Will 3D printing of cores & cavities be disruptive to moldmaking?


I just finished another article on a manufacturing company that molds the plastics components for its products in-house, and is using additive manufacturing to make the cores and cavities for its molds - in less than 24 hours. That's the second article I've written recently about using 3D printing, aka additive manufacturing (AM), to build cores and cavities to enable the injection molding of the actual parts.

Back in the 1990s, as I watched what was then commonly called "rapid prototyping" slowly catch on among manufacturers as a method of producing prototype parts via technology such as SLA, SLS and FDM, I wondered if it wouldn't be a great technology for moldmakers to adopt for their shops as a value added service. Moldmakers seemed to ignore it for the most part. The service bureaus seemed to be ahead of their time, and they sprang up, consolidated and died an agonizing death.

By the early part of this grand new century, some forward-thinking companies such as Stratasys and 3D Systems - now two of the biggest names in 3D printing - began to explode and rapid prototyping, renamed 3D printing and then officially called additive manufacturing, roared back to life. New materials were being developed so that engineers could get parts in the actual material of the end use component. New machines were evolving, prices dropped, some became desktop models, some were touted as being as almost as easy to work as a Play-Doh maker.
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