The increasing need for innovation demands agile product development. We demonstrate how AM decreases turn-around time for injection molded prototypes from several weeks to a few days. As a demonstration, a plug housing is injection molded in 24 hours using the production material (PBT Valox 325).
Companies experience an ever increasing need for innovation due to shortening life-cycles of their products. As a consequence, agile product development processes have been established in recent years. Rapid prototyping and additive manufacturing are essential parts thereof. However, if near-series quality is demanded injection molding is still the only feasible production method. Approaches using rapid alluminum tooling have already yielded an important saving of time and cost. Nevertheless, typical turn-around times for injection molded prototypes are still in the range of several weeks. This hampers agile product development considerably.
Additive tooling shortens turn-around time
Injex developped a new kind of production process which combines the advantages of additive manufacturing and the near-series properties of injection molding. This process will be demonstrated by producing a plug housing (see attached pictures). Starting with a shrinkage-compensated CAD-model, a tool consisting of a core, cavity and a threepart slider is constructed. The tool is then fabricated through additive manufacturing. The most difficult challenge is the combination of all targeted properties: Surface quality, contour accuracy, temperatur stability and mechanical resistivity. After several post-processing steps the part production starts. Within half an hour the tool and the manufacturing material can be loaded on the machine, which was specifically designed for this purpose. For this plug housing a commercially available PBT was used (SABIC, Valox 325).
The demonstrated process reduces the turn-around time for a small batch of 10 pieces of these plug housings to less than 24 hours. Even larger series up to several hundred pieces are possible, but take a bit longer. The main advantage of this process is the availability of all production materials already in the prototyping stage. This enables the early testing of near series prototypes and ready-to-use pre-series.
Dr. Erdal Karamuk – Manager Advanced Materials & Technologies, Sonova AG
«Working with Injex allows us to break new ground in development as we can quickly test new designs. Thanks to the minimal material consumption, new experimental materials that are only available in very small quantities can be processed into prototypes and analyzed.» (translated from German original)