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Thread: Aluminium Tools

  1. #1
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    Oct 2017
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    Aluminium Tools

    I'm looking for advice on aluminium molds. Specifically what type of aluminium is best for making molds and what type of issues can I expect if I decide to build aluminium molds?

  2. #2
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    Aug 2014
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    Michigan
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    Re: Aluminium Tools

    At my shop, we use standard aluminum that you will get from your local metal supply. We typically use it for prototypes but it can be used for low production tools and non-abrasive materials/unfilled materials. I do believe that you can get a hardened plating on an aluminum mold to extend its life but I am not positive on that.

    Husky

  3. #3
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    Upstate of South Carolina
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    Re: Aluminium Tools

    Best advice I’ll give you; put sleeves in the aluminum mold base and run the ejector pins through them. That will keep the harder pin from wearing all of the ejector pin holes in the mold base.
    Rick

  4. #4
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    Feb 2018
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    Re: Aluminium Tools

    Hi. New guy here.
    We run all aluminum molds all the time. 75 to 500 ton 1 to 24 cavities.
    Most of our molds are built with 7075-T6 aircraft grade aluminum. QC-10 is a premium aluminum specifically designed for molds.
    We tell our customers the molds are good for 250,000 cycles .... in actuality we have aluminum molds with over 1 million cycles on them.
    Mike

  5. #5
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    Feb 2016
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    San Francisco Bay Area, CA
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    Re: Aluminium Tools

    Quote Originally Posted by Jshoe View Post
    I'm looking for advice on aluminium molds. Specifically what type of aluminium is best for making molds and what type of issues can I expect if I decide to build aluminium molds?
    What benefits are you trying to achieve from using aluminum molds? Low cost? Fast machining? Fast cooling/cycle times?
    Aluminum is much softer than steel so generally ideal for low-volume production or prototyping.

    From my understanding well designed aluminum molds will use steel components to help w/ longevity: steel gate inserts, ejector sleeves (as Rick mentioned above), steel support pillars/rails or whichever they're called to help with deflection under high pressure clamp, retainer plates. But then cost will likely creep up with all these sub components, so I guess it depends on the scope of your need. And also what type of resin? I would avoid hard materials for obvious reasons, glass filled nylons, polycarbonates etc.

    If you want to use aluminum for fast cycle times (better cooling) then I'd suggest using steel mold base w/ aluminum plate inserts on core and cavity - This will give the structure of steel but have the benefits of fast cooling on the part surfaces. Though you'd want to keep steel gate inserts and ejector sleeves for longevity

    Not a metal expert but 7000 series will be your toughest I believe. Not sure of the cost/toughness expense/benefit ratio though; I'd curious if it really is a great alternative to steel. Depends on your specific need I suppose

  6. #6
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    Feb 2018
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    12

    Re: Aluminium Tools

    I disagree with processchris. We run AL molds all the time with none of the sub components mentioned. ABS, Nylon even Acetal run with no issues. Support pillars [because they're off the shelf & cheaper to buy than make], ejector pins & leader pins & bushings are steel. To be fair, cams & slides do require some steel sub components & hot runners can be tricky. Mold bases & ejector plates are all AL. I'm not a mold maker but I can by an AL mold for 1/3 the cost of steel typically. This mold is for a soap dispenser, runs in ABS & is in a 400 ton press. The cost $12,400.Click image for larger version. 

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  7. #7
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    Oct 2017
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    Re: Aluminium Tools

    Thanks guys this is all useful information. I would love to fill you in on our tools but I would probably get fired if I did, however I can tell you that we use aluminum for all of our tools and we do have tools approaching the 1,000,000 cycle mark. I was more concerned with finding a better material because we have issued with certain parts of the tools bending and moving. It looks like I may be trying to use QC-10 for the next tool.

  8. #8
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    Feb 2016
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    San Francisco Bay Area, CA
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    Re: Aluminium Tools

    Quote Originally Posted by Jshoe View Post
    tools approaching the 1,000,000 cycle mark.
    May I ask why you prefer aluminum? Is it for faster cycles or lower costs? I'm generally curious!
    If planning on running over 1,000,000 cycles why not make it out of steel?

  9. #9
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    Oct 2017
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    Re: Aluminium Tools

    You hit the nail on the head. Its faster, and cheaper to build tools using aluminium. Running 1,000,000 cycles is never the plan however customer increases have given us the opportunity to test these tools and see just how long we can push them. Also without going into specifics our product just works well with aluminium. As I stated earlier we have certain tools where the grade of aluminium is too easy to bend and move in thin wall areas of the tool. This is why I am looking for a harder alternative.

  10. #10
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    Feb 2016
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    San Francisco Bay Area, CA
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    Re: Aluminium Tools

    Quote Originally Posted by Jshoe View Post
    You hit the nail on the head. Its faster, and cheaper to build tools using aluminium. Running 1,000,000 cycles is never the plan however customer increases have given us the opportunity to test these tools and see just how long we can push them. Also without going into specifics our product just works well with aluminium. As I stated earlier we have certain tools where the grade of aluminium is too easy to bend and move in thin wall areas of the tool. This is why I am looking for a harder alternative.
    Very nice I could see that, fast machining and fast lead times. Let us know how that QC-10 works out for you!

    Quote Originally Posted by MNDesign81 View Post
    I'm not a mold maker but I can by an AL mold for 1/3 the cost of steel typically. This mold is for a soap dispenser, runs in ABS & is in a 400 ton press. The cost $12,400.Click image for larger version. 

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    I always thought 7075 series AL was more expensive than standard p20 steel but what the hell do I know I'm just a process guy!

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