Tooling to make molds that will produce 200-500 plastic parts in 3-4 weeks is a goal of Schneider Prototyping. The Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology (ICT) is experimenting with making epoxy resin plastic injection molds using stereolithography. EOS offers a selective laser sintering unit specifically designed for making metal molds using a proprietary bronze-based metal powder. At the time of the panel's visit, the Fraunhofer IPT was experimentally using this machine to produce parts using stainless steel, aluminum, and coated ceramics powders, although it was not specifically designed to support these materials.

The Japanese service bureau Shonan Design has developed a technique for making injection mold cavities that can produce 200 injection molded parts in 2-3 weeks using Teijin Seiki's stereolithography units and glass-filled resin. However, accuracy is no better than ± 0.3 mm over the length of small parts (~12 mm) for up to 200 parts. Japanese equipment and resin makers that compete with Teijin Seiki also are working to develop resins that can be used to make prototype molds. Laser sintering was generally not being used in Japan at the time of the panel's site visits, nor did panelists see evidence that Japanese firms were attempting to develop such techniques. Since then, over two dozen selective laser sintering machines have been installed in the Asian Pacific Rim. At least two of these machines are in Japan.

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Published: March 1997; WTEC Hyper-Librarian