Making Complex Shapes with Mold Textures Using CNC Machining(bronze conductivity Caroline)

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Computer numerical control (CNC) machining allows for the creation of highly complex and intricate parts and products. One area where CNC machining really shines is in making molds with detailed and nuanced textures and surfaces. Molds made using CNC can impart very precise and reproducible textures onto cast or molded parts.
What is Mold Texture?
Mold texture refers to the microscopic deviations on the surface of a mold. When molten material is poured into the mold and hardens, it takes on the inverse of the mold's texture. The texture can be something very simple like a wood grain pattern, or something highly complex like the surface of skin.
Mold textures are essential for creating realistic looking surfaces and details on products made using molds. For example, without texture, a plastic part made to look like a leather purse would be smooth. The texture gives it a leather-like appearance and feel.
Benefits of CNC for Mold Textures
CNC machining offers significant advantages for creating molds with intricate textures:
- Precision and accuracy: CNC machines can create details down to thousands of an inch in accuracy and repeat those details consistently over an entire surface. This level of precision is impossible to achieve manually.
- Complexity: Using their programmed tool paths, CNC machines can make textures with complexity impractical or impossible to make by hand. Undercuts, fine details, and three-dimensional textures are all possible.
- Automation: Once the CNC is programmed, it can run unattended to cut the mold. This automation results in fast turnaround compared to manual texturing processes.
- Material versatility: CNC machines can create texture molds from metals, plastics, woods, and other materials. The material just needs to be rigid enough to withstand molding pressures.
- Iterations: CAD software makes it easy to adjust and modify the mold design and texture as needed. New iterations can be cut without having to re-program the whole process.
Methods for Creating Mold Textures with CNC Machining
There are a few primary methods used to create mold textures using CNC machining:
For engraving textures, ball end mills and tapered end mills are used. The profile of the end mill, combined with the movement programmed into the tool path, carves out a textured pattern. Different tools create different effects like directional striations or stippling.
Chemical Etching
The CNC machine uses a spinning end mill to expose the metal surface to a chemical etchant applied through the tool. As the end mill moves, the etching chemical creates micro-pits and topography. This can generate anything from a satin sheen to a coarse orange peel texture.
Electrochemical Machining (ECM)
In ECM, the CNC applies an electrical charge at a cathode tool suspended over the mold material, which acts as the anode. This etches away the mold surface in the tool's pattern. ECM can create highly irregular, random textures mimicking natural surfaces like bone, wood, or leather.
Laser Texturing
A CNC-controlled laser is used to alter and texture the mold surface at a microscopic level by etching, engraving, or even partially melting the material. Unique and intricate textures can be produced through laser texturing.
Photochemical Machining
Similar to chemical etching, the material is covered in a light-sensitive polymer coating which is exposed to a UV light source on the CNC machine. The UV exposure transfers the programmed texture pattern to the polymer. Chemical etching then removes the textured polymer, imparting the texture to the mold below.
Example Mold Textures Made Through CNC Machining
- Simulated wood grain for furniture, floors, and paneling
- Regular patterns like diamond plate, checker plates, or embossed logos

- Irregular stone and rock textures for decorative objects
- Pebbled and pitted surfaces to make leather, orange peel, and skin textures
- Satin finishes for panels and housings, produced through light directional etching
- Sandblasted and bead blasted finishes for glassware molds
- Stippling textures for grip surfaces and handles
- Micro-cavities for molds used in molding gears, plastics, and lenses
The ability to produce highly customizable mold textures through CNC machining has enabled industries that rely on molded parts to achieve new levels of realism, functionality, and design options. As CNC programming continues improving, mold textures will become even more advanced. CNC Milling CNC Machining