Conformal cooling takes new twist

By: 
June 13, 2011

The holy grail of molding is the rapid cooling of molds, and while several techniques have been tried (and some have failed) conformal cooling of molds is making some headway.

Mold cooling is at the heart of molding-cycle optimization and part quality, which means that mold manufacturers need to understand mold cooling, molding cycle optimization and be up on the latest cooling technologies. "Mold manufacturers need to be concerned about cycle time if they want to help their customers maintain a competitive edge, improve efficiencies, productivity and profits in order to compete on a global basis," said Bob Beard of Robert A. Beard Associates Inc .  His mantra was given in a webinar for the American Mold Builders Association , and it's something he preaches often to various groups.

As a "mold-cooling guru," Beard is familiar with the many technologies that have been developed over the past couple of decades to reduce cycle times and improve both quality and profitability. Beard noted that using high-thermal conductivity metals such as beryllium copper and aluminum has helped molders achieve cycle reductions of 20% or more. Of course, aluminum isn't suitable for every mold application.

While optimizing the choice of mold material may represent 50% of available cycle reduction, Beard said that the other 50% "is analyzing and optimizing how the cooling lines are connected to the plant cooling system." Beard's "enhanced cooling" analysis is the first step toward improving cooling in mold/molding systems. "By taking an engineering systems approach," Beard said, "cycle times can be reduced by 20% or more on existing molds. Measuring and optimizing water flow to ensure that turbulent flow is truly present in the mold-cooling system, and by changing the process, significant cycle reductions can be achieved."

Conformal cooling isn't new technology, however there are several new approaches to conformal cooling that have been introduced of late that promise to improve this technology. Beard commented that from a "theoretical dynamic heat transfer standpoint, conformal cooling would or should, always produce a faster cycle time than conventional mold-cooling techniques." However, he added, "no one has developed a working, cost-effective commercial process for injection molding that is being sold on the open market."

Evolution of a Technology:

A few years ago, FloodCooling Technologies LLC, filed for a patent on "Brazed Aluminum Laminate Mold Tooling." From research, it appears that the patent was issued on March 4, 2008.  While FloodCooling Technologies still owns the intellectual property, a subsidiary company ThermaForm LLC , based in Troy, MI, developed the technology called ThermaBlocks, in blowmolds for rigid packaging applications. That seems to be the ideal niche for this technology, said Cole Clark, whose father, J. Thomas Clark, founded the company and serves as ThermaForm's CEO.

FloodCooling's technology was originally tried with steel injection molds through Fast4M, a subsidiary of FloodCooling (now out of business) and there were some problems with leaking, according to a couple of people familiar with the brazed lamination technology. Possibly, it was due to the high heats and pressures of the injection molding process that caused some failures.

"I think that

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