SLAs, FDM and Z-Corp models are fine for quickie prototypes, but if you want to do real-world testing using the actual production material, or a fast set of production parts, rapid tooling is the way to go. There are a growing number of injection molding shops that specialize in fast-turnaround injection molded parts using aluminum molds. Aluminum is easy to machine quickly and it’s thermal properties mean you don’t have to run as many water lines to get a good part.
But there is a common perception that aluminum might be fine to run a few prototypes, but that it can’t be used for production (that’s P20 steel’s job, right?). Not so, says Phoenix Proto Technologies LLC and they’ve addressed some of these common myths about aluminum tooling.