Additive Manufacturing of Plastic Moulds


Because products are being developed more rapidly and customers require fast changes into products, today’s mechanical designers, manufacturers and product developers face the challenge of creating small series in functional materials with a short time-to-market. Although Additive Manufacturing (AM, 3D printing) is very suitable for single parts, mass-customized and series up to 20 parts, it is not suited for small series (e.g.: 50 to 200) of identical parts. Injection molding on the other hand is a good match for large series production. Aluminum molds are typically used for medium sized series because it can easily be machined reducing lead through time and cost compared to steel molds.

Figure 1 Digital ABS printed moulds for
prototypes UNILEVER – source: Stratasys 
Figure 2 S Stereo lithography inserts in
High Temp resin – source: Formlabs

There is however still a gap for producing small series in a cost efficient manner. Recent developments in AM materials allow the production of plastic AM molds for injection molding. The molds can be produced within a couple of days and costs are a mere fraction of aluminum molds. As a tradeoff these molds cannot withstand as many injection shots as metal molds. For others not the shot size, but the fact that traditional plastic materials can be used (e.g.: PP, PA, POM, etc.) is hugely beneficial. Because they can start testing parts in the final material or bring products to the market while a steel mold is being manufactured.


Yet little is known on how these mold behave compared to metal molds an how many parts can actually be produced. The main goal of this project is to explore the usability of AM plastic molds based on industrial case studies. 

More concrete, companies will present a cases based on this a mold will be designed and tested. Main output parameters are dimensional aspects of the mold and produced parts (e.g.: surface roughness and dimension accuracy), lead times, durability of the mold and economic feasibility.


Frederik Vogeler -


3-D printed molds used for short-run injection molding
Make Injection Molds from Plastic on a 3D Printer?


Vlaio KULeuven Arburg Canon
Creax ThomasMore Flamed Guru Plastics
Flanders DC Dronematrix Seido MatchID
AtlasCopco Roxell Stratago UltraPolymers
Made Sirris Trideus FormID