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Metal 3D-Printing System Slashes Mold Tool Build Time

TrueShape technology reportedly cuts tooling lead times and costs by more than 50%.

Geoff Giordano

September 12, 2022

2 Min Read
3D-printed plastic inserts
Image courtesy of Mantle/Thogus

A new metal 3D-printing system from San Francisco’s Mantle promises to dramatically reduce the time and cost of creating injection mold tooling.

Using its patented TrueShape technology, Mantle’s flagship products, the P-200 printer and F-200 furnace, have already cut tooling lead times and costs by more than 50%, the company said. Toolmakers who have installed beta systems include Tessy Plastics, Nicolet Plastics, Fathom Manufacturing, and Westminster Tool. The first full production systems are slated for delivery in the first half of 2023.

The P-200 printer, with a build volume of 200 x 200 x 150 mm, is produced on a CNC platform that combines printing and machining for superior accuracy and surface finish. The F-200 furnace sinters parts and can support multiple printers.

Plastic parts made using molds built via Mantle's TrueShape Technology 3D-printing system.

The system employs Mantle’s H13 and P2X tool steels, which perform like traditional materials in secondary operations such as machining, polishing, coating, and laser welding. Tool paths and machine instructions are automated with the system’s easy-to-use software.

Several case studies illustrate how the Mantle system has delivered:

  • Global contract manufacturer Tessy Plastics surpassed 1.25 million cycles on a deodorant packaging mold built with Mantle components and slashed production time 60%, from 150 to 60 hours.

  • On-demand digital platform Fathom Manufacturing cut toolmaking time 45%, from 200 to 110 hours, by eliminating or reducing operations including CNC milling, EDM, and polishing.

  • Westminster Tool integrated a Mantle beta system into its mold-making operations, finding that the printer’s precision lets them bypass many internal manufacturing processes, said founder and president Ray Coombs. “Mantle far surpasses any additive metal technology that we have seen previously.”

  • Wisconsin’s Nicolet Plastics will install one of Mantle’s first production systems to bring tool production in house and increase tool complexity. Mantle’s system will let Nicolet “significantly reduce the time it takes to produce production-quality tools and be able to start production in weeks versus months,” according to CEO Tony Cavalco. “Our tool designers and project managers will utilize the Mantle system for projects involving high-volume part manufacturing. Mantle technology will allow us to design conformal cooling channels to reduce molding cycle time and ensure the highest quality products for our customers.”

The simplified toolmaking system comes at a critical time for the $265-billion molded parts market, asserted one expert.

“There is a massive skills gap in the injection mold-making industry,” said Hillary Thomas, Westminster Tool Vice President. “Mantle’s technology is so intuitive that, with minimal training, we can have someone quickly operating and running this machine. Mantle will help Westminster Tool change how we do business.”

Mantle is exhibiting its technology at booth 433136 at this year’s IMTS show in Chicago from Sept. 12 to 17.

About the Author(s)

Geoff Giordano

Geoff Giordano is a tech journalist with more than 30 years’ experience in all facets of publishing. He has reported extensively on the gamut of plastics manufacturing technologies and issues, including 3D printing materials and methods; injection, blow, micro and rotomolding; additives, colorants and nanomodifiers; blown and cast films; packaging; thermoforming; tooling; ancillary equipment; and the circular economy. Contact him at [email protected].

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