Moldmaking on brink of technological shift

High-speed machining (HSM) was the "big thing" in the 1990s, and moldmakers who implemented HSM were able to reduce the number of man-hours in moldmaking, thus reducing both costs and build time. The long-time mantra of many mold company owners of "we have to reduce the number of man-hours" became a reality. By the early years of the first decade, most mold companies had invested in HSM, and HSM as a competitive edge for the few disappeared. Can we get any faster?

Yes, we can and we are. That's my first trend - a technological one - that will impact mold making: 3D printed cores and cavities that will further reduce the number of man-hours it takes to build a mold, and further reduce both time and cost. Moldmakers who say they don't want to invest in 3D printing may not have a choice because their customers are certainly adopting additive manufacturing in a number of ways.

Engineering teams at OEMs have 3D printers on their desks and in their labs. They are doing new-product iterations faster and cheaper than moldmakers can with even a single cavity "prototype" mold that can be built in a week. Parts with complex geometries - and larger in size - can now be built in a matter of hours in the chosen material. Not only parts, but actual cores and cavities can be built at the OEM's company through the use of Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) and Selected Laser Melting (SLM), two technologies whose time has come.

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