Identifying Conformal Cooling Applications

Industrial manufacturing is experiencing rapid growth and transformation with the use of advanced technology like conformal cooling and additive manufacturing. Linear, a Shapeways Company, is leading the way with unique benefits that outperform traditional methods of cooling parts through drilled water lines.

Relying on metal 3D printed components, Linear can embed water lines closer to the surface of injection molding inserts. This technique offers an excellent solution for manufacturers facing challenges like inefficient cycle times that impact productivity.

Eliminate Prolonged Cycle Times

Conformal cooling provides precise heat regulation, optimizing cooling rates, and significantly reducing cycle times. Traditional cooling mechanisms designed in straight lines only provide coverage to a partial outline of the part’s geometry in the mold. Conformal cooling channels, however, are 3D printed to reach all the unique contours of a parts’s geometry in the mold or tooling inserts.

Temperature control is crucial in injection molding, as the mold heats up when molten plastic is injected into it. With conventional cooling techniques, the temperature of the mold often rises over the threshold for ejecting a successful part–wasting time and money while the mold cools to an acceptable temperature for part ejection. Conformal cooling maintains a nominal temperature, allowing for a more rapid temperature reduction so that the overall cycle times are reduced each time the mold opens and closes.

This technique is suitable for any process that is really high-volume, from consumer goods to appliances,” explains John Tenbusch, Linear founder and Director of Operations.

By implementing conformal cooling, businesses can achieve remarkable results in terms of increased productivity and profitability.

One manufacturing customer working with Linear was able to transition from running two separate molds in two molding machines to running a single, four-cavity mold,” states Tenbusch, highlighting a real-world example.

This transition effectively halved the required machinery and freed up resources for other parts, demonstrating the tangible benefits of reducing cycle times and unlocking manufacturing capacity.

In addition to these benefits, the efficient heat regulation provided by conformal cooling significantly improves overall efficiency. By optimizing cycle times, companies allocate resources more effectively and avoid the need for additional equipment.

Maintaining Quality for a Range of Materials

Conformal cooling plays a pivotal role for improving quality in part production with a variety of materials, including nylon. Mold temperatures are quickly and subtly adjusted, allowing for precise control. For materials that are heated to extremely high temperatures and require a more contracted cooling process, Linear engineers are also currently exploring variations like ‘conformal heating,’ using hot oil instead of water to cool molds when dealing with high-temperature materials.

Linear engineers typically 3D print the cooling inserts in materials like Steel. Advanced technology like Direct Metal Laser Melting (DMLM) opens up endless opportunities in design and production making it possible to 3D print lines that follow the complex shape–including cross sections–of each part.

Avoiding Dimensional Issues

Quality or dimensional issues often stem from an inability to control the thermal delta (or heat difference) across the expanse of a part. High scrap rates, warpage, and distortion are all typical symptoms of uneven cooling. Conformal cooling helps maintain the dimensional integrity of the part, ensuring consistent quality and reducing waste.

“One of the underappreciated benefits of conformal cooling is the ripple effect it has on overall capacity,” said David Myers, Senior Business Development Executive at Linear.

While a typical customer may be running 50 to 80 parts an hour traditionally, with 3D printed conformal cooling inserts they can look forward to upwards of 140 parts per hour, making a huge difference in productivity for every manufacturing job.

Analyzing Parts with Moldex3D Software

Certain parts of features may indicate the need for conformal cooling. Objects like cups with handles, are a great example. Conformal cooling minimizes the potential for dimensional issues like shrinkage, distortion, warpage, and loss of structural integrity. Instead, manufacturers enjoy uniformity in parts, consistent quality for high-performing parts, and reduced waste during production.

To identify suitable applications for conformal cooling, Linear AMS relies on advanced software like Moldex3D for comprehensive analysis of molds, simulating flow patterns, cooling efficiency, and identifying potential issues like hot spots. This powerful software is helpful in providing detailed data and visualizations, enabling fine tuning of conformal cooling parameters and enhancing part quality—allowing manufacturers to optimize production efficiency and produce larger volumes of parts.

Recently, Linear engineers wanted to validate the process further, so they performed a study measuring cooling times. They found that they were able to reduce sample cycle times from 65 seconds to 35 seconds—confirming that other manufacturers can produce a higher volume of quality parts every hour of the day, without additional molds or processes.

Manufacturers gain a significant edge in today’s competitive landscape with the ability to identify the correct applications and uses for conformal cooling. Efficient temperature regulation, reduced cycle times, improved part quality, and increased productivity are just some of the benefits offered by conformal cooling.

By leveraging the transformative potential of conformal cooling, businesses can thrive in a competitive market, setting new standards for productivity and excellence.

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