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last yeat, An important customer came to ST Tooling from US, CA, requiring a new servcie palstic mold and plastic molding company.Driver’s Side Airbag Cover in critically short time. Initial parts from productive materials were required in only 4 weeks. Several rapid tooling processes were considered for this project. The PolySteel™ process was selected for the following reason:
- Tool accuracy
- Lowest cost
- Fastest timing
- Robust process
PolySteel™ is a new polymeric tooling process developed by ST Tooling of Fresno, CA. Tools are created directly from rapid prototype or other patterns. The material is highly loaded with steel (greater than 90% by weight). A very high degree of accuracy is maintained from the pattern due to negligible process shrinkage (.0002 in./in.). The resulting tools have exceptional strength and durability for injection molding applications.
This major Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) had confidence the PolySteel™ process would work for this Airbag Cover project since PolySteel™ had already been proven successful with more abrasive materials requiring higher molding temperatures and pressures (such as ABS and Nylon 40% glass filled).
The 12.5″ x 12.5″ x 6 Airbag Cover mold (317mm x 152mm) would normally require 8 separate components, 4 of which are slides. Due to the versatile nature of the PolySteel™ process the tool was produced with a 1-piece stripper plate, 2 core sections and 1 cavity, completely eliminating the need for slides, thus reducing total components by 50%.
The part used to create the Airbag Cover mold was a stereolithography (SL) pattern. Since time was of the essence, the OEM’s in-house service bureau built the pattern over a weekend. Leather grain texture was applied to the exposed surface of the pattern using a special 2-day process. This greatly reduced the typical lead time required for conventional graining procedures. The PolySteel™ material was molded directly over the pattern without the need for machined inserts. The tool was constructed in a simple welded frame, which replaced the conventional mold base. Holes for the ejection system were molded in place. The characteristics of PolySteel™ made it possible to meet the demanding requirements of the Airbag Cover mold without the need for water cooling lines. Since the PolySteel™ process replicated the grain on the pattern, the parts produced from production intent materials were able to be used for show as well as deployment testing.
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More than 100 Airbags Covers were molded in the PolySteel™ tool to meet initial requirements. Over the following month, the mold was used for parametric studies by revising the tear seam and changing the emblem embossment area. Modifications of this nature are accomplished quickly and easily in PolySteel™ tools. An additional 225 parts were then produced from three (3) alternate productive materials.
Even with the premium paid for expedited delivery, the PolySteel™ tooling process still saved the OEM 12% in tool costs and even more significantly 80% in typical timing. This tooling technology played a key role enabling delivery of a new Driver’s Side Airbag Cover in a timely manner for a very important customer.
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