DTM Corp. said it has commercialized its RapidTool process for making prototype injection molding tooling. The technology can reduce dramatically the time required to make such tooling, according to DTM. ``RapidTool sets the stage for a new era in the rapid prototype industry. It is a major breakthrough that will revolutionize prototype tooling development,'' said DTM President John Murch-ison.
The company, based in Austin, Texas, developed the SLS Selective Laser Sintering rapid prototyping process that is used with the RapidTool system. DTM made its first commercial shipment in 1993 and currently has SLS machines in 70 sites worldwide.
Michael Ervin, the company's vice president of engineering and development, said in a telephone interview Aug. 24 that the RapidTool material fused by laser is an iron-copper composite with hardness about equal to that of T-6 aluminum, one of the most prominent prototype tooling materials.
He said RapidTool generates a set of mold inserts in a computer-controlled laser process that takes only four to five days. Final polishing is done after the inserts come out of the system's furnace and a mold base. Other components then are installed, which adds about another week, Ervin said.
The short laser process ``will be of interest not only to people who do a lot of prototype tooling and want the part quickly, but it may interest people who don't normally do that sort of thing and expect it to take from eight to 12 weeks to make a mold,'' he said.
``They have an alternative here that may lead them to more prototyping than they've ever done before,'' Ervin said.
Mold inserts produced with the new process will be capable of producing in excess of 50,000 injection molded parts, according to Ervin.
The RapidTool process is in use at two sites producing a variety of injection molding tooling. One site is Xerox Corp. in Stamford, Conn., and the other is in Kentucky at the University of Louisville, where the school and a group of businesses have formed a consortium to study techniques of speeding injection molded products to market.
Closely held DTM announced the RapidTool process at trade shows last year, but encountered technical difficulties on the road to market.