Toolcraft Plastics (Swindon) Ltd is a long established, plastic product mould tool making, injection moulding and vacuum-forming firm. The company offers a complete design to production service, including design, printing and product assembly. Toolcraft – www.toolcraft.co.uk – came to 3D printing and rapid prototyping specialists Graphite Additive Manufacturing when they were looking to create a quick turnaround injection-moulding tool.
The challenge was to create a cost-effective and fast way to produce a very small amount of mouldings. Toolcraft wanted a tool that could be mounted in their standard machines (which normally use a steel or aluminium mould tool) to handle short runs of plastic injection moulding and produce good results in a wide range of materials: ABS, polypropylene, TPE (Thermoplastic Elastomer) and PA (polyamide).
A mould tool for Toolcraft’s supermarket trolley coin was 3D printed by Graphite, utilising a ceramic-filled plastic. The two-part mould was built by Stereolithography (SLA) at Graphite’s base in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, within one day. Complicated metal tooling can take weeks to produce and at a much greater cost.
Toolcraft mounted the new 3D printed tool in their standard tool bolster & then ran it in one of their automatic injection moulding machines. The results, for the short production runs in each of the chosen materials were excellent.
The ceramic-filled plastic tool does not have such a long life as a steel or aluminium one – but as a cost & time effective technique the process is ideal. The 3D printed tool option is now offered by Toolcraft to customers with either very small run projects or those with a requirement for an urgent turnaround, especially as the printed plastic tool can supply a batch of mouldings in a matter of days, perhaps while the customer is waiting for a standard metal tool to be produced.