Prototyping & Tooling
Epoxy, urethane, and SLA resins—modeling, working, and HDU tooling boards—for your applications
Whether you’re an engineer, mechanical designer, model maker, or tool or prototype developer we can help you select the materials you need for your application challenges. To help bring your initial designs and concepts to life, we have a full range of prototyping and tooling materials to support your product and part development. Our extensive product line includes:
Trends in Prototyping
The prototyping stage has become more and more critical in recent years as the pace of new product development has accelerated and product lifecycles have contracted. Since most product design work is now done with some type of computer software, the first model of a new product is often a series of computer files. Converting these files into three-dimensional physical models can be accomplished through an additive or subtractive process.
Three Dimensional Physical Models
There are several additive technologies but they all share one thing in common—the computer models are cut into layers and this data is used to construct 3D models in a layer-by-layer fashion. One of the most accurate and popular additive technologies is stereolithography (SLA). SLA begins with a liquid photopolymer. The layer-by-layer building process is carried out with a UV laser. As the laser traces out each layer, all liquid polymer struck by the laser instantly solidifies.
The subtractive approach begins with a large block or buck of machinable material. A CNC milling center, working from the computer model, cuts away at this material until the 3D model remains. Urethane tooling board is widely used for this purpose. Individual boards are laminated together with appropriate adhesive to create the buck. Urethane tooling boards come in a variety of densities. Higher density boards offer better strength and durability while lower density boards offer lower cost. Urethane tooling board is cheaper than aluminum and more dimensionally stable than wood products such as MDF, pine or mahogany. Once a one-off prototype has been made with either approach, replicas of this prototype can be made quickly and inexpensively using silicone moldmaking materials and liquid urethane or epoxy casting resins.
CNC-Machined Molds and Plugs for the Composites Industry
Urethane tooling boards are also increasingly finding use in CNC-machined molds and plugs in the rapidly growing composites industry. CNC equipment permits the production of highly accurate molds. Molds made from urethane tooling boards remain dimensionally accurate in storage for years because they do not shrink with time and are unaffected by moisture. In recent years, the trend has been toward lower density foam in order to improve economics. Densities ranging from 20 PCF to 2 PCF are popular. Reducing density even slightly (for example from 10 PCF to 8 PCF) can provide significant cost savings. There has also been a shift from polyurethane foam to polyisocyanurate foam. Polyisocyanurate foam (also called ISO foam), is noticeably less expensive than polyurethane foam, at the same density. Another interesting trend is the use of machinable epoxy-based tooling pastes. Tooling pastes allow use of very low density foam for the interior volume of a plug or mold. The foam core is covered with the tooling paste. After curing, an epoxy shell is CNC machined to yield a very fully-dense, very durable, high-temperature tooling surface which will hold vacuum and stand up to numerous pulls.
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