PROJECT PLASTIC 2018 candidate: Softtooling

SOFTTOOLING enables manufacturing companies to produce high precision polymer parts for a fraction of the price compared to current tooling methods. Even better, lead times are reduced from typically 4+ weeks down to a matter of days.

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The problem:
Danish production companies highly rely on injection molding for high precision polymer parts for example in the medico industry. However, tooling for injection molding remains costly and with very long lead times.

The solution:
SOFTTOOLING delivers custom made mold inserts for low to medium scale high precision injection moulding at a very low cost and fast lead times. The project utilizes an ultra high precision custom build DLP 3D printer to achieve unheard details (z-res. of approx. 1 μm) in any compatible photopolymer resin. Such level of detail can be useful for many applications; e.g. SOFTTOOLING is able to create directional reflectance that can enable barcodes to be replicated directly in polymer parts without additional manufacturing steps – even on challenging freeform surfaces.

The result:
Faster, cheaper and highly precise tooling for low to medium scale high precision injection molding processes.
Complete design freedom allows inserts to have complex shapes
Directional reflectance achieved on freeform surface in cheap, available resin.
Mirror-like sub-μm surface roughness achieved merely with UV-post curing: Ra approx. 50 nm


University and the academic level of the project:

Technical University of Denmark, DTU

MSc thesis project (30 ECTS) – however, please note that the official thesis starting date was 03/09/2018. Everything included in this application is the result of 3 weeks intensive work. For the same reason, the uploaded project should only be considered a draft since it is nowhere near being finished. We are very eager to bring this project to even better results during the next 4 months.


Which type(s) of plastics/production processes are used in your solution?

For Digital Light Processing (DLP): Any high resolution photopolymer with a curing reaction at approx. 405 nm wavelength. The cured photopolymer must exhibit good thermal properties. In the present case FunToDo Industrial Blend Red is used.
For subsequent injection molding (IM): Any thermoplastic with a relatively low working temperature (like PP or ABS).


More information

This is a laser-generated 3D image of the printed surface layer of an insert. Notice the tremendous detail and precision; the ridges are merely 8 microns tall. That same sample exhibited mirror-like surface finish along the reflective surface with an R_a value of 18 nm after UV-post curing.
This picture shows a barcode incorporated into a complicated freeform surface. Contrast is created by micro-sized ridges spaced with a chosen pitch. The ridges are designed to have an angle of 10 degrees in order to most efficiently generate contrast with a spot light source depending on its orientation. Left side: CAD-model. Right side: Printed insert.
This is an illustration of the setup with the resin basin and build plate on top. A projector below the basin cures the resin by projecting a UV image. Each projection produces a layer that adheres to the build plate. Then, the build plate raises and a 3D model is generated. The used resin in the picture is FunToDo Industrial Blend Red.

PROJECT PLASTIC is a talent competition for engineering students. The purpose is to celebrate the talented students that as part of their degree lead the way in how to use plastic materials to create innovative solutions. The competition is being administrated by The Danish Plastics Federation.

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