3D-Printed Press-Forming Tools Dos And Don’ts

Press-forming is a versatile metal forming technique that can quickly and easily turn sheet metal into finished parts. But there’s a lot of time and money tied up in the tooling needed, which can make it hard for the home-gamer to get into. Unless you 3D-print your press-form tooling, of course.

Observant readers will no doubt recall our previous coverage of press-forming attempts with plastic tooling, which were met with varying degrees of success. But [Dave]’s effort stands apart for a number of reasons, not least of which is his relative newbishness when it comes to hot-squirt manufacturing. Even so, he still came up with an interesting gradient infill technique that put most of the plastic at the working face of the dies. That kept print times in the reasonable range, at least compared to the days of printing that would have been needed for 100% infill through the whole tool profile.

The other innovation that we liked was the idea to use epoxy resin to reinforce the tools. Filling the infill spaces on the tools’ undersides with resin resulted in a solid, strong block that was better able to withstand pressing forces. [Dave] didn’t fully account for the exothermic natures of the polymerization reaction, though, and slightly warped the tools. But as the video below shows, even suboptimal tools can perform, bending everything he threw at them, including the hydraulic press to some extent.

It sure seems like this is one technique to keep in mind for a rainy day. And hats off to [Dave] for sharing what didn’t work, since it points the way to improvements.

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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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Wooden Sheet Metal Press Tools Make Steel Toecaps

If you have ever looked closely at a typical mass-produced automobile, you will be familiar with pressed-steel panels. Complex curves can be repeated thousands of times over, by putting a sheet of steel between shaped tooling in a press and applying huge force. The same work that would take a skilled panel beater weeks to do by hand, in a second. It’s something [Stuff Made Here] tackled when he wanted to wear a set of Crocs in the workshop, and needed to make the tooling to produce them in his hydraulic press. The resulting video which we’ve posted below the break shows his learning curve, and along the way is a handy primer in sheet metal pressing.

We watch as he discovers the properties of sheet metal under the stress of pressing, how it wrinkles and folds, and how the tool needs careful design and the sheet needs to be securely clamped in place to prevent this. The big surprise is that his tooling is made from CNC-machined wood, while we’re sure that it would wear given repeated use it seems that the forces on the tool are not such as to destroy this material. In the end he’s produced a multi-part tool including both halves of the press tool, a machined guide for the moving part, and a set of substantial sheet metal plates to constrain the material. The steel toecap application may not be everyone’s first idea when it comes to sheet metal forming, but we’re sure this technique could find application in many other projects. It’s a territory into which we’ve edged in the past, but never with pressings this complex.

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Manual To Hydraulic Press, With A Paint Sprayer

A press can be one of the most useful additions to a workshop, once you have one you will wonder how you ever coped beforehand when it came to all manner of pressing in and pushing out tasks. An arbor press with a big lever and ratchet is very quick to use, while a hydraulic press  gives much higher pressure but is extremely slow. [The Buildist] missed out on an arbor press, so turned his eye to improving the speed of his hydraulic one. The solution came from an unexpected source, an airless paint sprayer that had come his way because its valves were gummed up with paint.

An airless paint sprayer is simply a high pressure pump that supplies paint to a nozzle, and that pump is easily repurposed to pump oil instead of paint. Testing revealed it could produce a pressure of 3000 PSI, which would be plenty to move the hydraulic jack even if the hand pump would be needed to finish the job when higher force was required.

What follows over two videos is a masterclass in hydraulic jacks, as he strips down the jack from his press, and modifies it not only to take an input from the pump, but also to run inverted by the addition of an oil reservoir pick-up pipe. Along the way we learn a few useful gems such as the fact that a grease gun pipe is the same as a hydraulic pipe, but much cheaper.

The result is a jack that extends quickly, and has the pressure to do most pressing tasks without the hand assistance. He crushes a drinks can for effect, then pinches the end of a piece of pipe, because given a press, why wouldn’t you! Take a look at both videos below the break.

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Low-Budget Hydroformer Puts The Squeeze On Sheet Metal Parts

Between manufacturing technologies like 3D-printing, CNC routers, lost-whatever metal casting, and laser and plasma cutters, professional quality parts are making their way into even the most modest of DIY projects. But stamping has largely eluded the home-gamer, what with the need for an enormous hydraulic press and massive machined dies. There’s more than one way to stamp parts, though, and the budget-conscious shop might want to check out this low-end hydroforming method for turning sheet metal into quality parts.

If hydroforming sounds familiar, it might be because we covered [Colin Furze]’s attempt, which used a cheap pressure washer to inflate sheet metal bubbles with high-pressure water. The video below shows a hydroformer that [Rainbow Aviation] uses (with considerably less screaming) to make stamped aluminum parts for home-brew aircraft. The kicker with this build is that there is no fluid — at least not until the 40,000-pound hydraulic press semi-liquifies the thick neoprene rubber pad placed over the sheet metal blank and die. The pressure squeezes the metal into and around the die, forming some pretty complex shapes in a single operation. We especially like the pro-tip of using Corian solid-surface countertop material offcuts to make the dies, since they’re available for a pittance from cabinet fabricators.

It’s always a treat to see hacks from the home-brew aviation world. They always seem to have plenty of tricks and tips to share, like this pressure-formed light cowling we saw a while back.

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What Happens When You Fold Paper A 7th Time?

Ever heard that myth(?) about not being able to fold a sheet of paper more than 7 times? Well if you’ve ever tried it you know it’s impossible to even fold it a sixth time with your bare hands… but what if you have an industrial hydraulic press to help you out?

News to us, a YouTube channel exists called the Hydraulic Press Channel, dedicated to — you guessed it — crushing absolutely anything and everything with the help of a hydraulic press. Narrated by a lovely old chap whose accent (and colorful language) we can’t quite place, the channel is filled with amusing videos of guaranteed destruction — including paper.

But the result is not what you would expect at all — you’ll have to watch the video to see. With a bang and a tremble the seventh fold seems to change the material properties of paper. Can anyone explain what’s going on here?

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