An Exploration of Rapid Tooling in Low-Cost Bead Foam Molding Applications

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech


Many manufacturing processes require complex tooling which contributes significantly to the cost and time required to develop new products. Bead foam molding is often hampered by these limitations. This thesis presents an analysis of Additive Manufacturing (AM) applications in low cost bead foam molding, focusing on molding trials, economic analysis, and future potential. Through molding trials, the thesis evaluates the efficacy of AM tooling in comparison to traditional aluminum tooling, specifically in evaluating tool life and cost. A key finding is a reduction in lead time up to 70% and cost of up to 63% compared to traditional tooling, particularly in low-volume production scenarios. This thesis includes a detailed cost analysis, which breaks down the cost components associated with AM processes such as pre-processing, production, material costs, post-processing, and overheads. This analysis reveals that AM tooling can offer substantial cost savings over conventional methods, making it a viable option for specific manufacturing contexts. Findings suggest that while AM tooling shows significant promise in reducing costs and accelerating production in bead foam molding, further research is required. This research should focus on exploring the scalability of AM for larger tools and investigating the application of new and emerging AM processes and materials.



Rapid Tooling, RT, Additive Manufacturing, AM, Bead Foam Molding, Steam Chest molding