CASE STUDY: CONFORMAL COOLING CUTS CYCLE TIME, TRANSFORMS MOLDING PROCESS
Mold Age and Deteriorating Condition Reveals Opportunity for Innovation
A longtime customer in the lighting industry produced a plastic sensor housing in EVCO Plastics’ M2 facility in Monterrey, Mexico. After running the initial mold for two years, EVCO and the manufacturer saw an opportunity to save costs long-term by implementing a new technology. EVCO engineers proposed administering a method that could transform the part manufacturing process while creating a better overall part: conformal cooling.
Unique Mold Qualities Require Innovative Conformal Cooling Solution
After deciding to explore the implementation of conformal cooling, EVCO first analyzed whether the estimated annual usage (EAU) of the mold would justify the investment for new equipment. Once EVCO engineers confirmed that the EAU was substantial enough to validate the creation of a new mold, EVCO engineers conducted a thermal analysis of the molding process. The assessment revealed that the tool was inserted in a way that made the mold thermally unstable, meaning temperature varied significantly between different areas of the mold. Such variation often comes at the expense of part quality and consistency. This challenge, combined with a small, complex geometry that was difficult to reach with ejector pins and cooling lines, made the mold a natural fit for conformal cooling inserts.
Conformal cooling channels follow the shape of the mold cavity and core, reaching hot spots and promoting temperature uniformity throughout the parts being manufactured. The technology yields a number of benefits, including faster cooling and cycle times and enhanced part quality.
EVCO Engineers Design a Mold With a Custom Cooling Solution
EVCO first designed a conformal cooling insert to be placed inside the new mold. To address the thermal instability, EVCO engineers included cooling lines which followed the contour of the part. Evenly distributing these channels to the mold’s cavity, core and slides would keep the temperature and volume of the flow even. With 75% reduction in cooling time a tight internal area and a complex layout, innovative design was necessary to maximize the channels’ effectiveness.
After completing the design, EVCO teamed with a machine supplier to print the insert blocks. The inserts were built on an EOS additive manufacturing machine using MS 1 Maraging steel. Its toughness and machinability make it ideal for the construction of injection molds. Next, EVCO engineers completed the 10-week process of machining the mold in-house at EVCO’s DeForest facility.
After conducting a pilot run of the mold in DeForest, the tool was shipped back to Monterrey. Resuming operation of the manufacturing process with the new mold proved to be a seamless transition.
Faster Cycles, Greater Consistency
With the systematic advantages provided by conformal cooling, the manufacturer was able to achieve the goals they had set after approving the use of conformal cooling:
Full results included:
- 75% reduction in cooling time (from 20 seconds to five seconds)
- 40% reduction in the overall cycle time (from 40 seconds to 16 seconds)
- Minimized sink in the top surface of the sensor housing
- Increased the stability of final part to 16.43 Cpk
- Recouped the initial investment to create the conformally cooled mold within eight months
The introduction of conformal cooling within the mold also enabled greater capacity. Increased efficiency allowed for greater production on a part requiring high volume output, all while improving part-to-part consistency. EVCO’s foresight to consider and implement conformal cooling inserts in the mold led to a streamlined manufacturing process and the creation of a higher quality part. The manufacturer continues to produce the sensor housing in partnership with EVCO—now with greater efficiency and profitability than ever.
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