Moulding technologies are remarkably effective for parts requiring high production volumes. Yet cooling the moulds after each injection can cause a significant loss of time. A possibility for reducing the cooling times is to use cooling inserts and conformal cooling strategies. In the present case, the original inserts of a mould must be substituted because the original material cannot be utilized anymore (toxicity). Will it be technically feasible to achieve a proper cooling only by modifying the inserts? Here, the cooling inserts of high production steel moulds utilized to manufacture ribs for swimming pool sinks' plastic cages are redesigned, simulated and manufactured, taking advantage of Selective Laser Melting possibilities and without modifying the geometry of the obtained parts, nor the rest of the moulds. The results reveal a reduction in the mould cooling times of up to 8%, while maintaining the same conformation properties, thus leading to important savings of time and some global costs in the production outcomes. The study also benchmarks the production economic limits of this approach compared to other possible strategies, such as the development of full new conformal cooling moulds or the industrial production of the parts with plastic additive manufacturing (multi jet fusion) technology.
Keywords: additive manufacturing; conformal cooling; cooling inserts; moulds; multi jet fusion; selective laser melting; steel.