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Molding plastic
Weaponeer Forums : Casting

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  dcorb

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Posted: November 10 2008 at 10:15pm | IP Logged Quote dcorb

I really have to figure out a way to mold plastic at home. If I could I would copy this:

 

 

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  weaponeer

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Posted: November 10 2008 at 11:11pm | IP Logged Quote weaponeer

check youtube for videos...   a couple companies sell molding supplies, and they show how to use them in videos.

I also am interested

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  midmichigun

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Posted: November 10 2008 at 11:53pm | IP Logged Quote midmichigun

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I love the idea on casting/ molding. While at Dow Corning, I had the opportunity to get a moderate durometer silicone mold making compound. I was able to cast an entire ar15 lower about 10 years ago. Problem that I found, was that it was difficult to find a resin that was hard and durable.

I used a Goughan Bros. West System Epoxy for my pouring. I had moderate bubbles (needed a better vacuum chamber to suck out air from the Epoxy). I am currently trying to figure out how to make my photos so they can fit the 250k limit. Anyway, I was thinking about adding a few chunks of fiber glass to help with strength (or even carbon fiber.

My 40lb daughter accidentally stepped on the lower this spring and it shattered like glass. However, I still have the mold somewhere.

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  weaponeer

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Posted: November 11 2008 at 1:29am | IP Logged Quote weaponeer

if you reduce the photo size to a width of 600 pixels the file size drops enough for posting.

you can also use www.picnik.com (free) to edit your photos

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  dcorb

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Posted: November 11 2008 at 9:10am | IP Logged Quote dcorb

midmichigun,

I am looking forward to seeing your pictures. One thing that always stopped me on starting experimenting with molding is you need a mold and I am not sure where to start with that.

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  midmichigun

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Posted: November 11 2008 at 10:22am | IP Logged Quote midmichigun

dcorb, Sir!

This post is for FYI. I cannot assume responsibility for damage caused by following my insights. Also, all NFA rules apply.

I am up in Alberta right now, so I will do what I can on the posting front when I get a chance.

My "limited" experience is as follows. As with most castings, it is best to have a "take apart" mold. Mine is a two piece unit. I initially sprayed a teflon release agent (there are a variety of agents around) on the donor receiver. I then placed it (trigger guard down) on some small legs (where the magazine and trigger guard would rest on the ground). Later these legs will be the vents/ pour holes. I then flooded the mold box up to the top of the receiver. I had taped off the trigger hole so that mold material would not flood that part. After everything dried I took the receiver out to make sure it didn't get "stuck". I then put it back into the now "Upper" mold, and then proceeded to create the bottom mold by lubing up the face where the first mold would touch the second half. I believe I used vaseline or spray Teflon material. You obviously don't want the two parts sticking. I continued to fill up my mold box so the ar 15 receiver was well  buried. Remember you want support on all sides so error on the side of caution when filling.

Several things to remember:

1. You will have to choose a durometer that is sufficient to support the casting material you are using. If you pick a "soft" material, it won't be very good. Imagine trying to use Jello as a mold. If you pick too "hard", while it will support your work, you will have problem pulling your finished unit out of the mold. I can't remember which Dow Corning number I used (it was in a research lab anyway so customer #'s wouldn't match). Whatever you use, go with the best mold compound you can get. Several sub- reasons for this. A. Life of the mold will depend on how good the material is. How many "pulls" do you want your mold to survive? Over time and pulls cracks my appear that are hard to repair. B. Dimensional stability. Some material can shrink over time. Usually this will be noted on your material description, sometimes not. You don't want to end up with a perfect casting that shrinks...  One day you are making .223 size ar, the next a 9mm and the next a .22 cal?!?! Just joking. The dimensional shrinkage may not be uniform across the 3D.

You ask how accurate the mold was? I actually had "machine" marks from the original Olympic Arms receiver donor. All holes were "pre- drilled" with minimal cleanup being needed. A small hair placed on the AR donor actually showed up on the casting. Which leads me to my next item:

2. Two piece mold lineup! You must insure that everything lines up on your mold. I actually had a fine line running around the casting, especially where the buttstock screws into the AR lower. Apparently I had some minor mis-alignment there. Several ways to do this, and it depends on the durometer of your material. I have seen "locking teeth" created in molds so several pieces could accurately join up. Some people try toothpicks or small removable rods of material to insure lineup.

Lessons learned?

1. Provice plenty of vent/ fill holes. This will obviously allow bubbles to escape. You can later machine off the resulting "sprue". Also, look carefully at your object for casting. You want to insure that no air is trapped (more complex the object, better chances on trapping air... hence vent holes). Remember to think about how to fill the object before you make the mold. Can you get your donor / new receiver out without destroying the mold? Also, do you want a potential seam to be running over an obvious area (that will now need to be cleaned up). When I post pictures, you will see I had alot of air problems. One way to remove them is to place your MIXED casting material (resin/ plastic) in a vacuum chamber. As you remove pressure the mixed material will then start to boil! Yes, all entrained air tries to escape. It is a fine line between how long to vacuum, and your working time with you casting resin. Depending on the viscosity of your resin it usually only takes a few minutes to vacuum it. As an FYI, sometimes the mold material is vacuumed also just to make sure it doesn't have bubbles. Just remember to gently pour after vacuuming.

2. I could have gone with a stiffer mold. Since the AR is not terribly complex, I could have gone with a harder material. However, what I did was sufficient. Especially when you can creat a casting box or tub that your silicone mold can sit it. This can/ will provie critical wall strength (preventing bulging or squatting) and insure correct alignment. You will have to use a tub or box (cardboard or wood or metal) to create your mold, why not use it to help yourself later?

3. And the BIG problem with casting? Strength of the material used to cast your new part. I chose Goughan West System epoxy since it was stronger and more durable than usual fiberglass resin. However, I found that it was still brittle without its reinforcing fibers. My next experiment was going to stuff figerglass/ carbon fiber into the mold and then backfill with my epoxy. Remember that most high end processes actually act to force resin into the fibers, which is difficult to do with an enclosed mold. I haven't found a strong/ durable/ hard material, but since my initial experimenting stopped 10 years ago...

4. Temporarily cover your serial number and makers marks with clay or other material. Otherwise you will be producing cast receivers with your favorite makers marks... and will end up with thousands of guns with the same serial number (making it hard to remember which gun you shot and need to clean)

As I said, I will post pics when I can. I have been thinking about posting my results for a long time, but haven't had the time. Thanks dcorb for kicking me in the butt! I snapped some photos before I left and have then uploaded on the laptop. Can't promise on quality though.

Good luck, just some food for thought! Does anybody have any thoughts on media to try for the ar receiver? I think I still have the mold, but the wife cleaned out the "man- cave" and I didn't find the mold to take pictures of it before I left. Since I knew everyone would be curious about it. However, if anyone has ideas let me know and I can try them. I don't have a vacuum chamber anymore, but could fabricate one. Just remember, the Goughan Bros. product while fine for boat building, was snapped by a little girl walking on it. (probably more brittle than the wood lower someone here was trying to build) Hence why I was interested recently in the ceramic composite technology I heard was being used to make some AR receivers....

I did receive a package about 4 years ago on "mold making". This company offered materials and instructions. It seemed like it was complete on how to set up a mold. I believe they also offered a "high temperature" silicone mold material where you could cast a metal into your mold. However, my impression was that this was little more than "pot- metal" for making little elves and dwarves to sell at a flea market.  I don't think the mold material could handle aluminum temps, but don't recall. Also, dimensional stability over time was not discussed. But in some cases... who cares right? Any insight into this area would be of interest.

In the case of mold making and casting. The process is easy and accurate. What you do need is patience and practice. What is obvious to some, isn't obvious to all. Practice will make perfect. I cast various balls to simulate drag on golf balls, smooth, oblong etc for a wind tunnel class. I also cast objects for other experiments. Having a casting lab next to mine at DC helped, since I could talk with experts anytime I had questions.

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  Inabadhood

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Posted: November 11 2008 at 10:40am | IP Logged Quote Inabadhood

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  funmeister

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Posted: November 11 2008 at 10:40am | IP Logged Quote funmeister

I have seen a material combination known as a chopped graphite fiber/ epoxy mix used on parts.  Its not as strong as a directionally laid up composite, but it takes fancy shapes and the fiber provides some strength. 

Composite lay-up ...hmmmmmm... that might work.
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  midmichigun

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Posted: November 11 2008 at 11:35am | IP Logged Quote midmichigun

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As I pointed out, I used West Systems epoxy. This was due to its ultimate tensile strength, vs. fiberglass resin. However, you are only as good as your weakest part. And since your resins are more of a binder/ adhesive, the strength of your fiberglass/ carbon fiber becomes important. If resins were that great, you wouldn't need the fibers (carbon/ graphite/ glass). I tried my receiver with the "Best" at the time since I knew the stuff DC was using to "test" their mold making was weak, meant for ease of use and small details. I mean the guys had their walls lined with "Santa Claus, Gnomes, Lizards, Dwarves etc". But they were for decoration only.

Chopped strands are good for several things. Since the strands are short, they can flow better into molds. Also remember that the job of the glass is to also help halt crack initial and continuation. So it is a trade off from going with long to short strand. Also directional layup is important as most of you car guys know. However, we don't want long strands that can "clog" up the flow of resin.

If anyone can point me in the direction of a chopped graphite fiber epoxy mix... I should be able to pour a "test" receiver... and post destructive tests!  (I need to get rid of the Silver Bear .223 ammo I bought, it is complete junk) I am looking for something in the neighborhood of syrup type viscosity. Any thicker and it won't flow into the complex areas of the mold. I am not worried about having to machine or file anything here... its a concern of getting the material into that area to fill it.

On several types of guns, you have threads where relatively large stresses are applied. Also hinge locations are tough. Hence it would be a great idea to either have a short strand material, or dope the area with fiber to help reinforce. I would hate to "pull out" a thread.

If anyone questions why I removed the air in my epoxy? Every air bubble can be a crack initiator. So you loose alot of strength when you have bubbles. As promised, when you see my pictures, it will be obvious what happens.

One idea I was going to explore was to fill the mold, and then vacuum the entire mold/ epoxy cast (while its liquid). And then to refill again. However, my chamber at DC was not large enough (the chamber was built to hold 1000ml beakers and papercups standing upright) and I think it settled while it was curing. I would be concerned on the stability of the mold alignment if a large portion of the liquid epoxy suddenly started to boil.  But testing would have answered that question. However, it would probably have sucked out any entrained air nicely and made for a very complete casting. So a possible scenario would have seen me vacuuming my epoxy then filling the mold with several CC's of liquid, more vacuum, more CC's, more vacuum.... etc. This would probably help if I stuffed fibers into the mold ahead of time, ie, forcing the resin into the glass with less air bubbles.

I remember one demo at DC where the technician ran a mixer on a cordless drill, entrained lots of air, quickly moved to the chamber and fired it up. After several seconds the cup erupted with a big belch of resin splashing out of the paper cup. He was showing me that care during mixing and vacuuming was important. Another demo, when he was more careful yielded a situation where the top of the resin fizzed like a soda can being opened.

As to whether I carried out my work at DC or at home, I believe the majority was on my kitchen table. Even at the time, DC was PC enough to have a fit if I brought in gun parts to mold! I mostly got knowledge from work, not materials or facilities.

Don't forget, if you try and heat up your epoxy to make it flow (thinner) better, and to have the air "fall out" easier, you also increase the rate of chemical reaction. For every 10degrees, you double the reaction rate. So I have only tried to work at room temp type scenarios or with products that have time inhibitors in them (long working time). Doubling reaction rates can also inhibit crystal formation causing small crystals/ structures. Depending on the design of the material, this can cause strength problems.

Remember, as we search for an epoxy/ resin material. The cured item should have a high melting point. While an AR lower doesn't see that much heat, it still gets warm. Also, lets not stop at AR's, I have my eye on someones HK. Something else to add to our criteria.

Keep the ideas coming! This is the best place to throw things out! The reason why I am being helpful... is that I would like dcorb to cast me an HK!

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Posted: November 11 2008 at 12:43pm | IP Logged Quote midmichigun

Dang it dcorb!

I am at work, and find my mind wandering!

Initially Step 3 in my casting project was going to be based on the following: If Step1 proved that casting was feasible but brittle, I was going to Step2 which was to try and dope the resin structure with fibers or find better material. If that step failed, Step 3 would have followed:

Describe mechanical/ structural failures and re- engineer the lower receiver. If you caught my remark earlier: "cover makers mark and serial numbers with clay". Well, guess what... If I needed to beef up certain areas (pin locations, threaded parts or hinge pins), I was going to apply modeling clay to my donor AR and beef up the parts that were weak. However, since it strayed from my initial "replication" of the original receiver it was on the back burner.

Essentually from a mechanical viewpoint, as long as the FCG, magazine and a few other parts line up, the outside dimensions don't really matter (the machined area interfacing the upper receiver being critical still). Hence the mag well, fcg area, hinge and threaded end could be made thicker outside with the modeling clay. Obviously it may not look the same as a "real' AR and pins may have to be made longer... but the merits of thickening/ strengthening the lower are obvious, if you can't find a stronger build material. Remember we measure things in psi (lbs/ square in). More square inches the better.... Also, obviously wider areas provide easier fill with fiber reinforced resins.....

When the work was completed, you could then cast your "non-original" AR's till the cows/ Obama come home. Obvious to this is the fine line between function/ originality. However, after seeing lowers from: titanium, al, steel, wood, plastic, ceramic and assembles bolted or welded together.... some people don't care about if its exacting, as long as it uses AR parts and goes BANG! Of course I am also ignoring the: black, red, camo, silver, paint, teflon finishes.

As is obvious, you would have a beefed up/ non-original AR lower that you would then cast in the manner described in my previous posts.

I figure that it takes a day to setup each mold and cure each receiver. However, while it is curing (which is the long part) you could be doing something else. Remember those of you who machine lower AR's and how long it takes you. However, if you have a part that can't be easily/ accurately made or don't have a machine shop, casting is for you, ie a build for every budget.

Going back to work now!

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  dcorb

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Posted: November 11 2008 at 1:35pm | IP Logged Quote dcorb

I am also at work so I have not studied your posts yet but it looks like there is a lot of good info there.

If I give this a try I was thinking of starting with G3 hybrid type receiver. Molding plastic around two tubes. One carry the bolt the other the bolt carrier. The tubes would cut open and maybe tack welded together. (I think PBB made a receiver that way). So most of the strength would be steel with a cool looking plastic covering and stock parts to match.

Once I had experience I would move to making grip sticks and eventually a complete receiver. 

Hey my mind wanders all the time.

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  midmichigun

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Posted: November 11 2008 at 2:06pm | IP Logged Quote midmichigun

dcorb...

Hugh... ya back again.

Grip stick is easy, same with stocks. However, I would try an overmold type vs. actually casting on the stock. When I see ak grip sticks... I laugh. Haven't tried to mold yet, but prices seem around $7.00 for each. Haven't looked at cost benefit (resin and mold material) of making own.

Composite is way to go if you plan on embedding metal tubes. Look up West System Epoxy. I know from personal experience (building gas tank overlay with carbon fiber) it is sticky stuff. Should hang onto your metal with ease. FYI, they use it alot in wooden boat building. Works easily and doesn't burn contacted skin. Can't remember what temp range until failure... And NO... I don't work for them.

Back to stocks quick. I also worked with a foam urethane dept at DC. We would mix an a/b mixture to come up with a HARD foam. Density is the key here. So a trade off between hard vs. soft would come with a weight penalty. Might be key to making own stocks... thinking about this for both AR and AK.

I made a mold for a table leg, and tried to pour foam into the mold. However, at this point (10years ago) had huge financial issues with kids on the way so play time had to end.... I got a bent table leg out of the deal that is lighter than air (kidding) and harder than sin. So the technology works. I had problems making my support box. I had made the silicone mold to light, and compensated with a "bullet" proof box, that didn't work in the end. However, it was like magic! Pour a/b into box, seal, 2hours later and you have a finished product (sanding, color, finish pending). They use it extensively in furniture making now adays to replace wood. It is dependent on moisture cure, so if you seal the box to hard.... you get a chunk of resin instead of a desired piece. (something looking like a bent table leg may even happen ) Another application is most of your baseboards and molding in the housing industry is a similar foam.

However, as you guys know with potential weapons bans coming up... parts will dry up... so best to look at molding/ casting parts.

Remember what I have done isn't part of "spin" casting or "forced injection". While similar, the results are different, and I  believe is what most of the gun industry uses.

Also tried years before DC to mold parts using Spray Foam (in a can urethane). I then whittled/ cut the part into a desired shape and overlayed with fiberglass. This is before I knew about amines and acids and the "safer" West System. My trials worked. I was making car parts at this time. It would be great option for stocks in the future.

Remember regular fiberglass resin and styrofoam don't mix....

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Posted: November 11 2008 at 5:39pm | IP Logged Quote midmichigun

I got one photo for you guys. Sorry for the lack of contrast. As you can see, it is almost clear. I had taped off all holes so the 2 molds wouldn't get stuck hence the skin over each hole.

Notice bubbles on bottom edge of magazine well.

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Posted: November 11 2008 at 6:07pm | IP Logged Quote midmichigun

Here is a second pic for you guys and gals. Note the skin over each of the holes ready to be popped out. You can see more bubble problems near the mag well opening. Obviously the stuff cured before the bubbles settled out. All of this could have been avoided by a vacuum chamber. I actually poured the lower, upside down so the bubbles would come up out of the vent holes (see previous posts). I also attached a vent/ fill to the highest points in the mold to help let out air.

As someone will also point out, the mag well seems slightly damaged (where I am holding it). Well, thats were it was stepped on!  Also notice the engraving for "safety" and "Fire". Just slap on a FCG and upper and its ready for display!

Clarification on the first photo. Actually the deck where the upper would mate is as straight as an arrow. For some reason in the photo it looks slightly curved. This is just an illusion of the camera.

Ok, technical stats:

Aluminum 6061T6 is 45ksi, 6063T6 is 35ksi and 7075 is 83ksi. Numbers taken from an Internet source.

The best resin I found was Rencost 8269 "medium" at 9,200psi with a hardness of 86D shore.

The West System (correct company is Gougen not Goughon), which I used for the above lower was around 7,000+psi with a hardness of 80+D shore. This is without any fiber reinforcement. They also market a Graphite additive for added slipperiness and wear. They have a fiber package but I didn't see any tech. bulletin on the increased tensile... but don't imagine it approaches 7075 or even 6063. I do know you guys are always concerned about whether a forge or casting is better, and this falls well below that on strength.

Sorry to hi-jack your post dcorb, but you wanted to talk about molding plastics into guns!

After 10 years the mold is in perfect condition ready to bang out more "display" lowers.

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Posted: November 11 2008 at 6:25pm | IP Logged Quote dcorb

Oh you did not not hi-jack the thread, this great information!

Now I am more interested in molding than ever.

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  midmichigun

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Posted: November 11 2008 at 7:10pm | IP Logged Quote midmichigun

Dcorb,

Just trying to do my part as a patriot! Just hoping someone can point out a better resin for me/us to use! Then I am in business (figure of speech).

As you guys know, being a road warrior and having money limits suck.

With the correct application, the designs you can mold are beyond belief. After I settle on a tube gun/ ammo system, then I would like to add modeling clay/ foam to flesh out the design and give it curves and ergonomics. Pour out a mold, then I can pop in a receiver tube into the mold, add resin and presto out pops a gun with the proper ergos. Hey, and suddenly 2 are better than 1... if you get my idea.

While I like chewing out metal rifles with wood stocks, its time that the home builder made things like ps90's and steyrs in their back yard!

Obviously the resin I am used to using is not in the same ballpark with what the PS90 uses, or even what some of the HK's have....

What would you guys think of molding your own rifle systems with integral mounts, embedded graphite and all that stuff? What about a wood grain IN the finish? You want a flash light? Well mold the mount and wires into YOUR stock design. It won't hang up in the brush then will it. That would be real trick there!  Why buy the ak47 bull pup kit when you can mold a trick system together with a weeks worth of effort. Come on guys... think this UP!

 

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Posted: November 11 2008 at 7:22pm | IP Logged Quote dcorb

This is getting exciting now!

Never thought of embedding a flashlight and/or a laser pointer.

Funny you mention the PS90, about 6 month ago I picked up an air soft PS90. Not like I wanted an airsoft anything it just bugged me. I thought this would be very cool to copy into something that goes bang!

 

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Posted: November 11 2008 at 7:26pm | IP Logged Quote dcorb

I do have a stripped AR lower laying around. I need to make a mold and mold up a plastic receiver! If nothing else it would make a great desk to at work. Crap if this molding stuff is easy enough I would like to make a complete AR15 dummy pistol, it would be awesome desk junk!
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  midmichigun

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Posted: November 11 2008 at 8:15pm | IP Logged Quote midmichigun

Dcorb,

Guess we hit a common topic then! This is an interesting brainstorming session. Yes, you could take your ps90 apart and cast your own parts to assemble onto a working firearm with all the goodies attached.

Remember though, so far nothing beats metal strength on the resin side (can't find one strong enough). The good thing about casting resins, is that you can get an accurate handgun made that can't fire. That is a wall hanger there. Take your favorite gun, cast it... and put in on your desk at work! Now if that doesn't get you fired.....

Heck didn't ya ever want a Steyr Aug in 45 cal? I think you discovered a use for Airsoft after all! That ps90 mold could become your next .410 shotgun!

If you scratch build, you can test fit your parts from your donor experimental rifle (made of plaster, wood, foam, clay) before you start molding. Gotta get the correct length of pull right... and be able to reach your pushbutton light.

If you start making your own "space age stocks" you can have extra battery storage, flash light holders (laser pointers) embeded ACOG sights, Picatinny or 1913 rails... etc. While I love my ar15, and hanging all that junk off looks cool, did you ever try to crawl through the brush with all the junk attached?

It takes time, patience and money. It is very hard when you screw up a mold. I typically used to just cut a bad one up and "feed" it back into a new mold as fill (in non critical areas). Molds are cheap when you expect 100pulls. But 1 or 2 pulls can make it expensive.

I figure that with all the talent I see on this board, somebody should be able to mold up something cool for us at the next Build Challenge?

Can someone find us a strong Resin???

Anybody else see this as a good topic?

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  weaponeer

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Posted: November 11 2008 at 10:10pm | IP Logged Quote weaponeer

I have brought this up in the past, but it never fired off any real replies.

one of the companies I found on youtube used two types of plastics...  one hard and one soft, and mixed them to get the right amount of softness and hardness (durability) out of it.  while they don't have the same purposes, I think much of the knowledge is out there and it's the next step in weapon building by adding my style and form to the weapons.

Maybe it's no cost effective to do a receiver (I don't see why not), but it's at least a very good idea for grip (or grip frames), forearms, butt stocks, and more...

It's better to design everything and have it look even better than it shoots and sit back and realize the your last weapon build, as more of a weapon pour...   lol

to me the concept of making everything (which is our future) can happen a lot sooner if we are willing to learn more and more about other potential products processes, and methods and actually try them.   which was done by a member with the wooden AR lower.  each crazy idea leads to better ideas, and keeps the whole home building from getting boring.

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