One of the earliest parts of the prototyping and manufacturing process is to create any specialized tools needed to make the parts. This is one area where prototype CNC machining can be invaluable because it allows you to quickly create prototype tools, test them, and redesign them if necessary. In some cases, you will need to make use of soft tooling to create these parts. In these instances, using CNC machined foam, which is a type of polyurethane foam, is your best option. This foam is widely available at a low cost. Once you have the foam, however, you need to create a high-quality mold of the tool that you will then use to manufacture your products and parts.
Begin by Asking Questions
The first step in this process is to determine what your tool will need to do. While that may seem like a simple question with a simple answer, you do need to consider a wide number of factors. What conditions will your new tool be subjected to? How will you measure if the design of this tool is a success? What size, finish, and other factors will apply to the finished part this tool will be used to produce? What will the tool’s lifecycle need to be or how often will it need t be replaced? All of these questions need to be answered before you begin creating the mold for the tool or CNC rapid prototyping. With these questions answered, we can assist you in creating your mold.
The Five Steps to Creating the Mold
Now that you are ready to create the mold, there are five steps you will follow. The first is bonding. Here, you will add layers of foam board together, gluing them together with a special epoxy. This creates a block that will be used as the base of the mold. This mold will need to be vacuum sealed in a bag, cured, and prepared before it can be used.
Next, the block will be cut into and shaped into the part’s shape using a CNC machine. It will need to be filed and sanded once the shaping is completed.
Next, you prepare the lay-up. You will apply a special release film to the shape. Following this, you add several sheets of prepreg. Once you have added enough layers to reach the necessary thickness, a layer of release film is added on top and the entire shaped block is vacuum sealed once again.
Next, the mold is cured to make certain the foam does not crack or otherwise become deformed. Finally, block is removed, leaving behind the indentions it made on the prepreg. This is your actual mold. It is then polished and finished as needed. Once this is done, it is attached to a structural support. You now have a final mold that you can use to create the tools needed for your CNC Machining Prototype.