I wanted to make molds quickly for my business but finding a machinist to cut molds is both expensive and time consuming, so I got a new CNC Machine to not only produce more in-house products, but to get some more insight on how manufactures use these vs 3D printed lures.
Why a CNC machine and aluminum molds over 3D Printing?
Now I know what you’re thinking, “Dude, you’re the 3-D printed mold guy.” But I’ve said all along that 3-D printed molds are great for prototyping but not great for production.
Now, what does that mean? It means that over time the more you use the 3D printed mold, the more it tends to flex and move around a little bit, plus to hold them together you need a lot more support. Now you can use vices to some extent but from my experiences, they really don’t give you repeatable quality.
And repeatable quality results is the key thing in production when if you want to make a bunch of baits quickly. If that is your aim, 3D printing is not the way to go, and the reason why is the time it takes to undo the support nuts and bolts that are required to keep a print steady.
Now I did some timing tests, and what I found it takes about 10 minutes between shooting the bait, waiting for them to cool because 3D printed molds don’t wick heat like aluminum does and then unbolting the support, then taking the molds out and then reapplying your support. The whole process is very time consuming and it strains your fingers during the process, so I could not produce lures efficiently.
That’s what leads us to the standard in the industry right now, aluminum molds! It’s the only material that people use for molds on a production level. They are very easy to understand and very easy to use. You can clamp the materials together and put out the molds at a very rapid rate.
Challenge of finding mold makers
Now the issue comes with finding someone to cut your molds. Not every person with a CNC machine likes to cut the molds. Cutting molds requires a bit more precision, so the few people that make the molds in the industry are currently backed up with work, we are talking months out.
For any business owner this is tough because if the goal is to get a certain number of molds out per year, you have to account for not just the cost, but also the time it takes for the mold to be completed and distributed.
After running the numbers, at the same cost, I figured I should go out and get a CNC machine for myself. Now I figured this would be good for the channel, a good skill for me to learn and it would be nice to see how it’s done.
Let's check out my machine!
So I went to purchase my own, I got an Avid CNC Machine 48×48 (which refers to the work area).
Taking a look at this you’re probably thinking that this is an aluminum cutting beast, but the machine can have various applications, such as cutting sheet material out of plastic and this machine seemed like a nice balance between the two.
Let me introduce you to my CNC machine, it’s set up a little bit differently than others on YouTube. It has a starboard spill board which helps since I’m cutting aluminum with coolant.
Next I added a Saunders Machine Works fixture plate, it gives me a lot of space and hold the mold in place, since I put in some holes and bolts.
Then I added a CNC Depot S30C spindle which is a very powerful spindle, high 24000 RPM and has an automatic tool changer setup.
Now does this make sense? I’m not sure, I definitely wouldn’t recommend this particular setup to anyone, but I believe it has merits to what I’m attempting to do between producing projects for myself and learning more about the machine.
Now I am leasing this machine, so what is nice is that I didn’t have to shell out the 19,000 it would cost to own the machine. Now, there is an argument to make for making a purchase because it should pay for itself eventually, but the big thing is the learning component.
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