Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing) of Thermoform Tooling
This paper presents a design, prototyping and tooling methodology for developing rapid injection molding
tooling using additive manufacturing (AM) technology (3D printing). Solid modeling and additive manufacturing have
reduced the time and cost to design a product and create a prototype. While these methods can fabricate prototypes, they are
limited as manufacturing tools because additive manufacturing materials cannot withstand the high temperatures and
pressures required for manufacturing tooling. In this research, we explore the AM technology for producing durable parts
with the potential for production of low volume manufacturing tooling. A fused deposition modeling (FDM) 3D printer was
employed to fabricate thermoform tooling in polypropylene styrofoam (PPSF). A comparative analysis was performed with
respect to standard thermoform tooling using computerized numerical control (CNC) machines. Additive tooling with PPSF
was faster in (1) development time, (2) comparable in quality; (3) tool yield was 50% lower and (4) total cost was 50%
higher than the standard fabrication method. This research lays the foundation for employing additive manufacturing (3D
Printing) technology for manufacturing low volume tooling.
Keywords - Additive Manufacturing, 3D Printing, Rapid Tooling, Thermoform Molding.