker discomfort, and reducing any shop-floor downtime.

3D printed Jigs and Fixtures can also be built and iterated as required on site, quickly and easily. This eliminates the need to order many copies of one design, removes the costs incurred if ordering lower quantities, and reduces any storage or transportation costs.

Vacuum form tooling

Iterate designs quickly to meet customer demand, saving time and costs.

Vacuum form tooling is a manufacturing process that can be used in the production of packaging of goods. The vacuum form tooling process requires a sheet of plastic that is heated and pressed over mould or tool to create lightweight, cost-effective packaging.

Traditionally the tooling or mould is machined which can be costly.  It is also limited in the complexity of design and has a long considerable lead time to produce.

3D printing is a perfect alternative for low volume manufacturing with many advantages.  Benefits include the ability to produce tooling with complex, intricate geometries, faster, reducing lead time and costs.

Packaging can be produced faster and iterations can be changed quickly on site offering greater flexibility for manufacturers to meet customer needs.

Composite tooling

Produce lightweight carbon fibre parts with intricate designs quickly and accurately with 3D printed tooling.

Stereolithography (SL) 3D printing is used extensively for composite tooling in industries such as F1, Motorsport, Marine, Automotive and Aerospace. 3D printed tooling for composite applications such as pre-preg carbon fibre layup can be produced quickly and efficiently due to the high temperature resistant SL materials during the curing process.

Producing carbon fibre layup on moulds and tools means lightweight carbon fibre parts can be produced with more intricate designs, quickly and accurately. Benefits of using composite tooling are:

  • Improved design and development
  • Reduced weight and improved performance.
  • Reduced lead time of production

Customer stories

Read more about how industries are using the NEO800 for this specific application.

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