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Satisfying the Large and Small of Customer Tooling Needs

Tool and mold makers have long specified General Plastics’ high-performance LAST-A-FOAM® tooling boards and custom services. From custom-size foam blocks and on-time delivery to supplying economical material, General Plastics’ makes short work of customers’ tooling requirements. In this blog post, we highlight two examples describing how our customers’ tooling production was simplified with the help of our products and services.

Custom tools and molds

For more than 30 years, our customer, a major defense contractor, has made 12 pounds per cubic foot (pcf) and 20 pcf LAST-A-FOAM® FR-7100 its material of choice for custom tooling applications. During a recent project, they needed to create colossal foam tools from which they would pull graphite molds to manufacture parts. They specified our 20 pcf in blocks that were 96 inches long, 48 inches wide and 24 inches thick. In addition to the size specifications, the customer wanted to receive various pieces at specified times throughout the duration of the project. From start to finish, we customized each step of our manufacturing process to meet our customer’s specific requirements.

Beyond receiving foam blocks to their requirements and specifications, our customer acquired enhanced value in terms of greater efficiency and cost savings through custom sizing. First, we produced custom bun sizes to shorten the time, labor and additional cost incurred when bonding material to achieve the required thickness. Second, the foam blocks were cut to the various sizes indicated in the project requirements, then pieces were shipped according to the specified delivery date for each piece. This allowed the customer to simply piece the foam parts together like a giant jigsaw puzzle. For our customer, this resulted in their receipt of ready-to-use material during each stage in their project.

“We didn’t just supply standard sheet stock to our customer. Rather, we provided them with custom sizes based on their exact specification. And, we delivered specific parts within their specified timeline,” said Regional Account Manager Melissa Smith. “Our customer received exactly what they needed—when they needed it. We focused on the foam details, which allowed our customer to focus on their task at hand.”

The FR-7100 has been this customer’s longtime go-to tooling board product for several key reasons: availability of oversized blocks, which reduces bonding time when constructing large tools; short delivery lead times; and the foam’s competitive pricing. We have a proven track record of providing a consistent, quality product, and the FR-7100 series is no exception. The material is fully cured during production, and the foam blocks are shipped ready to use with no out-gassing. The foam’s density is consistent from sheet to sheet and from bun to bun. It does not warp or bow, which means that our customers do not have to plane the foam before use.

High-temperature boards support composite tooling

FR-4500 Tooling Board

Another General Plastics’ customer based in southern Texas specializes in composite parts and tooling fabrication primarily serving aerospace and defense customers. Their turn-key solutions span design, engineering, manufacture and qualification of advanced composite tooling and structures. Due to their high-temperature autoclave processes, including applications using the Hexcel HexTOOL®, they have repeatedly utilized our LAST-A-FOAM® FR-4700 High Temperature tooling foam boards, which withstands peak temperatures up to 400ºF and continuous-use temperatures of up to 350ºF.

This customer uses our 18 pcf, FR-4700 boards, which is a cost-effective alternative to metallic tools and molds for limited-run tooling. One of their requirements is the ability to pull multiple parts off of a single tool. Like our other foams, this high-density epoxy urethane foam is nonabrasive; it’s easily CNC-machined and it cuts cleanly with high-speed steel cutting tools. The material can also be bonded to itself and to other substrates using the same urethane and epoxy adhesives that are designed for higher temperatures. When the customer receives the material, they machine our boards into foam masters and uses them in conjunction with HexTOOL® for the production of composite tooling. Since this foam readily withstands its required processing temperatures and pressures and is relatively low cost, it is a great fit for this application.

Time-tested materials and enduring customer support

General Plastics offers a wide array of high-performance tooling foam materials offering excellent machinability with anti-static properties. These high-density foam boards are available in custom sizes. We also support customers with CNC-machined polyurethane molds fashioned from your design specs, mold-design and prototyping services, and full pattern-to-tool capabilities. We’re here to help at any stage of your project.

For technical information on our products, contact us at 866-825-1378 or sales@generalplastics.com