Wood Patterns -
Wood patterns are generally the first stage to a vacuum forming project. They are relatively inexpensive and allow the customer to makes changes to their design very easily. The number of samples that one is able to get from a wood pattern depends on the size of the part and the thickness of the material. Typically, wood patterns are used to gauge general functionality of both the part and the thickness of the material. Once the specifications of the part have been met, the wood pattern is then used to create a epoxy compositemold, or cast aluminum mold for regular production.
Casting Aluminum Molds -
Cast aluminum molds are cast at a foundry and typically have temperature control lines running through them. This helps to regulate the heat of the plastic being formed as well as speed up the production process. Aluminum molds can be male or female in nature and can also be used in pressure forming applications. The main drawback with this type of mold is costly.
Composite Molds -
Composite molds are a lower cost alternative to cast or machined aluminum molds. Composite molds are typically made from filled resins that start as a liquid and harden with time. Depending on the application, composite molds can last a very long time producing high quality parts. Within the category of composite molds, the subset of "Epoxy" molds has consistently proven to be the most durable. While not temperature controlled, these molds can run nearly as fast as Cast or Machined aluminum, yet at a substantially lower price point.