Finally, a quick discussion on additive manufactured plugs and molds. Several manufacturers – such as Cincinnati Incorporated (CI), Ingersoll Machine Tools, Thermwood Corporation and 3D Platform – now offer very large formatted additive printers for rapid plug making and limited production runs with direct-to-mold 3-D printed molds. The deposition rate is no longer grams of materials per minute, it’s pounds per minute. It is common to see a “roughed in” mold (or plug) printed in a couple of hours and converted into a gel coated, high gloss surface within one to three days, depending on size.
In conclusion, GFRP molds provide some of the least costly ways to manufacture FRP composite parts, ranging from decorative figurines to 80-plus meter wind energy molds. How that will change as 3-D and subtractive mold making evolves remains to be seen. But for now, GFRP molds provide a very attractive means to quickly manufacture high-quality, non-reinforced or reinforced composite parts.
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