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Tooling Engineering

Tooling Design Engineering, Tool Engineering

Productive Plastics offers tooling engineering services to assist our customers in the most critical phase in the design and development of a plastic thermoformed component. Productive Plastics’ project engineers work closely with our customer’s design team to review the concept and design intent in order to eliminate project delays and costly errors downstream. This is also the best time to effectively evaluate the part design to assure efficient production cycles and material utilization. Compromises that are made during the tooling engineering portion of a project will likely adversely affect the quality of the finished thermoformed part.

Main Design Issues for Tooling Engineering

There are three main considerations in designing and engineering tooling used to produce plastic thermoformed parts:

  • Materials – aluminum casting or machined aluminum
  • Temperature Control of Tooling
  • Trimming – CNC holding fixture or vacuum fixture that cradles the part
  • Bonding / Assembly – consideration for parts that require value added services following the thermoforming and CNC processes

Tooling Materials

Tooling that is engineered with aluminum delivers the highest quality and most cost effective thermoformed plastic parts. These aluminum tools can either be machined from billet or cast from a pattern. In either case, all tooling engineered by Productive Plastics is created from the electronic file supplied by its customers and machined on computer controlled equipment for highest accuracy.

Tools which are cast from aluminum are produced from a master pattern made from wood or a synthetic resin and machined on 5 axis computer controlled machining centers. It is important to note that this master pattern can also be used by our customers as prototype tools that will allow the design engineer to test the form, fit and function of the design. In most cases, however, Productive Plastics moves directly to production tooling in order to respond to project development time lines.

Temperature for Tooling Design

All tools engineered at Productive Plastics are temperature controlled as it is critical to form thermoplastic materials at optimum temperatures. Tools are designed and produced to allow fluids to circulate through the tool on a continuous basis keeping the tool at the optimum temperature for the material being formed.

Trimming and Tooling Engineering

Trimming the part is a key element of the product development cycle. At Productive Plastics, all trimming is done on five axis computer controlled routers. Programs are made from the same electronic files used to create the aluminum tooling, providing consistency throughout. In order to ensure accuracy, the part is held in a vacuum fixture that allows the trim cycle to run at the most economic rate while maintaining product quality. Because of the importance of trimming in production, trim tooling must be designed so that trimming is done effectively.

Bonding / Assembly and Tooling Design / Engineering

In most cases Productive Plastics is doing value added assembly operations that require bonding of sheet metal and machined plastic components. The inclusion of these components will require engineered secondary fixtures to ensure location accuracy, in many cases to within +/- .015.

Advantages of Using Productive Plastics’ Tooling Design and Engineering Services

Using Productive Plastics to create the tooling for a thermoformed plastic component offers benefits such as:

  • Tool design is done in-house
  • Reduce tooling development time in product development cycle
  • Expert process design assistance based in 40 years of technical and practical experience
  • In-house construction of trim tooling
  • In-house construction of bonding/assembly tooling

Looking for more technical information?

Download the Thermoforming Design Guide, Process Comparisons, Conversion Guides, and other useful thermoforming information from our technical resource library.

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