The use of microstereolithography (μSL) parts as micro-injection molding (μIM) tools greatly reduces the time and cost to product and offers unique solutions for complex design issues. However, they present challenges to designers because of their strength, thermal characteristics and shorter lifetimes as compared to other mold materials. The purpose of this study is to use SL to build rapid injection mold tools directly combining micro features for short-run production.
In total, three tool inserts were produced. Two different μSL mold inserts were produced and evaluated in terms of different build approaches of micro features. One of the inserts includes micro features built horizontally, while the other one collaborates features built vertically, both having same geometrical dimensions. To evaluate the replication capability of prototype tools, two different thicknesses were set for micro features, that is, 30 and 120 μm. The mold inserts were assembled on a metallic mold frame and tested with polypropylene (PP).
It was observed that using inappropriate resin to fabricate the mold inserts can lead to inaccurate geometrical dimensions of the tool. Therefore, the material with high glass transition temperature (Tg) and low thermal conductivity is preferred. Also, the results of this research work showed that the processed material and technology play an important role both on part quality and tool life. After investigating the tool failure mechanisms during the injection, it was observed that tool failure occurred mainly because of excessive flexural stresses and ejection forces during the cavity filling and part ejection phases, respectively.
The paper describes the capability of μSL mold inserts for the production of small batches of micro-cantilevers which are used in MEMS relays.
Gheisari, R., Bártolo, P., Goddard, N. and Domingos, M.A.d.N. (2017), "An experimental study to investigate the micro-stereolithography tools for micro injection molding", Rapid Prototyping Journal, Vol. 23 No. 4, pp. 711-719. https://doi.org/10.1108/RPJ-10-2015-0152
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