Molder’s Experience Illustrates How AM Will Interact with Other Advances
Additive manufacturing is not moving forward in isolation. It will leverage and work in harmony with other manufacturing technologies that are also moving forward.
One reason why it’s so hard to predict the ultimate impact additive manufacturing will have is because AM technology will synergize with the advance of other technologies, including some we are not watching closely. Scott Kraemer, directing manager of new technology for PTI Engineered Plastics, illustrated this point with his presentation at the most recent Additive Manufacturing Conference. AM in combination with some other advance might sum to a process improvement that wasn’t expected, just as his company recently experienced.
He spoke on PTI’s use of AM to make injection mold tooling with conformal internal channels for improved cooling. His presentation included what seemed like a long diversion that was not about additive at all, in which Kraemer discussed PTI’s investigation of spot cooling of molds using liquid carbon dioxide. As the audience came to see, this was no diversion, because the PTI team ultimately hit upon the promise of bringing AM and CO2 cooling together. In place of additively growing mold inserts that have conformal cooling channels for water, the team members discovered they could instead make mold inserts hollow, allowing CO2 to cool the tool by expanding into a completely open inner volume.
A hollow mold tool was initially a strange idea to the moldmakers here, but testing has shown that this idea for how to make a mold insert through AM holds considerable promise for reducing molding cycle times.
In a similar way, it seems plausible to predict that additive manufacturing might also find synergies with the advance of robots and digital manufacturing to produce solutions that also seem strange relative to our expectations today.
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