Rapid Prototyping technologies are perfect when you need a few parts quickly, but what about when you need ten or more quickly? This is when soft tooling and urethane casting are an ideal solution. We use a high quality prototype part to make a flexible mold of your part. Once this mold is made we can then pour multiple copies using a variety of urethane thermoset materials.
Many Names: A Powerful Solution
The process of making a flexible mold from a master part goes by many names. Some of the most common are: Soft Tooling, RTV Molding, Rubber Molding, Silicon Rubber Molding, Flexible Tooling, or Prototype Tooling. The next step is making parts in the mold, and it also has a few different names: Urethane Casting, Polyurethane Casting, or Thermoset Casting. What they all have in common is a common process: You take an accurate master and pour a flexible Room Temperature Vulcanization (RTV) silicon around that master to make a mold. This mold can then be used to make parts by pouring various types of polyurethane (usually just called urethane) into the mold.
PADT has been providing soft tooling as a service since 1996, and many of our customers have found it to be a perfect complement to our prototyping services. The benefit of this method is in the flexibility of the mold and the fact that this is a low pressure processes. Unlike injection molding with thermoplastics, the temperatures and pressures of thermosets are low enough to allow for the process to be done by hand, without expensive metal tools or injection molding presses.
Craftsmanship Makes the Difference
Many people offer soft tooling and urethane casting. It is not a complicated process, but to do it right, and to do it efficiently takes craftsmanship and experience. PADT has a significant advantage because we can make the master using one of our in-house rapid prototyping technologies, and we can prepare the master in just the right way for soft tooling. The master is then passed to technicians who are dedicated to soft tooling and urethane casting. They have years of experience in how to design the mold, how to make it, how to mix the huge variety of urethane materials available, how to pour the casting, and finally how to remove it from the mold without causing damage to the mold. The difference can be seen in the parts PADT delivers to its customers; many look just like the production parts.
The uses for soft tooling and urethane casting are as varied as the material choices that are available. The most common use is to produce one to two dozen prototypes for marketing studies. When working on this type of project, we take extra care to deliver a surface finish that is remarkably close to a final injection molded part, and we often paint the models to match the required color exactly. The other use is actual low volume production, especially for medical parts. The cost of producing hard tooling is often much higher if your monthly production is relatively small.
Regardless of your needs, PADT's molding and casting team is ready to work with you to make sure we create the best possible master and choose a material that meets your needs.
Learn how You can Benefit from Soft Tooling and Urethane Casting
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For information on Rapid Prototyping Services, contact our RP Team at: