Our 3D printed plugs and moulds for composite production

Written by Jasper Bouwmeester

11th November 2020

Composite products bring many advantages, they are lightweight and very durable. However, the current state-of-art for composite production still requires relatively large investments in tooling. Especially for low volume production, the tooling cost can be the single most important parameter for final part costs.

Our 3D printed tooling (plugs and moulds) brings significant benefits to this stage of the composite production process!

  • Lower costs
  • Freedom in design
  • Lower materials usage

We print with our own epoxy-like material on our proprietary printers. The materials and processes have been developed with composites in mind! This results in a hard, vacuum tight surface that can be directly used or sanded and/or polished for further refinement of the surface.

Mould being printed

Mould for carbon fiber part just printed

What we do:

We can print single sided plugs or moulds that conform to geometrical tolerances of ISO 2768 – C, or approximately +/- 1% geometrically accurate moulds. This is typically very useable for standard composite applications in maritime, general industry and amusement.

When printed the surface has a slightly rough to touch surface, peel-ply like. It is possible to use this directly, or to sand it smooth.

The printed part is best used at room or low temperature processes. They can hold and withstand vacuum.

These plugs or moulds are used for typical composite processes like spray-up, hand layup and vacuum infusion.

Plugs and moulds up to 1000 x 500 x 400mm can be printed in one-piece, larger moulds will be assembled.

Typically the printed mould or plug will have a wall thickness 2mm and a rigid internal support structure. The mould surface can be treated by most common release agents, also depending on the resin system used. We always suggest to test before!

Mould being checked

Mould being checked

What we can do with sufficient engineering:

With sufficient upfront engineering we can also do more complicated tooling. Possibilities include:

  • Moulds used at elevated temperatures, up to approximately 80°
  • Inserts in moulds for non-releasing parts
  • Break-away tooling
  • Parting moulds (mould systems up to 10 parts)
  • Included functionality in the mould (e.g. vacuum connectors, vacuum holes, surface texturing)

With these additional options, it becomes also possible to use the printed moulds for low temperature out of autoclave prepreg systems and preforming tooling.

Mould completely prepared for composite production

Mould completely prepared for composite production

What we cannot do

It is also important to recognise there are boundaries to what we can achieve.

  • Very high tolerances
  • High temperatures

If you are interested in our printed moulds, please contact us for further questions or to provide you with a quotation!

 

 

 

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