CMT’s Tooling Board Options

While tool board materials perform a critical role in the thermoforming market, selection of the correct tool board can be difficult.  With the most common use being prototype development and short production runs, price is obviously a critical factor.  But when form, fit and function are always on the line and finished part appearance (particularly for optical clarity) provides the critical first impression, what is the best way to balance price vs performance?

Along with the high-performance copolymer syntactic foam tool board material (CTB-44) produced by CMT, we have also scoured the globe and are pleased to provide a selection of low cost, polyurethane board materials our customers report as highly effective for their prototyping/short run needs.

To aid in your selection consider the following performance factors when reviewing tooling board properties:

Typically considered a base level starting point for considerations.  For thermoforming applications, 44 lb/ft3 is widely considered the lowest density that is sufficiently robust enough for use. In general, the higher the density the more robust the tool and the better the long-term performance.   Also as a generic point, the lower the density the more open the surface condition of the tool, leading to more haze on clear parts.  (Conversely, the lower the density, the easier the material is to machine and drill.)

The following tool board products have proven popular and effective for thermoforming applications:

Entry level, minimum performance standard board recommendation for a forming tool.  Typically adequate for less than 10 parts.  With a density around 42 lb/ft3, this easily machined light brown board is most economical for quick turn parts.  Due to a somewhat grainy and low hardness surface, it is not suggested for use to produce clear parts.

Comparable to Renshape 450.

Polyurethane board material with slightly higher density/strength and lower CTE than MB-0670 for applications requiring longer duration runs and a bit tighter tolerance control.  Darker brown in color, the MB-720 provides a smoother surface for better part quality and improved clarity.  The 45 lb/ft3 density board material is still easily machined.

Comparable to Renshape 460

A moderately high density polyurethane board material with good dimensional stability and a finer surface structure than MB-0670 or MB-0720.  Generally used for prototype or short run parts requiring good appearance and closer dimensional control.  This gray color board provides and easily polished smooth surface that begins to mimic aluminum tooling.  The higher mechanical and temperature properties also allow for limited/short duration production runs when investment in more expensive aluminum tools is not warranted.

Comparable to Renshape 472

This red color, very high density solid polyurethane board material that may be polished to a smooth finish and offers high impact/abrasion resistance.  These properties combine to make WB-1223 an ideal material for parts requiring high clarity/optimal appearance.  CTE is higher than other boards listed on this page.  While care must be taken during longer runs to insure dimensional consistency, the durability allows for production of tens to hundreds of parts over the tool life.

Comparable to Renshape 5169

A toughened copolymer board material formulated and manufactured by CMT to blend density, surface quality, low CTE, and high strength with excellent machining properties for short run thermoforming applications where stability and optical part clarity is required.  It is also suitable for composite fabrication, autoclave cure, wet layup and vacuum infusion.  CTB-44 is designed for applications where a single board thickness may be used and bonding is not required.