Large Parts, Small Series: New Mould Engineering TechnologiesRui Soares, Tomé Canas, Carlos Oliveira, Elsa Henriques, Nuno Fidelis
Low cost production of large polymeric parts in small quantities implies presently the use of non-conventional/artisan production processes like fibre reinforced resins (using open moulds) or rapid prototyping processes. Other solutions, specially the ones that require a closed mould and/or high pressures, are typically put aside due to the intrinsic costs of the required mould. As a direct consequence of this fact, the injection moulding process is not usually considered as an option, potentially constraining design issues like weight saving, aesthetic complexity, high dimensional precision and surface finishing. The aspects of poor geometric and aesthetic complexity may represent a major competitive disadvantage on the present market context and the ability to customize and differentiate a product, namely through design, is a decisive aspect for its market success. To overcome these difficulties new strategies are needed regarding the injection molding process. Using a case study part, this paper presents the work that has been carried on regarding the development and demonstration of new production processes involving non-conventional technologies/materials in the mould fabrication.