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December 1, 2001

3 Min Read
Palm trees grown with rapid insert technology


Using off-the-shelf mold bases and Rapid Insert tooling technology from 3D Keltool, the mold for the Palm Tees was produced in less than a month. Some moldmakers are developing a competitive advantage with similar, easy-to-build, modularized rapid tooling concepts.

When plastics part designer Richard Dennis came up with his latest golf tee novelty, called Palm Tees, he knew the four-cavity mold he wanted would be expensive. He went to moldmaker Arizona Precision Mold Inc. (APM, Mesa, AZ), where representatives suggested using a rapid insert technology called 3D Keltool. 

"I couldn't have afforded to have done this in a conventional mold," says Dennis, president of Plastic Design Resources LLC (Glendale, AZ), also maker of the Cactus Tees. "The advantage of this technology is the level of detail that I can get. Traditionally, this would have been difficult and costly to get all the little leaves and branches." 

Not only was the mold cost effective, but lead times were quick as well. The four-cavity production mold was completed in less than a month. APM bought a standard mold base from Precision Mold Base, added ejector pins and waterlines, and did the assembly, which took only a week after the cores and cavities were received. 

"Cores and cavity inserts were fit into the mold base and we were molding good parts the next day," Dennis says. 

Palm Tees are molded by Arizona Precision Plastics from a new biodegradable material from Cargill-Dow, Nature Works PLA (polylactic acid), a corn derivation. 

Another Tool in the Toolbox 
The success Dennis enjoyed developing his Palm and Cactus Tees tools points to the industry's increased use of rapid tooling methods as a competitive advantage. Brad Fox is president of Rapid Tooling Technologies LLC (St. Paul, MN), a user and licensor of the 3D Keltool Rapid Insert technology. He says he's seeing a growing interest in the 3D Keltool process, even though it's been around for more than a decade. 

"We feel that it's the right time in the life of moldmaking to begin to think about the custom core and cavity as simply another tooling component, no different from a mold base, ejector pins, or other components that you buy out of the catalog," Fox says. "Sophisticated 3-D CAD programs quickly generate the database for the custom inserts—our job is to replicate the database quickly and accurately as well as provide a cost advantage." 

Fox blames 3D Keltool's lack of recognition in the marketplace on a failure to position 3D Keltool correctly and sell the process directly to proactive moldmakers. "We're trying to position the product differently now and offer it as manufacturing knowledge to moldmakers," says Fox. "Our objective is not to be a mold design shop or moldmaker, but to empower American moldmakers by offering them something that is going to make them more competitive in the market. Most people want the American toolmaker to design and build their molds, but don't want to pay for the cost or time." 

This Rapid Insert technology can be a "great equalizer" for mold shops competing against offshore operations by extending capacity. "If I augment your in-house insert making with our Rapid Insert cores and cavities, how many molds could you make?" asks Fox. "If you look at this as a mold component, it gives [moldmakers] a tangible, distinct advantage. It's not the total answer, but it's another tool in the toolbox." 

Fox says he helps identify where the technology can be applied and where the moldmaker and customer can benefit. "We look at how the moldmaker can marry-up this technology with conventional tooling to create solutions for the customer," he states. "The key is combining old-world craftsmanship with new technologies, and that's a very powerful thing." 

Contact information
Rapid Tooling Technologies LLC
St. Paul, MN
Brad Fox
(651) 483-2703

Arizona Precision Mold Inc.
Mesa, AZ
Dennis Nealon
(480) 539-1999

Plastic Design Resources LLC
Glendale, AZ
Richard Dennis
(623) 572-6648

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