Feasibility Study of Soft Tooling Inserts for Injection Molding with Integrated Automated Slides

Micromachines (Basel). 2021 Jun 22;12(7):730. doi: 10.3390/mi12070730.


The production of injection-molding prototypes, e.g., molded interconnect devices (MID) prototypes, can be costly and time-consuming due to the process-specific inability to replace durable steel tooling with quicker fabricated aluminum tooling. Instead, additively manufactured soft tooling is a solution for the production of small quantities and prototypes, but producing complex parts with, e.g., undercuts, is avoided due to the necessity of additional soft tooling components. The integration of automated soft slides into soft tooling has not yet been investigated and poses a challenge for the design and endurance of the tooling. The presented study covers the design and injection-molding trial of soft tooling with integrated automated slides for the production of a complex MID prototype. The design further addresses issues like the alignment of the mold components and the sealing of the complex parting plane. The soft tooling was additively manufactured via digital light processing from a silica-filled photopolymer, and 10 proper parts were injection-molded from a laser-direct structurable glass fiber-filled PET+PBT material before the first damage on the tooling occurred. Although improvements are suggested to enhance the soft tooling durability, the designed features worked as intended and are generally transferable to other part geometries.

Keywords: injection molding; molded interconnect device; prototyping; slides; soft tooling.