Denmark’s Addifab, the developer of Freeform Injection Molding (FIM) technology that allows plastics processors to additively manufacture complex injection mold tooling in a matter of hours, announced today a partnership with Nexa3D, a maker of ultrafast 3D printers for industrial applications based in Ventura, CA. Through the collaboration, Nexa3D will supply its NXE 400 system — including the industrial 3D printer as well as wash and cure units — to FIM users. Addifab, which has its US office in Palo Alto, CA, will supply its proprietary tooling resins and post-processing equipment through the partnership. The agreement will broaden capabilities for industrial injection molding with ultrafast, large-format 3D printing, said the companies in today’s news release.
Based on 3D printing technology, the FIM process allows users to additively manufacture complex injection mold tooling in hours instead of weeks or months. The tools are compatible with most thermoplastic materials, including reinforced high-performance feedstocks. The tooling can be dissolved, which allows the molding of complex components that would otherwise be difficult — or even impossible — to mold with conventional metal tooling, said Addifab.
Image courtesy of Addifab
|3D-printed injection mold tooling.|
The FIM process begins with high-precision, tight-tolerance, dissolvable tools printed by means of digital light processing. The tools can be used in injection molding machines with injection pressures up 2500 bar and maximum melt temperatures of 842°F (450°C), and are compatible with composites, thermoplastics, thermoplastic elastomers, silicones, ceramics, and metals. Rather than ejecting the component from the tool, as is customary in injection molding, the tool itself dissolves to release the molded part. The demolding takes between 12 and 48 hours.
“Injection molding is a complex process, and tool building is the most complex part of the process,” said Lasse Staal, co-founding CEO of Addifab. “With Freeform Injection Molding, we provide injection molders with a fully transparent set of tools — no pun intended — that will allow them to fast-track tool designs and validations while raising the bar on tool innovation. Now we can take these capabilities to the next level by partnering with Nexa3D to broaden access and super power performance.”
The so-called Scale-Up Platform promoted by the partnership reportedly enables development of 3D-printed injection mold tooling at 15% of the cost, 12% of the time, and with 75% fewer CO2 emissions compared with the use of conventional steel tools.
Addifab has customers in industries ranging from medical and automotive to consumer electronics — in 2020, the company ran more than 300 client projects, according to Carsten Jarfelt, US Chief Commercial Officer. FIM is compatible with an extensive range of polymers, including biocompatible resins for medical and FDA-regulated projects. A 2019 study conducted by the Technological Institute in Denmark demonstrated that material from the FIM molds did not transfer to the product during the injection molding process and, thereby, did not compromise biocompatibility.
Nexa3D CEO Avi Reichental first encountered FIM at the RAPID + TCT conference in 2019, and saw the potential to reimagine additive tooling, he said in a prepared statement. “As both Addifab and Nexa3D have since productized and industrialized our respective processes, it became obvious that together we can achieve much more by digitizing injection molding at convincing scale sustainably. I can’t wait to see the far-reaching impact of our collaboration,” said Reichental.
The partners will come full circle when they showcase their joint solution at the RAPID + TCT show in Detroit on May 17 to 19, 2022. The companies are also setting up joint Silicon Valley demo facilities in Palo Alto.