Thermal cycling of molds is frequently desired in thermoplastic processing. Thermal cycling of the entire mold with a large mass, however, requires an exceedingly long cycle time. A processing strategy for mold rapid heating and cooling, involving a thin-shell mold and two thermal stations (one hot and one cold), was investigated. Because of its low thermal mass, the shell mold can be rapidly heated and cooled through heat conduction by selectively contacting with the two stations. Numerical simulations were performed to study the effect of different design parameters, including thermal contact resistance, shell material, and shell thickness, on the thermal response at the mold surface. Experimental studies showed aluminum shell molds with a thickness of 1.4mm can be rapidly heated from room temperature to 200°C in about 3s using a hot station at 250°C. The method was used for thermal cycling of embossing tools. Surface microfeatures can be rapidly transferred from thin metallic stamps to polymer substrates with cycle times less than 10s.

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