Prototype mold-making specialist Fast4m Tooling LLC is trying to bring a new production method into use for blow molds, allowing toolmakers to save time and money.
Fast4m - pronounced fast form - starts molds from a stacked series of steel or aluminum sheets, rather than cutting them from a solid block. The process eliminates at least 80 percent of the machining done in standard mold making, sales and marketing Vice President Rob Esling said during an Oct. 13 interview at the Society of Plastics Engineers' Blow Molding Division conference in Toledo.
The process uses computer mold-design data and a high-speed laser to cut the rough shape of the mold into a series of metal plates, each sheet slightly varied to provide the basic outline of the mold when the plates are joined. Some tools may include as many as 400 individual plates.
The toolmaker then fine-tunes the shape and surface of the mold through more traditional processing techniques, Esling said. The process also allows mold makers to insert spaces for water lines in the plates. The company estimates a mold maker can cut production costs 10-15 percent.
Fast4m wants to sell its technology to toolmakers, rather than compete with them, Esling said.
So far, the company has created production molds for injection molding, compression molding and steel stamping. It has prototypes in blow molding and is seeking partners to take the technology further in the process.