Materials the key to expanding tooling capabilities
The advanced material properties of Stratasys FDM thermoplastics have been essential to replacing machined aluminum tools with 3D printed equivalents. This is illustrated by Mecoval’s composite tooling business, which 3D prints a range of tools, such as layups forms, inserts and mandrels.
One example is Mecoval’s 3D printed layup tools used to produce carbon-fiber parts for several Formula One racing teams. Made with ULTEM™ 1010 and ULTEM™ 9085 resins, the 3D printed molds offer extremely high heat resistance and thermal stability, enabling Mecoval to address its customers’ requirements for high-performance carbon-fiber parts in timeframes not possible with CNC composite tools. The team also uses polycarbonate material to print molds for automotive polyurethane parts.
“From a previous two-to-three-week timeframe, we’re now producing composite layup tools in just a few days. While that’s a game-changer for us, without materials that can stand up to the high temperatures and pressures of the layup process as aluminum tools do, these lead times would be redundant,” says Enguix. “The fact is, we’re taking on much more new tooling work with this capability.”
The Fortus 450mc is also employed to produce sacrificial tools using an advanced soluble material, ST-130, to make composite parts with complex geometries. The carbon fiber composite material is wrapped around the mold, and once cured, the internal sacrificial core is washed away leaving the final composite part. Enguix explains, “We were recently tasked by one of our automotive customers to produce a complex duct in carbon fiber. Using our traditional CNC process, this would have taken two weeks and been a very costly exercise. Using the Fortus 450mc, we were able to print the soluble tool and have a final carbon-fiber part in our hands within days, and at a fraction of the cost.”