3D Mold Design

We offer Mold CAD Design Services to clients anywhere in the world and also have mold manufacturing capabilities as well!

3D Mold Design is the process of creating files used in the making of a mold to be used in casting metals, plastics and many other materials. The designed mold will then turn the mold material into a shaped product. For a designer to be able to make a mold, he needs to create a 3D that will be fed into a CNC machine which will in turn create the surface of the mold.

Casting

Casting is the process of heating up a metal to its liquid form then pouring it into a mold. On cooling, the metal takes up the shape of the mold’s inside surfaces. Upon hardening, the metal is removed from the mold. The metal part’s shape is now complete and ready for use or further processing.

Injection Molding

Injection Molding is the process of forming plastics using a mold. Just like casting, injection molding uses a mold to products. However, unlike casting, the plastic resin is injected under high pressure into the mold where it then is pressed into the shape and cavities inside the mold. On cooling, the plastic resin takes the shape of the mold the part is made.

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Typical Mold Tooling Materials

The mold is the tooling that is used to produce plastic parts through molding. Injection molds are only used for mass production owing to the fact that they are expensive to manufacture. Molds are typically made from hardened steel, beryllium hardened copper alloy or aluminum. Material used is chosen based on their economics. Typically, steel is more costly buts lasts longer. Molds made from pre-hardened steel are less wear resistant and are therefore used for a lower production volume most preferably of larger components. On the Rockwell-C scale, pre-hardened steel measures between 38 and 45. Molds made from hardened steel require to be heat treated right after machining to make them more heat and wear resistant which helps to increase their lifespan.

Molds made of aluminum are less expensive compared to steel molds, however, higher grades of aluminum such as QC-7 and QC-10 could be machined using modern computerized equipment to make them viable for the molding of hundreds of thousands of parts. This enables aluminum molds to offer a quick turnaround and faster production cycles since it has better heat dissipation. They can also be coated to make them more wear resistant depending on application and production run.

Test Molding

Test molding is highly recommended method when transitioning from prototype to mass production. A test mold differs from a manufacturing mold because it is made out of a hard plastic or 3D printed material (or other if required) for the use in casting a prototype or a small number of parts. Unlike the metal mold, the test mold cannot be reused many times and is therefore discarded after a few production cycles. A test mold is only a fraction of the cost of a metal manufacturing mold but saves huge amounts of project cost should the design need further refining after the prototyping & testing phase. For this reason a test mold is only relevant for further prototyping & testing and low volume runs.
The benefits of test molding are…

It is less costly

If you placed an order for the manufacturing metal mold then later realize that your design has flaws, it will be very costly to rework the mold. Reworking a faulty mold is sometimes almost as expensive as the mold itself. Making a test mold is only 10-20% of the cost of a mass production metal mold. By purchasing a test mold prior to manufacturing, you guarantee that your parts are fully functional before making the manufacturing metal mold. Further, it saves you the incredible potential losses you could incur if your order for mass production results in a flawed product. For this reason, test molding is highly recommended and rarely does J – CAD Inc. make a mass production mold without first creating a test mold and getting 100% approval on the test products from the client.

It allows you to test your products functionality

Your idea could work well theoretically but could contain numerous flaws in real life. Designing a prototype and testing it allows you to realize any design flaws and optimize the functionality of you product. Doing this before you order your manufacturing mold and mass production is extremely important.

It enables you to test the performance of several materials

Through test molding and prototyping you are able to test the performance of numerous materials to find out which one works best with your design. With test molding we can cost effectively manufacture many prototypes in different materials. When testing the materials we can work with you and help choose the best one suited to your product keeping in mind a cost effective material that does not hinder your products performance.

It gives you confidence in your product

When you produce a prototype using a test mold and it performs to your expectations, you can be sure the rest of the products will be the exact same that are produced through mass production means. This gives you confidence in your product’s functionality and mass production order.

It is therefore highly recommended that you use a test mold prior to the manufacture of the metal mold that will be used for mass production.

Here is a job J – CAD Inc. did for the Santa Clara Justice Building in Santa Clara, California at the heart of Silicon Valley. We were provided with a 2D drawing of the State of California Seal. We created a negative 3D file which they used for CNC purposes to carve into a mold. Then concrete was cast into the mold and the finished product is shown here.

3D Mold Design

Quickly Transform New Ideas Into Great Products

J-CAD Inc. is committed to developing and building high quality plastic injection molds within days of the first phone call you make to us. From jewelry to medical devices, mechanical parts and forming operations, all of this can be achieved through our state-of-the-art 3D printing and molding processes.

With your 3D CAD file in hand, we will design the best mold for your product. One of our accomplished designers will work with you to adjust the type of material you would like for your specific application.

Creating Your Product Through Molds: 3D Printing Vs. Injection Molding

You have your product prototype in hand and it’s ready for launch – but how are you going to scale from that one single unit to thousands at a time?

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There are a number of factors to consider when it’s time for you to scale the manufacturing of your product, and it all starts with manufacturing a plastic mold of your product.For plastics molding, you generally have two choices:

  1. Injection Molding

This process is one of the oldest manufacturing processes which is renowned for producing a lot of product in a short amount of time.

For this method, mold material (like thermoplastic) is injected into a metal mold. The thermoplastic then takes the shape of the mold cavity, is cooled, and is released as a solid part.

As quick as this method can be, it does have one major drawback: the cost. Injection molding requires a substantial upfront investment, costing inventors anywhere from a couple thousand dollars to well over $100,000. If your product requires multiple or modified parts, it can be incredibly if not impossibly expensive for an inventor to utilize.

  1. 3D Printing

3D printing (or additive manufacturing) is the newer kid on the block when it comes to molding. This process adds materials together to create the final product as opposed to cutting away material (milling) or reshaping it (injection molding).

There are a number of benefits that come with 3D printing:

  • Customized parts can be produced with no upfront cost
  • Parts can be built from a single digital file
  • 3D printing can be used to produce shapes which would otherwise be costly or impossible through other manufacturing methods

With that said, 3D printing isn’t the answer for every product. In some instances, the process may be slow, costly, and the parts produced may not meet industry material or quality standards.

There’s No Perfect Molding Method for Every Part and Product

Both methods are ideal for on-demand productions, pilot and test runs, functional prototyping and bridge tooling. But one method is not necessarily better than the other.

When weighing between your plastic molding options, the two major factors that need to be considered are:

  • Unit cost
  • Order volume

The unit cost for a product designed through injection molding has a higher upfront expensive because of the costs associated with making the mold. But with each and every product you manufacture, the unit cost decreases as the initial mold cost is being spread across to another unit.

The “no upfront costs” associated with 3D printing make it an attractive option to inventors because there is little to no financial barrier. Because the costs do not decrease over time, however, this option makes more financial sense for smaller product runs or “test” molding.

Other Important Considerations

Depending on your product, there could be other considerations to be made when choosing between injection molding and 3D printing, such as:

  • How complex is your product?

You should choose the method that is most suitable for making your design. If your product features unique or creative, complex shapes, 3D printing will likely be the best choice for your product.
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  • How much time does the product take to produce?

Production time is another important consideration. J-CAD Inc. is renowned for our quick turn-around times, with many products being in our clients’ hands within one week of them making their very first phone call to us!

  • How easy is it to modify your product?

Being able to iterate and change your product idea is critical at the beginning of your product development journey. Spending a few thousand dollars on an injection mold that will likely need changes is not only costly, but it can bring your innovation cycle to a grinding halt. If your product is ready to scale, then that same process may be more appropriate than 3D printing.

Wide Selection of Metal Mold Materials

There are a variety of materials available for creating your mold, each of which comes with its own unique set of benefits and drawbacks.

QC7/QC10 Mold Aluminum

This high-impact aluminum is a popular choice for two reasons:

  • It’s quick and easy to machine
  • It retains its CNC milling tool life (the amount of cutting time you get from the tool after it can no longer be used)

Tool Steels

This includes steels such as stainless steel, A2, D2, and S7. These steels must been hardened after machining to ensure that they have maximum Rockwell Hardness. Inventors typically choose these steels for molds when there are cores, slides, and where durable strength is needed for their product.
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Pre-Hardened 4140 Mold Steel

Easy to machine and generally not needing to be hardened, pre-hardened 4140 mold steel maintains good tolerances without the heat changes necessary in tool steel hardening.

Aluminum Copper

Aluminum copper is a leading choice for products involving motion because of its superior durability. It is often used for slides and core pulls.

Different Types of Molding Machines

There are a number of different molding machine types used for injection molding processes, all of which may fall under one of the following driving system categories:

  • Hydraulic
  • Mechanical
  • Electric (EMT)
  • Pneumatic

Hydraulic Molding Machines

This type of machine was the only option until electric molding machines were first launched in 1983, and they continue to be the most widely used type of machine for injection molding worldwide.  While efficient, hydraulic molding machines are less precise than other options.

Mechanical Molding Machines

Mechanical molding machines use a toggle system which builds up tonnage on a clamp beside the machine (this prevents the machine from opening due to the injection pressure).
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Electric Molding Machines

Also known as electric machine technology, these machines are faster, quieter and they are more accurate than other machine types.  Because they can operate using less energy, they can also help inventors reduce their operation costs.

Pneumatic Molding Machines

These machines use air pressure to build up tonnage on the clamp situated along the side of the machine.

Both electric and pneumatic molding machines often use a robotic arm to remove molded components by side or top entry, though parts are usually dropped out of the mold, travel down a chute and are deposited into a container.

What About CNC Machining?

Automated CNC (short for Computer Numerical Control) machines are devices that our industry uses to create components without the need of any human assistance.  Coded instructions are sent to a computer which tells the machines how to build parts quickly and precisely.

There are a variety of CNC machines available, including:

  • Milling machines
  • Lathes
  • Grinders

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These machines may also include CNC routers which can be used to make cuts in a variety of different materials using water, plasma and lasers.CNC machines come with a number of benefits:

  • Machines can operate independently and be combined into an entire cell of tooling machines
  • Machines are driven completely by digital designs and can operate continuously for days without any human intervention
  • They are incredibly precise, offering a level of detail which is impossible if using older tools

Despite the benefits, it is important that CNC machining can be a costly process.  This is because of the technology involved and the skilled workforce required to operate them.

What You Need For Your 3D Mold Design

Ready to manufacture your product? Here’s how you can get started:

  1. Have your idea ready

The more details you can provide your J-CAD Inc. design expert, the better we will be able to manufacture it. We will work with you to draw out your ideas, though we welcome drawings from inventors as well.

  1. Know what’s in store

What you pay for your mold will change based on the different elements you choose to incorporate into your product. We offer free quotes to anyone who is interested in developing their idea and will work with you to create affordable and manufacturable products.

  1. Sit back and let us do the work!

J-CAD Inc. is your one-stop production shop.  From the earliest computer aided design (CAD) drafting stages to mass production, we will take those product ideas from your first initial sketches and transform them into high-quality products in as little as one week!

Have a project in mind and don’t know where to start?  Let J-CAD Inc. help. Contact us online or call us today for a no-obligation quote at 1-888-202-2052!

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