Fail Of The Week: Casting A Bolt In A 3D-Printed Mold

Here’s a weird topic as a Fail of the Week. [Pete Prodoehl] set out to make a bolt the wrong way just to see if he could. Good for you [Pete]! This is a great way to learn non-obvious lessons and a wonderful conversation starter which is why we’re featuring it here.

The project starts off great with a model of the bolt being drawn up in OpenSCAD. That’s used to create a void in a block which then becomes two parts with pegs that index the two halves perfectly. Now it’s time to do the casting process and this is where it goes off the rail. [Pete] didn’t have any flexible filament on hand, nor did he have proper mold release compound. Considering those limitations, he still did pretty well, arriving at the plaster bold seen above after a nice coat of red spray paint.

One side of the mold didn’t make it

He lost part of the threads getting the two molds apart, and then needed to sacrifice one half of the mold to extract the thoroughly stuck casting. We’ve seen quite a bit of 3D printed molds here, but they are usually not directly printed. For instance, here’s a beautiful mold for casting metal but it was made using traditional silicon to create molds of the 3D printed prototype.

Thinking back on it, directly 3D printed molds are often sacrificial. This method of pewter casting is a great example. It turns out gorgeous and detailed parts from resin molds that can stand up to the heat but must be destroyed to remove the parts.

So we put it to you: Has anyone out there perfected a method of reusable 3D printed molds? What printing process and materials do you use? How about release agents — we have a guide on resin casting the extols the virtues of release agent but doesn’t have any DIY alternatives. What has worked as a release agent for you? Let us know in the comments below.

Casting Metal Parts and Silicone Molds from 3D Prints

The invention of the relatively affordable 3D printer for home use has helped bring methods used to produce parts for prototypes, samples, and even manufacturing, closer to designers. This tutorial on how to cast metal parts from 3D printed silicone molds is a perfect example of how useful a 3D printer can be when you are looking to make a custom and durable metal part at home.

After 3D printing a mold design using an Ultimaker 2 [Matt Borgatti] casts the mold using Smooth-On Mold Star 15 that can withstand heat up to 450 °F (232 °C), which he points out is ideal for the low-temp metal casting alloy tin-bismuth comprised of 58% Bismuth and 42% Tin with a melting point of 281 °F.

You may have heard of molds created from 3D printed parts before, but what makes this tutorial great is that the author, [Matt Borgatti], really sets you up to be successful. He offers up plenty of insights including mold-making techniques and terminology like why you would need a well and runners designed as part of your mold when casting with metal.

You can either reproduce his designs or use the tutorial to create your own which makes it a good start for beginners as well as another method to file away for people who already have experience 3D printing molds. This post is also really a twofer. Not only do you get detailed instructions for the method but [Matt Borgatti] uses his casted metal part for a flat-pack camera arm he designed to document projects with which you can also build using his files found on Thingiverse.

To create molds for precision parts and to learn more about using a 3D printer as a tool in the casting process, check out this method for creating higher resolution molds with a resin printer.

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Injection Molding iPhone Cases from Trash

We imagine you’ve heard this already, but waste plastic is a problem for the environment. We wrap nearly everything we buy, eat, or drink in plastic packaging, and yet very little of it ends up getting recycled. Worse, it doesn’t take a huge industrial process to melt down a lot of this plastic and reuse it, you can do it at home if you were so inclined. So why aren’t there more localized projects to turn all this plastic trash into usable items?

That the question that [Precious Plastic] asks, and by providing a centralized resource for individuals and communities looking to get into the plastic recycling game, they hope to put a dent in the worldwide plastic crisis. One of their latest projects is showing how plastic trash can be turned into functional iPhone cases with small-scale injection molding.

Pushing plastic into the mold

The video after the break goes into intricate detail about the process involved in creating the 3D CAD files necessary to make the injection molds. Even if you don’t plan on recycling milk jugs at home, the information and tips covered in the video are extremely helpful if you’ve ever contemplated having something injection molded. The video even demonstrates a neat feature in SolidWorks that lets you simulate how molten plastic will move through your mold to help check for problem areas.

Once you’ve designed your mold on the computer, you need to turn it into a physical object. If you’ve got a CNC capable of milling aluminum then you’re all set, but if not, you’ll need to outsource it. [Precious Plastic] found somebody to mill the molds through 3DHubs, though they mention in the video that asking around at local machine shops isn’t a bad idea either.

With the mold completed, all that’s left is to bolt the two sides together and inject the liquid plastic. Here [Precious Plastic] shows off a rather interesting approach where they attach the mold to a contraption that allows them to inject plastic with human power. Probably not something you’d want to do if you’re trying to make thousands of these cases, but it does show that you don’t necessarily need a high tech production facility to make good-looking injection molded parts.

This project reminds us of the tiles made of HDPE plastic with nothing more exotic than what you’d find in the average kitchen. Projects like these really drive home the idea that with the right hardware individuals can turn trash into usable products.

[via 3DHubs]

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Using Lasagna to Make Cost-Saving Molds

Building a one-off prototype is usually pretty straightforward. Find some perfboard and start soldering, weld up some scrap metal, or break out the 3D printer. But if you’re going to do a production run of a product then things need to have a little more polish. In [Eric Strebel]’s case this means saving on weight and material by converting a solid molded part into something that is hollow, with the help of some lasagna.

What [Eric] walks us through in this video is how to build a weep mold. First, the solid part is cast in silicone. Using the cast, some “sheet clay” is applied to the inside which will eventually form the void for the new part’s walls. The clay needs to be flush with the top of the mold, though, and a trick to accomplish this task is to freeze the mold (next to the lasagna) which allows the clay to be scraped without deforming.

From there, the second half of the mold is poured in, using special channels that allow the resin to “weep” out of the mold (hence the name). This two-part process creates a much more efficient part with thin walls, rather than the expensive solid prototype part.

[Eric] is no stranger around these parts, either. He’s an industrial designer with many tips and tricks of the profession, including a method for building a machining tool out of a drill press and a vise as well as some tips for how to get the most out of a low-volume production run of a product you might be producing.

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Vacuum Molding with Kitchen Materials

Vacuum pumps are powerful tools because the atmospheric pressure on our planet’s surface is strong. That pressure is enough to crush evacuated vessels with impressive implosive force. At less extreme pressure differences, [hopsenrobsen] shows us how to cleverly use kitchen materials for vacuum molding fiberglass parts in a video can be seen after the break. The same technique will also work for carbon fiber molding.

We’ve seen these techniques used with commercially available vacuum bags and a wet/dry vac but in the video, we see how to make an ordinary trash bag into a container capable of forming a professional looking longboard battery cover. If the garbage bag isn’t enough of a hack, a ball of steel wool is used to keep the bag from interfering with the air hose. Some of us keep these common kitchen materials in the same cabinet so gathering them should ’t be a problem.

Epoxy should be mixed according to the directions and even though it wasn’t shown in the video, some epoxies necessitate a respirator. If you’re not sure, wear one. Lungs are important.

Fiberglass parts are not just functional, they can be beautiful. If plastic is your jam, vacuums form those parts as well. If you came simply for vacuums, how about MATLAB on a Roomba?

Thank you [Jim] who gave us this tip in the comments section about an electric longboard.

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The Miracle of Injection Molding: How Does it Work?

Pretty much any household item nowadays has an involved, extremely well-thought-out manufacturing method to it, whether it’s a sheet of paper, an electrical outlet, a can of tuna, or even the house itself. Some of the stories of how these objects came to be are compelling, though, as one of the recent videos from [This Old Tony] shows as he takes a deep dive into a $5 ball valve, and uses it to talk about all of the cool things you can do with injection molding.

Injection molding is the process of casting molten plastic into more useful pieces of plastic. In this case it’s a plumbing valve which might seem simple on the surface, but turns out to be much more involved. These ball valves are extremely reliable but have a very small price tag, meaning that a lot of engineering must have gone into their design. What is unearthed in the video is that injection molding allows parts to be cast into the molds of other parts, and the means by which those parts don’t all melt together, and how seals can be created within the part itself. All of this happens with a minimal number of parts and zero interaction from a human, or from any robot that isn’t the injection mold itself.

The video goes into exceptional detail on these valves specifically but also expounds on various techniques in injection molding. Similar to the recognition the seemingly modest aluminum can deserves, the injection molded ball valve deserves a similar amount of respect. While [This Old Tony] usually focuses on metalworking, he often tackles other interesting topics like this and this video is definitely worth checking out.

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Hackers vs. Mold: Building a Humidistat Fan

Having a mold problem in your home is terrible, especially if you have an allergy to it. It can be toxic, aggravate asthma, and damage your possessions. But let’s be honest, before you even get to those listed issues, having mold where you live feels disgusting.

You can clean it with the regular use of unpleasant chemicals like bleach, although only with limited effectiveness. So I was not particularly happy to discover mold growing on the kitchen wall, and decided to do science at it. Happily, I managed to fix my mold problems with a little bit of hacker ingenuity.

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