I’m working on a project that involves progressive deep drawing of some thin copper sheet metal (5 mil thickness), which is a tricky part/process to prototype. I wanted to try 3D printing the tooling to speed up prototyping process, but I couldn’t find much/any information on the internet about anyone doing this. So I decided to just go for it and made some prototype tooling with Tough resin.
I’m using some very old and expired Tough V1, so I’m sure the results could be different with a newer/different resin. The circular copper blank (5/8" diameter) was produced with some crude photo etching (I tried punching the blanks with a cheap Harbor Freight punch & die set, but the thin metal gets drawn into the gap between the punch and die). The blank holder is a simple laser-cut piece of wood or acrylic that is fastened to one of the die halves with M2 screws. I used a set of leader pins and bushings from Misumi to allow the two halves of the die to slide smoothing and precisely relative to each other. After assembling everything together, the die is pressed in a small manual 1/2 ton arbor press.
The results so far are not perfect, but hold promise.
The first attempt was a bit different, made with a plywood blank holder, a roughly punched blank, and simply hammering the die to close it (didn’t have the arbor press yet). The flange wrinkled significantly and unevenly.
The second attempt used the photo etched blank, an acrylic blank holder, and the arbor press. The wrinkling was significantly reduced, but the part appears to have torn about halfway during the pressing. I didn’t design any nominal clearance in the die, so there may have been excess friction.
The good news is that the Tough resin tooling is holding up well, and exhibits minimal wear so far. I think it would be good for at least a dozen parts if not more. I’m curious to try different resins that might be more suitable for the process (Standard, Rigid, Durable?). I think my prints with expired Tough V1 also exhibited some dimensional inaccuracies that could be contributing to some of my issues.
If anyone has any tips/tricks for making 3D printed polymer tooling for sheet metal forming, I’d love to hear form you!
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