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ES Technology has revealed that mould tools and inserts produced LaserCUSING technology enables plastic parts to be produced faster, generating savings in time and cost.

Reducing turnover and thin margins in these challenging times means that it is even more important to ensure that production processes are finely tuned and highly efficient.

Although there can be a number of unique factors that influence efficiency and output for any given process, a common thread across almost all manufacturing processes is cycle time.

Plastic injection moulding is a highly competitive business and mould tool design influences not only quality and cycle times but ultimately production output and profit.

One area of the injection-moulding process that has a significant impact on the overall cycle is the time required for cooling, prior to the finished component being ejected from the mould tool.

Cooling time is determined by factors such as polymer material properties, component wall thickness and moulding temperatures.

In some cases, the cooling cycle itself can be greater than the sum of the other moulding-cycle elements of mould close, fill, hold and part ejection.

The traditional method for incorporating cooling features within mould tools or inserts is to machine or erode cooling ducts in a conventional manner.

While 3D design provides assistance to mould designers when considering the positioning and configuration of cooling ducts, the subsequent production of these channels can be difficult and time-consuming.

Also the overall effectiveness of these cooling channels is limited by the processes used to create them.

LaserCUSING by comparison, is a process that involves the fusion of a metallic powder by a scanning laser to produce complex and intricate 3D components.

The layer-by-layer construction of the part makes it possible to design and manufacture tool and insert components that would otherwise be impossible or impractical to produce by traditional machining methods.

Furthermore, the opportunity to cool critical regions of the mould tool frees the users of LaserCUSING technology from the traditional constraints of tool design.

LaserCUSING has proven, on numerous occasions, its capability to generate highly complicated 3D components and produce mould inserts that incorporate conformal cooling channels.

In other words, cooling channels, which using conventional techniques could only be introduced to a limited extent or at very great expense, can now be made to follow the profile and contours of the mould insert.

Another benefit of this layer-by-layer construction is that the density of components produced by LaserCUSING ensures that no cooling water can escape during the moulding process.

There is also a reduction in the amount of reworking or finishing required on the mould contours and features of tools and inserts produced by LaserCUSING.

The process quality achieved prior to secondary treatment is such that most surfaces only require minor rework to produce a fine finish and obtain the degree of accuracy required.

The traditional roughing-down process and pre-finishing process on inserts produced by conventional methods are omitted completely.

The time-savings associated with this mean a reduction in manufacturing costs.

LaserCUSING not only produces components that have full density and minimal deformation, but the process also generates parts with material properties identical to those of the original material.

This method of component generation therefore represents a link between rapid tooling and traditional tool-making.

The principals of the LaserCUSING process also enables tool designers to place cooling channels and features where they will provide the maximum benefit to the process.

These conformal cooling channels can even be incorporated into highly complex 3D components.

The ability to produce high-resolution features such as conformal cooling channels and thin wall sections, while retaining good mechanical properties, means that mould-tool performance is improved and moulding-cycle times reduced.

The resultant improvements in mould-tool performance and the reduction in cycle time can mean, for example, that the same productivity can be obtained from a highly efficient 12-cavity tool as would normally be achieved from a less efficient 16-cavity tool.

The smaller conformally-cooled mould tool may allow for the use of a lower tonnage injection-moulding machine and therefore lower hourly running costs and lower costs per component.

A further example of the competitive advantages made possible with conformally-cooled mould tools manufactured using LaserCUSING is the capability to produce the required volume from fewer tools.

In one instance, two tools incorporating conformal cooling principles were proven to have the capacity to produce the required yearly volume in only a nine-month period.

By contrast, three tools using conventional cooling principles would be required to run for the full 12-month period to achieve the same volume of parts.

In this example, the conformally-cooled tools were capable of achieving double the output per tool.

For several years now, forward-thinking mould-tool manufacturers have used the characteristics of LaserCUSING to enable them to win tooling orders and provide their customers with the competitive advantages they need to continue to win production orders for components.

The efficiencies of conformal-cooled mould tools and inserts produced by LaserCUSING saves seconds in cooling time, which in turn can mean the difference between making a loss or making a profit.

ES Technology Ltd is an Oxford company with a 22 year history of manufacturing laser-based manufacturing equipment and providing a range of associated services and products. Our four business units are. Design and build of special purpose laser systems. We use a range of industrial lasers to provide customers with turnkey machines for laser marking, cutting and welding.Systems incorporate handling such as robot, conveyor or bowl-feed; motion and control elements such as XY/rotary tables and of course the appropriate laser and beam delivery for the job.Control is via PC/PLC and dedicated front-end software provides the human interface and integrates barcode readers, vision, etc as required. Laser jobshop.We use 10 laser systems to provide laser marking on a subcontract basis on plastic, metal, ceramic or wood.Products and components receive logos, serial numbers, barcodes and other functional marks.We also perform fine metal cutting and microperforating services. Distribution of rapid prototyping/rapid manufacturing systems.ES is the exclusive UK distributor of Concept Laser LaserCUSING systems which make parts in titanium, aluminium, stainless or tool steel and inconel directly from 3D CAD designs by additive layer build. Optical components.Laser diodes, safety eyewear and acousto-optic components/wafers are distributed.

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