PLYNETICS SHOWS PHAST PROCESS

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DEARBORN, MICH. — Rapid prototyping company Plynetics Express Corp. of San Leandro, Calif., has launched a new rapid tooling process that the company says can produce metal tooling inserts in two days.

The process, called PHAST, produces the inserts from reverse geometry patterns by using a powdered, metal-based tooling procedure. PHAST is an acronym for Prototype Hard And Soft Tooling. The technology can reduce tooling lead time for injection molded parts by between 30 and 50 percent compared to other processes, said Plynetics President Frost Prioleau.

In a typical application, the total lead time using the PHAST technique is two to three weeks to create rapid tooling inserts. The time includes mold design, pattern manufacture, the PHAST process, mold polishing, cooling-line installation, ejection-system installation, mold-base fitting and the injection of parts.

The process was developed by James Tobin, a researcher at Procter & Gamble Co. in Cincinnati. Plynetics is the sole licensee for applications. The procedure is currently available to customers on a limited basis, Prioleau said.

Advantages of the procedure include fast mold lead times, the manufacture of injection tools using injection molding techniques and the fact that the process can be scaled for use with large parts, Prioleau said.

The company recently produced 600 injection molded parts from an ABS/polycarbonate blend from one PHAST tool, Prioleau said. The prototype parts were made for an unnamed customer.

Plynetics Express was formed last year by combining Prototype Express Inc. of Schaumberg, Ill., and Laserform Inc. of Auburn Hills, Mich., with San Leandro-based Plynetics. The company also has a plant in Beaverton, Ore.

The process was announced at the Rapid Prototyping & Manufacturing '97 conference held in Dearborn on April 22-25.