Future of Mold Polishing

I was a mold polisher (diamond finishing/bench work) for around 10 years, and my family has been in the business (in the USA) for decades. However, I changed careers some time ago and most of my (polishing based) family have found work in other areas. Also, my father who ran the shop for so long has since retired. The shop is still open, and molds come in every once in a while, but for the most part no one depends on polishing work anymore.

I am curious of what some of the industry trends are these days.

My questions are:

  1. What is the future of polishing? I read a few articles on high speed machining, and it seems that it limits the need for polishing. How much impact has this had on the polishing industry?

  1. Why have the polishing tools stayed the same for so long. From what I understand, di-profilers haven't changed much over the years. Why hasn't there been innovations in technology as related to polishing tools? Or has there been new technology?

  2. How has globalisation affected things? How much polishing work is being done in china?
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You ought to ask this question as well on alt.machines.cnc. There are some moldmakers over there.

In general terms, though: Yes, high speed machining greatly reduces the need for polishing. Bench work in general is sometimes close to zero. Very fine-finish EDMing is even more effective in eliminating polishing today.

As for why polishing tools have stayed the same, I don't know, but there may not be much room for new technology in what is essentially a high-level hand craft. When people think about on-machine completion of molds and dies, they tend to think in terms of modern EDM and high-speed milling of pre-hardened steels.

Hamei (who probably is listening) can tell you about China. If they follow the trend set by Japan, they will try to eliminate hand work as soon as they have the capital. It isn't a matter only of cost efficiency in Japan, for example. It's a matter of sheer capability. They're very short of the kinds of toolmaking skills that take years to acquire, so they automate and use advanced technology where they can.

I don't think the field has any chance of growing but there will always be some demand for skilled mold polishers. The question is whether there will be more demand than polishers.

Ed Huntress

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Ed Huntress

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