Dissolving Molds: A New Way to Think About Injection Molding

Aug. 9, 2023
Rather than mimic the conventional functionality of a tool, something new is in the game: dissolvable molds. The soluble tooling technology uses the same printer but different materials, allowing for a flexible workflow—from geometry to molds to parts.

Glen Mason, manager of advanced innovation and industrialization at DeMarini, a division of Wilson Sporting Goods, and Lasse Staal, business development director of Nexa3D, spoke with Sharon Spielman, technical editor of Machine Design, about additive manufacturing for the sporting goods space. 

In this third of a five-part series, we delve into a ground-breaking aspect of mold design: dissolvability. Traditional injection molding often involves high costs and complexity. With this new approach, though, the focus is on achieving a 1:1 comparison of molds and parts. 

READ MORE: ASME Honors Additive Manufacturing Innovation

The dissolving aspect provides design flexibility, Mason notes. Even for complex parts with undercuts and non-ideal parting lines, the mold design can be completed in 30 min., which eliminates the need to anticipate and address the pain points of a part before testing it. Mason says the speed of this approach is exceptional and molds are ready to use in less than an hour.

The dissolving aspect allows for experimentation and testing. Unlike traditional molds where changing the gate location can be costly, using the 3D printing process means each shot can have a different gate configuration. Mason says this is a liberating feature that enables a multitude of design iterations with minimal time and material costs.

It is possible to print multiple molds simultaneously, and each mold only takes about 15 min. to create. The combination of this technology with soluble tooling also allows for seamless workflow from concept geometry to molded parts, Mason says.

Staal adds that the ability to create many design iterations on the same build—which was unthinkable in the realm of traditional metal tooling—allows for concurrent testing, dramatically reducing the time required to navigate through the design process.Instead of mimicking the conventional functionality of a tool, we need to bring something new to the game,” he says.

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