POM’s RapiDIES process develops new molds for forming foam products in one week instead of the 6 to 8 weeks required by existing industry processes. The molds can be changed rapidly without starting over and scrapping prototypes. RapiDIES molds yield better temperature control of the foam because the cooling tubes are formed inside the mold instead of applied to the exterior mold after the fact. While the old system, using wood models and exterior cooling tubes, was cheaper if you got it right the first time, the designers were stuck with their “first best shot,” because they didn’t have time to develop second or third versions. The internal cooling channels provide better control of the stiffness properties in different parts of the seat and backs. In many cases, this also reduces cycle times in manufacture.
RapiDIES is an innovative metal tooling fabrication process which creates unique competitive advantages for auto seating companies. It builds foam form tools directly from CAD, eliminating intermediary casting operations. As a result, foam tools are created in 1/8 the time, reducing time-to-market for new seating systems. The process improves foam performance by integrating the tooling heating system inside the tool, and it allows last minute seating design changes using a unique “adaptable” tooling concept. And finally, tooling can be hardfaced using POM’s direct metal deposition process (2002 PACE Award-winner) for improved tool strength.
A direct-from-CAD process had never been successful before because of variation in the thickness of the sheets. POM was able to overcome this problem by using technology from FAST4M, POM’s associates. When the stack is complete, it is bolted together, machined, and the seals and coolant connections are added, at which point it’s ready for tryout. Should changes be necessary, only the sheets that are affected have to be changed. After the process is validated, the laminated tooling is hardened by the application to its surface of POM’s direct metal deposition process (itself a 2002 PACE Award Winner).
One major seat-foam supplier is using this process under an exclusive arrangement with POM. A number of other suppliers of injection molded parts and non-automotive foam and plastic parts have also adopted the process.