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AddForm – Additive manufacturing of mould inserts for injection moulding of functional prototypes and small product series

Additive manufacturing (AM), often referred to as 3D printing, has received a lot of attention recently. The overall idea of the AddForm project is to use rather inexpensive mould inserts, made by AM, for injection moulding of plastic parts. The project focuses on polymer-based AM materials.

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AddForm project
Propellers (bottom) injection moulded using mould inserts (top) made by additive manufacturing.

The objective is to develop methods for the manufacturing and use of AM mould inserts for injection moulding, so that the industry can reduce costs and time in the product development phase Such mould inserts can also be used in regular production of small series.

The industry needs more than fast and inexpensive prototypes. It is important to note that for most industrial applications it is not yet possible make plastic components directly by AM with the 'correct' properties when it comes to attributes such as impact strength or fire resistance. The industry has to take the injection moulding route in order to achieve this. Injection moulded prototypes, made with AM mould inserts, can have the correct material – possessing the specified properties, and being ready for full-scale production by injection moulding.

"Soft" mould inserts made by AM were tested already 20-25 years ago. The present project will be based on recent developments in improved polymer-based AM materials and processes.

The aim of the AddForm project is to understand the performance of the mould materials in terms of the loading they are subjected to during the injection moulding process. In order for industrial manufacturers to obtain fast and satisfactory results, the materials must be tested and evaluated.

There are a number of different AM processes and a variety of materials types available, and these have their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to being used for mould inserts.

The researchers will also be working to identify quicker ways for assembling moulds and mounting them in the injection moulding machine. Another research topic is to find effective surface treatments to provide moulds with the desired surface finish and durability.

The AddForm project, with funding from the BIA programme of the Research Council of Norway, was initiated by OM BE Plast and SINTEF Materials and Chemistry. The other project members are: Eker Design, Laerdal Medical, Mascot Electronics, Nordic 3D, ProNor, Rottefella, Sleipner Motor, Ulefos Esco, Scandinavian Business Seating and Stokke, as well as the research partners SINTEF Raufoss Manufacturing and NTNU Gjøvik Campus.

Key Factors

Project duration

2015 - 2018