3D Printing Tools for Molded Wood Parts

One major benefit of 3D printing that attracts designers and engineers is the ability to create rapid prototypes in plastics and metals. But what if you need a molded wood prototype?

As part of our ongoing experiments integrating molded wood and 3D printing, we tested ways to create ready-to-use molds for wood and wood/plastic hybrid parts.

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There are several distinct advantages to using rapid manufacturing technology (in our case fused filament 3D printing) to create molds.

1. Molding tools can be "printed in place", ready to use as soon as they come off the printer with no additional fabrication or assembly.

2. Prototypes can be iterated on very quickly. It's fast and simple to make design modifications to a molding tool in CAD, and the 3D printer can immediately generate a new molding tool to respond to design changes.

3. Build-in functionality. Clamping surfaces can be added to the tool during design, as can mechanical actions, hinges, or release features that are needed for a more complex tool. When printed on a 3D printer, these features can be built in place and function without additional assembly.

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Molding tools are just one avenue of our experimentation with molded wood and 3D printing. Read about how we integrate wood during the printing process here (part 1) and here (part 2).

Carol Catalano