How long does it take you to produce a ceramic tool?
As a general rule of thumb, it takes us five to seven days, from start to finish, to complete a mold. Multiple cavity tools can increase this time by a few days, as in most cases we only have one negative to build from. Regardless of size, this turn time holds true for nearly all of our tools.
How are your products priced as compared to other tooling?
Depending on the project, we are generally 60-70% lower in price than an Aluminum product. Large tools are even more cost effective for our customers, since a greater percentage of our cost structure comes from labor than material.
What do you mean when you say you make "ceramic" molds. Are we talking coffee cups?
Absolutely not. "Ceramic" in the case of tooling refers to the powdered filler that we use in our process. Our vacform tools are constructed in a lamination process, which makes use of an acrylic modified epoxy resin, ceramic fillers, and 1 1/2 ounce fiberglass strand mat. No kilns or coffee cups.
What's on the surface of your mold?
This is part of the beauty of ceramic. Our surface coat is comprised of the same "ceramic" material that we use to build the final product. It doesn't chip, peel, or wear thin, which can happen with a Gelcoat surface coat. Scratches or scrapes can be easily sanded down to even them out.
How heavy are your products? Are they solid?
Comparatively speaking, they're pretty light. As compared to an epoxy or aluminum tool, they are much lighter. The ceramic tool itself is approximately 1/2" to 5/8" thick, and the interior cavity (in the case of a male tool) is braced in an eggcrate style with furniture grade plywood.
How well does your product hold up?
We are probably a bit biased, but are more than happy to provide references of thermoformers who have been using our tools for years -- some of them more than a decade. Every application is different, as is the usage of every mold we produce. Frequency of use, cycle times, and part formation all stress a tool in different ways. That said, we tell a story of a customer in Pennsylvania who commissioned a fairly massive tool. The overhead door in our mold shop is 10' wide, and it just fit out the door. A follow-up call after they had been running parts for a while showed us that they were indeed happy. As it turns out, they had been hanging the mold upside down, and when a clamp slipped it fell five feet -- at which point it was rapidly stopped by the concrete floor. Upon turning it over, they were pleasantly surprised that the only damage was a minor chip to the route ledge which was easily fixed. Does ceramic hold up? We like to think so.
Does ceramic shrink?
Unlike Aluminum, Epoxy, Urethane, and other materials, our ceramics exhibit virtually no measurable shrink.
What type of sheet can we run on your ceramic products?
The bulk of our tooling has in the past been made for ABS. In recent years, we have seen more and more of a shift towards TPO. That said, we have made tooling for usage with HIPS, HPDE, and many others. If you're not sure, just ask and we can figure out a way to accommodate.