The use of laser machining for injection mold making has been available for years, but has only received limited acceptance. This is partly due to the uncertainty of the new technology and the cost of the machines.
However, for the right application, laser machining is a very viable option. With the latest generation of precision laser cutting machines, there are many improvements. Cutting speeds have increased, accuracy has improved, surface finishes are better, and the cost has come down. This has made it an important part of the mold making process.
As new laser machining innovations develop and technologies advance new possibilities open. Engraving and micro machining are two prime applications of this type of CNC machining.
How can the laser machining process help a mold maker?
Precision laser cutting is an ideal operation for engraving and the machining of very intricate, small, shallow cavities. One of the benefits of laser machining is that it can engrave on complicated contours very consistently and with a high degree of accuracy. It is also possible to use laser machining services to engrave molds with changing vertical wall angles.
Laser micro machining can produce small, intricate and precise cores and cavities as well. Because the geometry is produced directly from the CAD file, the laser machining operation can faithfully reproduce the designed shape.
Laser machining applications and accuracy
A precision laser cutting machine can cut within microns. The newer machines are also 5 axis and able to machine a wide range of angles and shapes. The XYZ positioning accuracy can easily rival that of a high quality CNC machining center.
Is the laser machining center safe?
While it might sound dangerous, a precision laser cutting machine is actually quite safe. Of course, somebody might be tempted to ignore common sense and stare at the laser beam with their naked eye, but even this is not so easily done. Generally, however, the machine just hums away, doing its required task.
Is laser machining fast enough to compete?
Depending on the application, a laser machining tool is financially justifiable. The applications are limited to shallow details, which eliminates many projects. However, if your need is for intricate, shallow details, precision laser machining could be the answer.
Because the entire process is computerized and automatic, it readily lends itself to small scale production. The engraving of logos is a great example. If your logo is to be cut into a contoured surface, it may not be possible to CNC machine it, or even EDM it. This is where laser machining can be a viable option.
Laser machining applications
Small hole machining and shaped hole machining are good applications for laser machining. Turbine cooling holes are often laser machined. The helical shape of the blades are no problem for the laser because there is no tool holder to interfere. It is just a beam of light and the head is able to move about much easier than a milling machine.