DÜSSELDORF, GERMANY — 3-D printers have been used to make prototype parts for the past few years, but now a German molder and mold maker is using the process to make injection mold tooling used during prototyping.
Robert Seuffer GmbH & Co. KG has built tools using 3-D printers from Stratasys Ltd. (Hall 2/G-23 and Hall 4/D-27) at a fraction of the cost and time of a conventional steel tool.
The tooling allows the company to give its customers sample parts that it can use in product development.
"Working with the automotive industry, sample parts need to be tested in the environment of moving mechanical parts as well as in high-temperature environments," said Andrea Buchholz, head of research and development at Seuffer, based in Calw, Germany. "With Stratasys 3-D printing, we can design the first drafts of the injection mold within a few days and 3-D print them in less than 24 hours for part evaluation."
Traditional CNC tooling production would take about eight weeks to manufacture the tool in metal and cost about 40,000 euros. The 3-D printed tool costs less than 1,000 euros — a 97 percent cost savings.
Seuffer has produced tools both for injection molding and for its hot-melt process used to overmold low-temperature polyamide over electronic circuit boards. The company uses Stratasys' rigid opaque Vero materials for the hot melt process.
"Manufacturers are adopting 3-D printed tools as a complimentary injection molding solution — not only to cost effectively test products before mass production, but also to produce customized parts."said Andy Middleton, general manager of Stratasys Europe, Middle East and Africa.