A low-cost executive toy is the inspiration behind a development that could save industry many thousands of pounds on expensive mould tooling.
Dr Gordon Smith of the Warwick Manufacturing Group hit on the idea while playing with a pin-art toy. Pressing a hand against the pins forms an exact reverse impression.
With help from a £150,000 Realising our Potential grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Smith took the principle and turned it into a re-usable mould tool.
It has taken him three years to perfect the network of pins covered by a plastic sheet. Precise control of the pins pulls the sheet into the shape of any product or component, Smith said. The pins can be reset when the job is finished.
Dubbed intelligent tooling, Smith’s pin-art machine is linked to a computer which stores the design information so it can be used again.