3D Printing is a key technology in the creation of injection molds, reducing costs by up to 80%
3D Printing Stories – Injection Molds
The Arad Group is a world leader in the field of water measurement solutions. The company designs, manufactures and sells its cutting edge water meters to residential, bulk, irrigation and water management companies around the world. Millions of Arad’s water meters are already installed, and the company manufactures over 500,000 units a year.
Arad maintains an in-house molding and injection manufacturing plant and operates a sophisticated testing and quality control bench, which examines each water meter separately. In developing new prototypes of smart water meters, Arad uses Stratasys PolyJet-based 3D printing is one of those key technologies, used to directly produce the prototypes in just hours and also to create injections molds to test the prototypes in their final material.
Speeding up the prototyping process breaking the bottleneck
The design production and testing of water-tight parts used to hold electronic components is a great example. The plastic parts need to be sealed together using ultrasonic welding. Using conventional manufacturing methods, the entire process can take two to three months; the main bottleneck typically is the time required to create the metallic molds for injection molding. But Arad managed to cut the entire process to less than one week using Stratasys 3D printing.
Testing the Final Material with Plastic Molds 3D Printed in 10 Hours
Welding trials and testing can only be performed on “real” parts in the final material, typically produced using a prototype aluminum mold or the actual final steel mold. Sometimes, design changes to the mold are required to optimize the part for welding, a costly and time-consuming process.
Instead, Arad chose to create an injection mold using its Objet260 Connex2 3D Printer from Stratasys. The molds were 3D printed using Stratasys Digital ABS material in four parts: core, cavity and two inserts to create the negative draft. Total 3D printing time was just 10 hours.
The design included a step joint for the welding process, which provides high strength and good aesthetics because the welding melt partially encapsulates the joint.
The male and female parts were mounted on an Arburg injection molding machine and injected using two different materials for testing: Grilamid TR90 (amorphous Nylon) and ABS 757.
Once the parts were injected, they were fused together with the electronic components inside using ultrasonic welding for a water-tight fit.
3D Printing reduces time to market by 5 weeks and production costs by 80%
By using 3D printed injection molds to produce the functional prototypes, Arad reduced time to market by five weeks and production costs by 80 per cent.
In a blog post, Nick White, the head of Arad’s mold department, explained the company’s dedication to 3D printing technology: “We have been using 3D printing for a while to optimize our designs. As a market leader in the field of water measurement solutions, Arad is also at the forefront of adopting new technologies for the benefit of our customers.”