3D textured tooling

 Wood grain photo

Wood grain photo

 CNC machined wood grain into aluminium tool

CNC machined wood grain into aluminium tool

 Wood grain tool and sample vacuum formed plastic

Wood grain tool and sample vacuum formed plastic

How we added a woodgrain to a vacuum forming tool


We were presented recently with an intriguing project. A local toolmaker approached us with a sample of a vacuum formed tray that contained a wood grain in the base. His customer had found it in Europe and was unable to find anything similar in New Zealand.
He wanted to investigate whether it would be possible to replicate the style locally. This would require applying a 3D wood texture to a sample which could then transfer through into a plastic formed tray. Successfully achieving this would recreate the look and feel of the original item.


The challenge


The challenge with traditional engraving is the depth and size of the texture. It can often be too subtle to transfer through into the vacuum formed plastic. But with our expertise, we were confident in delivering a solution that would keep both the toolmaker and his customer happy.
We identified that the main problem overall could be broken down into two key issues. By focusing on them individually, we were able to achieve a positive outcome.
Firstly, we began investigating techniques to turn photos into 3D texture. Once we achieved this, the challenge would become how to combine this into the surface of the tooling. This is necessary to ensure control over the positioning and how the texture blends out into the surrounding surfaces.


Final Results


The final result was a single file of the tool. This included the 3D textured surface modelled into the moulding surface. This ensures that the local toolmaker, and his client, are both very happy.
Another future opportunity that has come out of this process is the ability to texture 3D printed parts for end use applications. Something that would previously have been a considerable challenge.