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Mouldmaking | product development

Additive manufacturing offers new opportunities in mould making,

according to Faßnacht Formenbau, which has supplied more than 1,000 laser-built inserts

manufacturing delivers benefi ts

While many plastics processors are familiar with the use of additive manufacturing systems for production of prototypes, few are exploiting the technologies in the mouldmaking sector. Yet the opportunities for produc- tion of precision high performance mould components are considerable, according to German mouldmaker W Faßnacht Formenbau, which earlier this year delivered its 1,000th mould insert manufactured using this technique. The company, which is located at Bobingen near

Augsburg, invested in an M1 LaserCusing additive building system from Concept Laser in 2008. Concept Laser, part of the Licthenfels, Germany headquartered Hofmann Innovation Group, says its patented LaserCus- ing technology is especially suitable for the production of powder metal parts for the mould making industry. Concept Laser claims its technology differs from that used in alternative metal powder additive building systems in two key respects. Firstly, it fully melts the metal powder during the layer-building process, which the company says creates a near 100% dense fully fused component rather than a sintered structure. Secondly, it has developed what it describes as an “island” building principle which processes each layer during the build as a succession of individual segments to minimise the creation of stress within the component. The LaserCus- ing technology can process stainless and tool steels, reactive aluminium or titanium alloys, nickel and cobalt-chrome steels as well as aluminium alloys. Hofmann Innovation Group uses the Concept Laser equipment within its own mould making operations and

this was one factor in Faßnacht’s decision to invest in its technology, according to owner Wolfgang Faßnacht. “Concept Laser is not a traditional machine distributor,” he says. “Its machines are based on the know-how in mould making which is very important among us colleagues. They think and talk like us because they do the same thing. In addition, Concept Laser offers high quality advice, if you think about materials, certifi ca- tions or advice on the design and process.” Faßnacht says one of the key areas of application for its LaserCusing system is the production of conformal cooling inserts, where the layer building technique allows fl uid cooling channels to be placed very close to the contoured surface of the mould cavity. Geometries that would have been considered a practical impossibil- ity just a few years ago are now not only possible but achievable very simply, he says. Complex parts with different wall thicknesses

involving ribbing and webs can now be cooled “close to the action”, according to Faßnacht. Typical additive manufactured insert designs involve the placement of 5mm diameter cooling channels within 2-3 mm of the mould surface. In the case of moulds which have been produced so far at Faßnacht with this conformal cooling technology it has been possible to achieve reductions in the cycle time on production moulds of up to 40%. “Conformal cooling speeds up the physics in the mould. Shorter cycles means greater added value – period,” he says. The performance improvement is achieved without a sacrifi ce in either durability or reliability of the mould.

January/February 2013 | INJECTION WORLD 43

Main image: The main

element in this gear assembly is moulded using tooling equipped with additive-built conformal

cooled mould cavity inserts


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