🖨️ Design of additively manufactured moulds for expanded polymers
The traditional tools used in steam-chest moulding technologies for the shaping of expanded polymers can be replaced today by lighter moulds, accurately designed and produced exploiting the additive manufacturing technology. New paradigms have to be considered for mould design, assuming that additive manufacturing enables the definition of different architectures that are able to improve the performance of the moulding process. This work describes the strategies adopted for the design and manufacturing by Laser powder bed fusion of the moulds, taking into specific consideration their functional surfaces, which rule the heat transfer to the moulded material, hence the quality of the products and the overall performance of the steam-chest process. The description of a case study and the comparison between the performance of the traditional solution and the new moulds are also presented to demonstrate the effectiveness of the new approach. This study demonstrates that the re-design and optimization of the mould shape can lead to a significant reduction of the energy demand of the process, thanks to a homogeneous delivery of the heating steam throughout the part volume, which also results in a remarkable cutting of the cycle time.