Or, in layman's terms: Robotic.
I've had the pleasure of using a CNC mill for the first time to make a new mold prototype for the NerdKit I am so diligently working on at my job this summer. And it's one of the coolest things I've ever used in my life.
This prototype combines many aspects that are closer to the final product: a CNC milled mold, a caselike structure, an insert for compartments and such, a flush hinge, and better designed snapfit invagination/exphallation fasteners.
...Voila! Much simpler than those gurshdurned mold tools.
But it doesn't come out so bad!
Someday I'll do some 5-axis CNC milling...
Once I've localized the mill at the stock's origin, I'm ready to rip...
It even gives you an option to call for a tool change halfway through machining, so I can switch out the flat endmill for a ball endmill and touch it off before it cuts the hinge channel in the center.
Can you see the resemblance?
And the next day it's off to the vacuum former! I drilled dozens of tiny holes along the hinge, edges, and invaginations to ensure the plastic truly takes the shape of the mold.
I was sure to add plenty of this special non-stick spray to make the removal of the mold from our cheap plastic easier.
Because of the small scale, I had issues with the material webbing along the hinge, but I managed to get one good part.
The insert my coworker made from a CNC mold fits perfectly.
The live hinge works pretty well, too! We'll have to test the design with the type of plastic we're using for the final product, however.
Next, we make a full-scale prototype!