Chinese tool makers are gaining ground in precision aluminum tooling, according to a presentation this morning at the annual technical conference of the Society of Plastics Engineers. For starters, aluminum billet is cheaper in China than the United States, according to Peter Mooney, president of Plastics Custom Research Services. Then mold makers laminate billets and precision machine the shapes for molds. As a result, it’s less expensive to make machined aluminum molds for complex shapes. The tools are particularly important for rotational molding.
How 3D printing fits into the digital thread, and the relationship between its uses for prototyping and for manufacturing, was the subject of a talk by Proto Labs' Rich Baker at last week's Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis.
How can automakers, aerospace contractors, and other OEMs get new metal alloys that are stronger, harder, and can survive ever higher temperatures? One way is to redesign their crystalline structures at the nanoscale and microscale.
Although a lot of the excitement about 3D printing and additive manufacturing surrounds its ability to make end-products and functional prototypes, some often ignored applications are the big improvements that can come by using it for tooling, jigs, and fixtures.
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