Plastic Injection Molding

About 2 years ago I purchased a Tool set. It came with a wonderful set of tools, but a really low end, thin and hollow plastic injection molded case that belies the namesake and tradition. Needless to say, the case finally gave up the ghost this past week. I began shopping for a replacement tool box easy for the old set that has since grown to over 200 pieces. Wanting some level of organization that is needed on the trail while off roading, the plastic tool box intrigued me due to it’s thick plastic construction and it’s similarity to a larger tool chest with extendable drawers. Its size and depth allowed me to place it in the same spot as where I held the old plastic injection molded case in my truck.

Plastic Injection molding is preferred for producing complex shapes of various sizes having very fine details. The parts produced by using this method have greater dimensional control. Plastic Injection molding is used for producing parts in large quantities. Plastic molding is widely used for many applications. When you design parts for plastic injection molding, you can arrange multiple pieces in one mold by connecting them with small bars ~0.1″, however the sub-components must not have widely varying volumes. When the design does not allow for additional structures to improve strength, consider using a stronger material, such as glass fiber filled plastic. Consider specifying a fire retardant material when necessary.

Nowadays, liquid injection molding is becoming increasingly important. One reason for this is the increased performance requirements of the finished rubber parts. In addition, more and more producers of rubber parts are seeing the benefits in crown the high level of automation and productivity. Injection molding technology, using liquid rubber, combines the speed, cost efficiency, and versatility of plastic injection molding with the outstanding properties of silicone rubber. It is used in many applications where organic rubber cannot perform, such as military, aerospace, automotive, healthcare applications, etc. The use of silicone rubber combines the properties of resilience, high temperature stability and inertness as silicone is generally unaffected by temperatures from 100 degrees Fahrenheit to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Progress in liquid injection molding technology has made faster cures possible, enabling unit cost reductions.

The Plastic injection molding machine has two parts: the injection unit which melts the plastic and injects the plastic molding into the mold, and the clamping unit easy which holds the mold. The injection molding unit clamps the mold in a closed position during injection, opens the mold after cooling, and ejects the finished part. Injection molding’s efficiency varies by the number of parts you plan to produce. For a small quantity, such as 10 parts, it may be less expensive to simply machine the desired part utilizing a milling machine. On the other hand, if you desire several thousand parts, injection molding is ideal. When you submit your order for an injection molding part, the websites will assign staff to help evaluate the most appropriate mold material which will vary by part tolerance and number of units anticipated.

Over Molding

Over mold & Over molidng

Over-mold injection molding is the same as insert-molding, where an existing component is loaded into a mold and plastic is molded around it to create a multi-material single part. Insert-molding is most synonymous with combining metal components with plastic in such products as electrical pin connectors. When the term over-molding is used, the metal component is simply replaced with a previously molded plastic part. Single-shot injection molding machines are used to produce both the plastic component and the over-molded plastic. Tooling for injection over-mold injection molding requires two molds; one for the plastic component and one for the over-mold. Over-mold injection molding requires labor to handle the plastic component and load it into the second mold. Over-molding is generally reserved for higher priced parts that can absorb higher machine time and labor costs.

If you are planning to go into a plastic molding business, you should first know the different processes. Choose from a plastic molding process that fits your budget, your expertise, and your resources. In Injection Molding, melted plastic is forced into a mold cavity. Once cooled, the mold can be removed. This plastic molding process is commonly used in mass-production or prototyping of a product. Injection molding machines were made in the 1930’s. This can be used to mass produce toys, kitchen utensils, bottle caps, and cell phone stands to name a few. Plastic molding is a very technical process. It needs experts in this type of manufacturing business for it to be competitive in the market. Therefore, a very scientific and systematic study should be first made before going into this endeavor.

Injection molding is an effective way to make custom parts. Granules of plastic are melted down and then injected into a metal mold; there the molten plastic hardens into a designated shape. Then you open the mold and a new part is removed, inspected and is ready to go. Injection molding is an incredibly versatile form of molding plastics. As with everything, injection molding has its ups and down so it is important that the ends justify the means for your project needs. There are three main components in the injection molding process. The injection apparatus itself which melts and then transmits the plastic, the mold, which is custom designed, and clamping to provide controlled pressure.

Thermoplastic injection molding is molding the most widely used of all plastic processing methods. The injection molding machine reduces pelletized raw material and colorants into a hot liquid. This “melt” is forced into a cooled mold under tremendous pressure. After the material solidifies, the mold is unclamped and a finished part is ejected. Injection molding offers the lowest piece prices available, but tooling prices are generally the highest. Thermoset injection molding is similar to thermoplastic injection molding except that uncured thermoset resins are mixed, injected, and held in the mold until cured. As with thermoplastic molding, the price per piece can be low, but the tooling prices are generally very high.

Purchasing the box, some assorted socket rails, and some additional clips for the socket rails, I took the box home with me to see how well it would stand up as a replacement. The box is quite simple in construction. It’s a plastic injection molded case made of a very thick plastic. The case consists of a flip open lid (with two latches that are padlock compatible) covering a deep top storage area, and three drawers that are very similar to the large rolling tool chests that many professionals and advanced amateur home mechanics have in their garages. When you flip the lid open, the lid will immediately release the latching mechanism for the three drawers. Unfortunately, the lid does not contain any hinges or tethering that prevent it from flopping open and hitting itself on the back of the tool box. This was my only gripe involving the tool box.

Injection Mold Design

Plastic injection molding for producing plastic products

Plastic injection molding is the principal process for producing plastic products or parts of products. Plastic is acknowledged to be a very flexible and cost-effective material that is used in many applications. Although the tooling can be expensive, the cost, per part is very low. Intricate geometries are limited only to the abiltiy to create the injection mold. Things you use everyday, such as the case that houses your monitor, the keyboard on which you type or the mouse on your desk were produced with plastic injection molding.

Plastic injection molding involves the transformation of a plastic solid, usually in the form of granules or pellets, and heating the plastic resin to a specific temperature until it melts. The melt is then forced into a mold made up of two or more dies, where it is forced to “cool”, resulting in producing the desired shape. A specific amount of time passes, usually a few seconds, and the mold is then opened and the part is released. This cycle then repeats continuously until the desired quantity is reached.

Considerations of  Injection Mold Design

The design of the part, and therefore the mold, needs to include draft features (angled surfaces) to make possible the removal of the part from the mold. Typical draft angles are about 1 to 2 degrees for part surfaces which do not exceed five inches. Dimensional tolerance specification will dictate the final cost of the part as well as its ability to be manufactured. If there is a small section of the part which needs higher tolerances, such as the location of a critical feature used for alignment,do not specify a tight tolerance, as an alternative, plan and design for post molding processes such as machining to achieve the desired results.

Radii and Corners

It is very important that uniform wall thickness be maintained at the corners. The internal and external radius need to share the same center point. External radii = internal radii + wall thickness. The minimum radii should not be less than ¼ of the minimum wall thickness. Design for radii to be ½ to ¾ of the nominal wall thickness. When a large amount of stress is going to be present, it is very important to design in larger radius as this will distribute the stress much more evenly.

Wall Thickness

The production of thin wall items such as a clamshell for retail packaging are possible with today’s technology. Products with thick walls are also easily produced. However, parts which require uneven wall thickness present a challenge to the plastic molder manufacturer. Creating a part with a uniform wall thickness and cross section will abridge manufacturing and reduce costs. One issue to be aware of is sinking. Wherever an intersection or “tee” occurs, there will be some degree of sinking. This occurs because thicker walls cool at a slower rate and therefore create this problem.

Ribs

Ribbing should be ½ to two thirds of the nominal wall thickness and less than 3 times the thickness in height.A taper of 1° is usual. Note: as mentioned above, excess thickness can result in shrinkage.An excess in rib height combined with a taper will produce thin areas requiring extra fill time at the mold.

Weld (Part) lines

The location of weld lines needs to be considered by designer before a injection mold is created. Weld lines are formed by the joining of the flow fronts of the plastic during molding. One issue of concern is the that the weld line area is more susceptible to cracks and stress failure.

Bosses

  • Diameter = (Outside Diameter) \ (Inside Diameter) = 2 to 3
  • Thickness = 1/2 to 2/3 nominal wall thickness
  • Gusset Height = 2/3 Height
  • Height = Fastener minimum requirements
  • Taper = 1 deg. all around
  • Diameter Ratio should be minimum ratio of 2., this will reduce risk of failure.

Pressure:

Another factor in the design will be the clamping pressure required to produce the part while the plastic is being injected. Smaller cavities can result in high pressures being required to force the plastic or rubber material to fully fill the mold cavity. This will, in turn, determine the thickness of the mold material, usually steel) as well as the type of machine in which can be used.

Summary:

Many factors must be taken into account when designing a mold for the creation of plastic injection molded parts. Factors such as draft angles, wall thickness, ribbing (not the kidding kind), bosses and weld lines and clamping pressure all come into play when designing a mold that will be used in a plastic injection mold machine. Each facet is important in and of itself, but as a whole, each one affects the others. Therefore the design of a mold for plastic molding can be quite involved. When done correctly, the result will be a mold which will yield thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of parts over it’s lifetime.

Injection Molding Process

Process of Injection Molding

The process of injection molding process is best explained as heating up a type of plastic and under a forced type or pressure is poured into a predesigned mold, after the hot liquid is poured into the mold the mold is clamped shut to prevent any air from getting in. After the initial work is done, the mold hardens and takes the shape of the mold.

Then the next step in the process is when the resin (hard plastic) which is now in the shape of a small pellets are poured into the feed hopper, the hopper is a large open bottomed contained and what it does is that is filters the pellets into the screw.

As the screws turn the resin pellets are moved into the screw and then they go through a very intense pressure. Then friction is created and when that happens heat is generated to melt the pellets. There are heaters on both sides of the screws and there is temperature control during the melting process.

The oil gets pumped from the tank to the injection molded parts that run along the tie bar equipment, then that’s when the liquid plastic gets injected into the mold. Then the water-cooling technique is applied in assist in cooling off the mold. The process is complete when the mold is pulled from the pre-designed mold.