3D Printed Injection Molding Tools – Bi-Link

Bi-Link, a Rapid Direction customer based in Bloomingdale, Illinois, is pushing the limits with their ProJet 3500 series MultiJet 3D printer. Recently, they were the focus of a remarkable Success Story produced by manufacturer 3D Systems. Although this article highlights their application with 3D Printed Injection Molding Tools, Bi-Link has utilized their printer for numerous other production adaptations.

What they’re doing is nothing short of revolutionary:

  • Going from digital design to 3D printed mold in a day
  • Producing customer parts using the same material as the customer’s production parts, whether it is liquid crystal polymer (LCP), polycarbonate, polystyrene, elastomer or other thermoplastic materials.
  • Compressing iteration cycles that can take 3 months into a week
  • Creating cores, cavities and inserts with 3D System’s UV-curable materials and post-processing methods

“We make no concessions on tolerances. We demand the same quality for parts as we get out of a steel mold. Any part you can manufacture, we can produce from a 3D-printed mold — exact material at a lower cost and one-fifth the lead time.”

Bi-Link currently uses three ProJet® 3500 HD Max printers from 3D Systems to produce injection mold tooling and sample parts. The ProJet 3500 HD Max is designed to produce functional plastic parts for professional-grade design and manufacturing applications. It uses 3D Systems’ specially engineered VisiJet® M3 materials, offering UV-curable plastic in a range of colors, translucencies and tensile strengths.

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“Customers love this service,” says Ziberna. “They would typically have to wait two to three weeks to get just tooling, never mind test parts. With the ProJet 3500 HD Max we made one customer four different part designs over the course of six days, shipping them 10-12 parts for each iteration overnight.

“That’s a two- or three-month design and test cycle compressed to a week. For medical parts, we are creating the second and third revisions for a customer before competitors have even produced the first test part.”

Forms, fixtures, insert mold tooling, hybrid tools, thermoforming — Bi-Link can do just about anything up to 10 inches long. As many as 200 parts can be manufactured from a typical injection mold printed in the ProJet 3500 HD Max and finished with Bi-Link’s tempering process. A customer that provides Bi-Link with a CAD file in the morning can be making parts the next afternoon from the 3D-printed mold.

The sample parts and injection molds aren’t limited to simple patterns. Ziberna is happy to show the level of detail Bi-Link can achieve, rattling off features such as deep cores and recesses, tiny holes, clamp inserts in the mold, thin walls, small undercuts, and fine 1.5mm teeth.

“We make no concessions on tolerances,” he says. “We demand the same quality for parts as we get out of a steel mold. Any part you can manufacture, we can produce from a 3D-printed mold — exact material at a lower cost and one-fifth the lead time.”

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