Production of Injection Molding Tooling with Conformal Cooling Channels using The Three Dimensional Printing Process
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Three Dimensional Printing is a desktop manufacturing process in which powdered materials are deposited in layers and selectively joined with binder from an ink-jet style printhead. Unbound powder is removed upon process completion, leaving a three dimensional part. Stainless steel injection molding inserts have been created from metal powder with the 3DP process. The freedom to create internal geometry by the use of the 3D-Printing process allows for the fabrication of molds with complex internal cooling passages. Tooling was developed with cooling channels designed to be conformal to the molding cavity. A finite difference simulation was constructed to study conformal channel design. A direct comparison of the mold surface temperature during the injection cycle of a 3D Printed mold with conformal channels and a mold machined with conventional straight channels was completed. The conformal passages produced with the 3DP process provide the ability to accurately control the temperature of the molding cavity throughout the process cycle. Surface temperature measurements demonstrated that the inserts with conformal cooling channels exhibited a more uniform surface temperature than the inserts machined with straight channels. Issues such as powder removal and post processing of green parts with small cooling channels were investigated.