Aluminum vs. steel: Study tackles the two tooling materials


A study comparing the cooling properties, cooling time, and warpage of parts produced with aluminum and P20 steel inserts found that on average there was a 10 °C disparity in mold temperature between the metals, which resulted in an average of 1mm less warpage in parts ran in the aluminum inserts when compared to steel. Conducted by Penn State Erie Behrend College students Laird Raybuck and Chad Shumaker and presented at the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) ANTEC 2011, the study utilized polyethylene (PE), polyamide (PA), acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), and polycarbonate (PC), with consistent cooling water temperatures applied when switching between the inserts.

The researchers found that aluminum, which is approximately four times more thermally conductive than steel, did cool parts more quickly than steel. However, although aluminum tooling will decrease cooling time due to its higher thermal conductivity, the researchers posited that it can ultimately cost more over time due to wear and having to replace the mold. "Aluminum tooling will cost less but over time could prove more costly when examining mold expenses," the study stated, noting an (OFAT), One Factor At a Time, type of experiment was utilized....
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