DIY Injection Molding Press

While 3D printing has now become easily accessible and cheap, there are still several use cases where you need the advantages offered by injection molding, even for small batch runs. Professional small-batch injection molding can be pretty expensive, and buying a manual machine can cost quite a bit. Of course, there are a number of DIY injection molding projects to choose from, but they usually involve a fair amount of tools and labour. [Bolzbrain] wanted to bypass all of the heavy cutting, welding and frame assembly work, so he’s built himself a DIY Injection Molding Press for cheap using an off the shelf, six ton hydraulic press. At final count, he ended up spending about €150 for the machine and another €120 for tools to build the machine. He also managed to locate a cheap, local CNC service that gave him a good deal on machining the Dies. But of course you can’t put a price on the lessons learnt and the satisfaction of having built it by hand.

Choosing the hydraulic press is a great idea as it provides the high pressure needed for the job without the operator having to exert a lot of effort, which is a big drawback with some of the other DIY machines. As a bonus, the structural frame is quite sturdy and well suited for this purpose. The other main part of such a machine is the heated injection block and there are several different ways of doing it. After some amount of studying probable solutions, he decided to build a heated aluminium block through which the plastic granules can be rammed using the hydraulic piston. Heating is provided by a pair of 500W heaters and a type ‘k’ thermocouple does temperature sensing. An industrial PID controller adjusts the block temperature via a solid state relay. Overall, the electrical and mechanical layout cannot get any simpler.

[Bolzbrain] did a great job of documenting his build over a series of videos and more wizened hackers watching them will squirm in their seats spotting the numerous fails. He bought the cheapest pedestal drill machine that he could buy and watching the drill struggle while making a 26mm hole in the aluminium block is quite jarring.

The electrical wiring has a lot of scope for improvement – with 220V AC heaters, exposed wiring and jury rigged panel held up with a pair of clamps. Installing and removing the die is a task and requires a lot of fiddling with several C-clamps — something which needs to be repeated for every shot. Maybe toggle clamps could help him to ease die fixing and removal. Once he figures out about mold release agents and wall draft angles, he won’t have to struggle trying to remove the molded article from the die. Then there’s the issue of proper runner design so that the thermo-plastic can quickly fill the mold cavity completely without any pockets.

But in the end, all that matters is that he is getting reasonably good molded parts for his purposes. With more tweaking and incremental improvements, we’re sure he’ll get better results. The video after the break is a short overview of his build, but the project page has a series of detailed videos covering all aspects of the project. And if you’d like to get an introduction to desktop injection molding, check out “Benchtop Injection Molding for the Home Gamer

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Casting Skateboard Wheels With A 3D Printed Mold

We’ll admit that most of the Hackaday staff wouldn’t get too far on a skateboard, but that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate the impressive DIY wheels that [Chris McCann] has managed to cast using 3D printed molds. From unique color combinations to experimental materials, the process certainly opens up some interesting possibilities for those looking to truly customize their rides. Though it’s worth noting there’s a certain element of risk involved; should a set of homemade wheels fail at speed, it could go rather poorly for the rider.

Both the STL and STEP files for the mold have been released under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license, meaning anyone with a 3D printer can follow along at home. Unfortunately, it’s not quite as simple as clicking print and coming back to a usable mold. Because of the layer lines inherent to FDM 3D printing, the inside of the mold needs to be thoroughly sanded and polished. [Chris] mentions that printing the mold in ABS and using vapor smoothing might be a workable alternative to elbow grease and PLA, but he hasn’t personally tried it yet.

Once you’ve got the three part mold printed, smoothed, and coated with an appropriate release agent like petroleum jelly, it’s time to make some wheels. The core of each wheel is actually 3D printed from PETG, which should give it pretty reasonable impact resistance. If you have access to a lathe, producing aluminum cores shouldn’t be too difficult either. With the core loaded into the mold, urethane resin is poured in through the top until all the empty space is filled.

But you’re not done yet. All those little air bubbles in the resin need to be dealt with before it cures. [Chris] puts his filled molds into a pressure chamber, though he mentions that vacuum degassing might also be a possibility depending on the urethane mixture used. After everything is solidified, the mold can easily be taken apart to reveal the newly cast wheel.

While there’s often some trial and error involved, 3D printing and resin casting are an undeniably powerful combination. If you can master the techniques involved, you can produce some very impressive parts that otherwise would be exceptionally difficult to produce on a hacker’s budget. Especially when you’re ready to start casting molten metal.

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Reduce, Reuse, Injection Mold

Many people have the means now to create little plastic objects thanks to 3D printing. However, injection molding is far less common. Another uncommon tech is plastic recycling, although we do occasionally see people converting waste plastic into filament. [Manuel] wants to solve both of those problems and created an injection molder specifically for recycling.

The machine — Smart Injector — is automated thanks to an Arduino. It’s pretty complex mechanically, so in addition to CAD models there are several PDF guides and a ton of pictures showing how it all goes together.

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Massive Battle Bot Needs Equally Chunky Custom-Molded Wheels

We’ve all run into situations where the right part for the job isn’t something that you can just buy off the shelf. In a lot of cases, 3D-printing is the cure for that problem, but sometimes you need to go big with tough parts for a tough job. These custom molded urethane battlebot wheels are a great example of that. (Video, embedded below.)

The robotic warrior in question is “Copperhead”, a heavyweight death-dealer that has competed on the “BattleBots” show on TV. It’s an incredibly stout machine with a ridiculous 50 pound (23 kg) drum of spinning tool-steel on the front to disassemble competitors. Add to that the sheer mass of the bot’s armor plating and running gear, throw in the need to withstand the punishment meted out by equally diabolical weapons, and standard wheels are not going to fly.

As [Robert Cowan] details in the video below, nothing but the sturdiest wheels will do, so the bot builders mold custom wheels with integrated hubs. The four-piece mold was machined out of aluminum to hold the plastic hubs, which were also machined but could easily have been 3D-printed. Polyurethane resin is poured in and adheres to the plastic hub better than we’d have thought it would: enough so to avoid coming apart despite some pretty severe blows. The whole casting process is a good watch, as is the overview of Copperhead’s design. And watching it tear apart “War Hawk” was a treat too.

You may not be building battle bots, but a scaled-down version of this process could be a handy trick to have stored away for someday. Continue reading “Massive Battle Bot Needs Equally Chunky Custom-Molded Wheels”

Benchtop Injection Molding For The Home Gamer

When we think injection molding, the first thing that comes to mind is highly automated production lines pumping out thousands of parts an hour. However, the very same techniques are able to be scaled down to a level accessible by the DIYer, as [The CrafsMan] demonstrates.

Using a compact, hand-actuated injection moulder, [The Crafsman] demonstrates the basic techniques behind small-scale injection molding. The PIM-Shooter Model 150A in question is designed to work with low melting point plastics like polypropylene and low density polyethylene, and can use aluminium molds which are much cheaper to make than the typical steel molds used in industry.

However, the real game changer is when [The Crafsman] busts out his silicone mold making techniques, and applies them to injection molding. By making molds out of silicone, they can be created far more cheaply and easily without the requirement of heavy CNC machinery to produce the required geometry. With the right attention to detail, it’s possible to get good results without having to invest in a custom aluminium mold at all.

Injection molding is a process that can achieve things 3D printing and other techniques simply can’t; it can even be used to produce viable lenses. Video after the break.

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An Impressive Modular Mold Box

Prolific maker and product designer [Eric Strebel] has years of experience making reusable mold boxes for silicone and resin casting. He’s always used 3/4″ plywood before, but it comes with some problems such as inaccuracy, screws that eventually slip out, and no room at all for expansion. Now [Eric] has decided to devise a modular mold box system that’s so awesome, it’s even stack-able. Check out the design and build process in the video after the break.

[Eric] took advantage of additive manufacturing and made fancy trapezoidal walls with recessed bits that allow for the magic that this modular system hinges on — a handful of M6 socket cap screws and matching nuts for tensioning. Once the prints were ready, [Eric] pounded the nuts captive into the walls and marked fill lines every 10mm. As usual, [Eric]’s video comes with bonus nuggets of knowledge, like his use of a simple card scraper to clean up prints, smooth the sides, and chamfer all the edges.

If you want to mold stuff like concrete and plaster, you may be better off using flexible filament.

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Mold-Making Masterclass In Minutes

Making silicone molds seems easy, but there are a lot of missteps to be made along the way that can mean the difference between a great, reusable mold, and one that’s a sad waste of silicone. If you’re helpless to know the difference, then check out [Eric Strebel]’s 9-minute masterclass teaser video on making a two-part mold for resin casting, which is also embedded below.

Even if you already know how to do this, there’s probably a good tip in here somewhere. One of them being that you should always pour your silicone from one place and let it coat the piece being copied. Otherwise, there might be lines on the mold. Another tip is for DIY mold release made from petroleum jelly thinned with naphtha.

Our favorite tip has to do with the way [Eric] makes this a reusable two-part mold, which is more akin to injection molding. To pour silicone for the second part and get it to separately nicely, [Eric] uses sprues made out of resin rods that were cast inside of drinking straw molds. These he chamfers against a belt sander to minimize the contact with the cast part, which makes them a snap to break off. [Eric] says this is just the beginning, and there are more videos to come that will break down the steps.

There’s more than one way to make a mold, especially for casting in metal. We’ve seen everything from 3D-printed molds to kinetic sand.

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