By Doug Smock, The Molding Blog

Plastics tooling is an area of special interest in Walmart’s program to buy an additional $250 billion worth of products in the United States within 10 years. It’s one of three area that Walmart feels needs new technology development if American manufacturers are to become cost competitive, Cindi Marsiglio, vice president of US Manufacturing, said in an interview. The other two are textiles and small motors.

The featured speaker at the SPI/IHS Key Market Breakfast Briefing was Cindi Marsiglio, Walmart Vice President of U.S. Manufacturing, who is charged with delivering on her company’s commitment to source an additional $250 billion worth of U.S.-made goods over 10 years.

Two of seven 2014 Walmart US Manufacturing Innovation grants were awarded for tooling projects:

*Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis(IUPUI) to advance and accelerate the industrial implementation of metal 3-D printing for the manufacturing of plastic injection tooling as an alternative to current metal-shaping practices. Size of the grant is $291,202.

*Oregon State University to develop two novel alternative mold fabricating approaches, and evaluate for functionality, precision and cost reduction potential.

The $10 million Fund focuses on the following criteria: (1) impact on consumer product manufacturing, (2) stage of development and commercial viability, (3) degree of innovation, and (4) ability of the organization and team to successfully carry out the proposed project.

Choice of the projects is interesting. Metal additive manufacturing (AM) of tool inserts is well known and potentially a game changer because of the ability to build in conformal cooling channels at critical points. The problem has been the willingness of OEMs to pay the upfront investment required. NyproMold bought a Laser Cusing metal AM machine many years ago, but the machine often sits idle.

The goal of the IUPUI project “is to reduce the cost and increase the performance and versatility of U.S.-manufactured plastic injection tooling through experimentally supported, multiscale, thermo-mechanical topology optimization methods and metal additive manufacturing.” So if the process is optimized and less expensive, the adoption curve may be accelerated. Makes sense.

A 30 percent cost reduction and a 20 percent performance increase are expected with the optimized design. The IUPUI research team includes professors Andrés Tovar, principal investigator, Hazim El-Mounayri, Jing Zhang, Doug Acheson and Razi Nalim.

The $590,000 OSU grant targets improved mold making productivity.

“Current practices for fabricating these molds are labor-intensive and costly, and much of the mold material is wasted as metal chips,” said Sundar V. Atre, OSU associate professor of industrial and manufacturing engineering. “We estimate that mold-making costs can be reduced by 40 to 50 percent.”

Over the course of the three-year project, Atre and his co-principal investigator, Oregon State mechanical engineering assistant professor Rajiv Malhotra, will work with three industrial partners – Metal Technology, Inc., in Albany, Ore., plus Arburg and North American Höganäs – to develop and test their manufacturing innovations. Part of the work will take place at the Microproducts Breakthrough Institute, collaboratively managed by OSU and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Marsiglio was interviewed after a presentation March 24, 2015, at NPE2015 in Orlando, Florida.

This blog was reprinted with permission from The Molding Blog