Sodick’s New Additive Manufacturing Set to Revolutionise Mould Tool Making

Sodick’s new OPM250E, just launched in the UK, combines metal additive manufacturing with integral linear motor drive milling, heralding a revolution in machine tool capability, particularly for mould tool manufacture. 

This unique machine offers significant benefits in the design and manufacture of plastic injection mould tools through its combination of metal additive manufacturing to create cooling channels of optimum shape and geometry – which often cannot be machined by conventional means – with the high speed milling necessary for tool finishing.

So, how does it work?  In the simplest terms the process is as follows: first, a metal powder is uniformly coated and then melted and solidified by scanning with a laser beam (this process can be repeated up to ten times) after which the surface is subjected to high speed milling with a rotary tool, creating the high quality accuracy, precision and finish which are not achievable with a laser process alone, after which the metal powder is uniformly coated again and the process is repeated, again and again, until the component geometry is complete.

Benefits for Mould Tool Making

The OPM250E can achieve accuracies of within +/- 1/100um, free-form surfaces with complex water cooling geometries, perfect-fit mating parts, and mould surface finish of Ra 0.19 microns, which can be increased to Ra 0.014 microns when buff finished on another machine.

The ability to create optimally designed cooling channels offers two major benefits: firstly, by improving the layout and functionality of the cooling channels to avoid heat build up in particular areas, making it possible to reduce the moulding cycle, and secondly, by increasing the length of time between maintenance cycles and therefore increasing overall productivity.

Another benefit of the OPM250E in the manufacture of mould tools is the ability to set the optimal laser condition.  The adoption of a laser with a maximum output of 500W enables the selection of either “Speed mode” or “Quality mode”, enabling the achievement of excellent mould surface quality, for example in plastic moulds where a high gloss finish is required.

The development of the OPM250E has been based on Sodick’s many years of research and development, resulting in a machine that provides a one-stop solution for the practical use of metal additive manufacturing combined with the latest machining centre technology.