Every mold making and casting material comes with its own specific range of cure time. This is nothing but the time that the material will take to get completely cured. It can range from just a few minutes to hours or even a few days. The mold or cast has to be left to air dry on its own and there is nothing much that the artist can do in the meanwhile.
Similarly, the pot time or working time is the time on hand to work with the product after it is mixed until it starts to set. After this, the material will not work properly.
For instance, alginate is renamed for its quick setting and curing time, whereas materials like latex rubber require days on end to cure before they are ready for use. Most silicones have a cure time between 18 to 24 hours.
What to do?
Artists use various measures to speed up or prolong the cure time. In fact, delayed-setting and quick curing options are available for alginates, plasters, silicone and other materials. Sometimes, fibers, fillers, talc or magnesium oxide (for plaster) are added to achieve the same effect.
For certain materials like silicone, fast catalysts are also available. These can be added to the silicone rubber to significantly reduce the cure time, sometimes to even just an hour! Care is needed as adding too much catalyst may make the material start curing even before it can be applied.
Alternately, techniques like hot air dryer, dehumidifier or baking in an oven are used to hasten the cure time. In fact, plaster casts are often baked to reduce the curing time to 12 to 24 hours. However, too much of the hot air can also cause the mold or cast to crack or spall. Also, silicone does not react very well to heating from dryers or lamps; it may just break out in unsightly bubbles all over the mold or cast.
It should be noted that the pot time and cure time is generally measured at normal room temperature. It will definitely vary depending on the atmospheric and climatic conditions prevailing at the time of working / curing. For instance, cooler temperatures tend to increase the pot time and cure time while warmer weather is sure to reduce both working time and cure time.
This phenomenon can be easily used to vary the pot / cure time to suit your convenience when trying how to make molds. All you have to do is gently warm the material (both base and catalyst for two-part materials) before using them. This will speed up the chemical reaction and the mold or cast will take less time to cure. But keep in mind that the working time is also reduced and the material will start setting much more quickly. Do not overheat the materials either.
Similarly, cure time can be easily increased by refrigerating the material (both base and catalyst again) prior to use of how to make molds. This will give more time for working with the material per se.