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Rapid Magnesium Injection Molding Reported to Bridge Gap between Prototyping and Production
MAPLE PLAIN, Minn.—A rapid magnesium injection-molding service recently introduced by Proto Labs is reportedly bridging the manufacturing gap between prototyping and production, enabling product designers and engineers to prototype using the same materials and processes that are used for final part production. In a press release, Proto Labs announced that in addition to prototypes, the low-volume service will offer production parts in quantities of up to 5,000+, with a typical turnaround time of 15 days.
Magnesium is a strong and lightweight metal that is increasingly being used in the automotive and aerospace industries to reduce the weight of components. “In recent years, lightweighting has become a significant factor in automotive product development, for example, as engineers are being tasked with drastically reducing vehicle weight in order to improve vehicle gas mileage,” said Proto Labs’ engineer and product manager, Becky Cater, in the release. “We see magnesium injection molding as an important tool for achieving this.”
Proto Labs’ injection molding process, known also as thixomolding, is viewed as an alternative to machining and die casting processes. It involves heating chipped magnesium feedstock in the barrel of a press, where it is transformed into a gel-like state before high-speed injection into a steel mold to create the part.
Magnesium AZ-91D has joined Proto Labs’ current injection molding material offerings, which are said to include more than a hundred thermoplastic, liquid silicone rubber, steel, and stainless steel materials. “Magnesium injection molding is yet another fast and cost-effective manufacturing method for Proto Labs’ customers to use as they race to quickly launch products to market,” said Cater in the release.
Proto Labs (protolabs.com) claims to be the world’s fastest digital manufacturing source for custom prototypes and low-volume production parts. The technology-enabled company uses advanced 3D printing (see Proto Labs Expands Its Additive Manufacturing Footprint), CNC machining, and injection molding technologies to produce parts within days, offering speed-to-market value for product designers and engineers worldwide.
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