Tools and molds can be made from a variety of materials, but there are a lot of factors that go in to deciding which material will best fit your needs. Performance requirements, the number of parts needed, and surface quality standards all play a role in cost and complexity of tooling.
Yet tooling is an essential part of designing composites that cannot be forgone. Industries who manufacture composite parts often feel like they just have to bite the bullet when it comes to tooling costs. According to an article in High Performance Composites, a manager for a Tier 1 aerospace facility admitted that, “the tool inventory in the plant cost more than the building and all its production equipment combined.”
That’s a lot of money to spend on tooling.
What many people don’t realize though, is that there is an overall, lower cost process for limited-run, elevated temperature tooling: High-temperature, high-density epoxy-urethane foam.
Historically, there is a stigma about using foam for tooling due to potential cure inhibition. This is usually due to thermal conductivity issues rather than surface chemistry, but can be overcome by a properly designed cure cycle. These concerns are understandable because up until a few years ago, most urethanes were designed only for use at less than 250° F. Thanks to today’s technology, however, that is no longer the case.
General Plastics’ FR-4700 high-temperature tooling board series is a great option for:
- High-temperature curing prepregs
- Vacuum forming • Pattern making
- Other limited-run tooling where metal dies are cost-prohibitive
While the FR-4700 may not be the answer to all of your tooling needs, it certainly may fit the bill for many. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of using a high-temperature tooling board over other tooling materials:
1. Can withstand peak temperatures up to 400° F (200°C) and continuous-use temperatures up to 350° F (177°C) – significantly more than other products on the market
2. Able to customize on a batch basis, and we can adjust the foam properties specifically for your needs
3. Can be machined quickly, so if you only need one this is particularly cost effective
4. Excellent dimensional stability
5. Can be machined with standard high-speed steel (HSS) cutting tools
6. Costs much less than metallic alternatives
7. Easily bonded with a variety of adhesive materials, making it a great option for large mass tools
*Using large monolithic foam models and tools require special cooling procedures to prevent cracking or warping. Please consult with your General Plastics sales person for more information.
So next time you’re purchasing tooling material, consider a high-temp tooling board. If you want to save time, money, and effort long-term in your tooling process, then you can benefit from using a high-density, high-temp polyurethane foam solution.
Interested in learning more? Check out this free recording of our Composites World Webinar. This informational presentation is hosted by our very own Senior Technical Director, Mitch Johnson, PhD, and will cover soft tool properties, density selection, tool preparation, and curing the tool.