St. Paul, MN — (March 7, 2022) Custom Mold & Design was one of the first manufacturers in the United States to invest in a hybrid additive manufacturing machine to reduce cycle time and cost for complex parts.
The company selected the Matsuura LUMEX Avance-25 Metal Laser Sintering Hybrid Milling Machine, a powder bed metal additive manufacturing platform with subtractive machining capability. The process produces highly accurate parts from metal powders that are melted and sintered using a laser while surfaces are precisely milled at high speeds. Often referred to as a “one machine, one process” system, the Matsuura LUMEX series allows for the production of the most complex and challenging parts through total manufacturing by digital engineering using 3-D data.
The Matsuura LUMEX Avance-25 is a game-changer for Custom Mold & Design.
“The LUMEX Avance-25 involves working with powder and laser sintering. We have assigned our best people to learn this technology, essentially taking someone who is efficient at 3- and 5-axis machining and throwing them in the deep end of the pool to learn this technology. It certainly requires an investment and patience, but it is rewarding to participate in new and exciting technology and grow professionally,” Vice President Lester Jones says.
“The main use for the LUMEX Avance-25 equipment in our industry is for the creation of conformal cooling inserts instead of using a series of drilled holes,” Jones explains. “This hybrid technology creates hollow areas inside the part, specifically pathways for the coolant to flow along the contour of the part, resulting in even and faster cooling. It reduces cycle time for those who take advantage of this technology.”
3-D cooling channels incorporated into molds on the Matsuura LUMEX Avance-25 increase cooling efficiency and enable high-cycle injection molding with better-than-ever quality and precision, which reduces not only cycle time, but cost as well. “We can see a reduction in cycle times from 10 to 30 percent,” Jones says. “By having the cooling closer to the surface of the mold, we can provide dimensionally stable and accurate parts.”
Conformal cooling for plastic injection molding is an emerging technology and Custom Mold & Design continues to be involved in the research and development of this arena. “We have been involved in the past through building layered components and diffusion bonding processes to put those layers together. This process can work, but often ends up leaking or failing because of the bond,” Jones explains. “Because the market is somewhat new and there are opportunities to learn more and develop new capabilities, people will continue to come up with ways to utilize this technology.”
In terms of manufacturing, Custom Mold & Design says the biggest change involved with conformal cooling is performing more thermal analysis on the front-end to design the cooling channels optimally. “The process is very different from what we are used to, starting with the powder rather than a block of metal, but the end result of injection molding is very similar to everything we have done in the past, in that we are making vast improvement in the injection molding process,” Jones explains.
Based in Forest Lake, Minn., Custom Mold & Design specializes in mold making, engineering, design and development and assembly. As an outsourcing partner, the company can handle as much or as little of its clients’ projects as needed. Custom Mold & Design combines an experienced design and engineering team with highly advanced technology along with the best-in-class equipment in the industry.
Custom Mold & Design has remained at the forefront of new and innovative part and process developments over the past 50 years to ensure it provides its clients with a competitive advantage. As the go-to mold manufacturer for the medical device, electronics, defense and industrial markets, Custom Mold & Design prides itself on adopting technology early on while everyone else catches up.
Custom Mold & Design began training its team as the equipment hit the floor and although there is still a learning curve, Jones says it is going well. “Each insert we work with has different characteristics that are new, surprising and an opportunity to continue learning,” he adds. “That is part of the reason we are involved – we want to be on the leading edge of technology. There are challenges to being on the forefront, but that’s the fun part. We will be the experts while everyone else is catching up.”
The company prides itself on having a long history working with its equipment suppliers to help optimize both the product and manufacturing processes. Custom Mold & Design has partnered with St. Paul, Minn.-based Matsuura to produce contract manufactured parts for clients who do not want to invest in the equipment but want to take advantage of the technology.
“We are helping our clients out by manufacturing the components that they need. By performing the necessary development work, we are expanding our expertise in equipment utilization and process development,” Jones adds. “Combining an accurate, high-speed milling machine and laser sintering is expensive and quite rare. Conformal cooling for mold inserts is the highest and best use for that equipment.”
For example, Custom Mold & Design is machining parts for a client that will go to into space and which require exceptional cooling to function properly. Conformal cooling will allow the part to be more successful. “This is a much more consistent and predictable process and provides a more robust result,” Jones notes. “LUMEX is a strong solution for any industry where cycle time is the driver and where parts create cooling challenges.”
The ultimate goal is to offer customers a broader portfolio of services through all three companies. “We are a vertically integrated, one-stop shop,” Caron says. “We can save costs and lead time because we can function as one vertically integrated organization and do not have to buy components from someone else. Because of that, we are able to offer a lower total cost solution for whatever the requirements might be. We have the ability to choose the best-fit opportunities which consist of machined components, tooling design and fabrication, molding and full contract manufacturing.”
Matsuura’s combination of additive and subtractive technologies enables the production of parts and component geometries in a method that has never been possible or imagined. Often referred to as a “one machine, one process” system, the Matsuura LUMEX series permits production of the most complex and challenging parts through total manufacturing by digital engineering using 3-D data. The process produces highly accurate parts from metal powders that are melted and sintered using a laser while surfaces are precisely milled at high speeds. These machines possess both high-speed milling and laser sintering capability. Portions reprinted from Manufacturing Today Magazine.
For more information on Custom Mold & Design, please visit: custommold.net
Matsuura Machinery USA, Inc., located in St. Paul, MN is the U.S. subsidiary of Matsuura Machinery Corporation in Japan. Since 1935, Matsuura has been the forerunner in designing innovative technology and manufacturing solutions to a variety of industries around the globe. Matsuura Machinery USA, Inc. delivers unmatched excellence in 5-axis, vertical, horizontal, linear motor, multi-tasking CNC machine tools and machines with a powder bed metal AM platform with machining capability. Matsuura Machinery USA, Inc. provides the service, applications and technical field support that have always been the Matsuura standard for business. For more information on Matsuura products, contact: [email protected].