Mold polishing is perhaps one of the most critical phases of the mold build (and in mold repairs), and for decades it's been primarily a manual operation. Every mold company has one or two employees in a corner sitting under a bright light, bent over their work piece, painstakingly polishing with grinding stones, meticulously working with finer and finer abrasives until, micron by micron, the surface is perfect. This is time-consuming work and according to Karl Szanto, operations manager at injection mold manufacturer Tech Mold Inc. can represent as much as 8-12% of the total number of man-hours in a mold build.
Now, there may be an easier, faster way to polish mold components. Two companies in Germany have joined forces - Maschinenfabrik Arnold and S&F Sytemtechnik - in collaboration with researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology (ILT) and developed a machine tool which can polish both simple and complex surfaces using laser beams.