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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.

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.

Used Injection Molding Machines

Used Injection Molding Machines

There are constantly new techniques and new technology in the industrial world of injection molding. New machines, new plastics, new equipment. There are some companies that keep up with other companies by buying a lot of expensive equipment the second it comes out.

But these are the companies that cost so much because they have to charge more to pay for the price of the new equipment they just bought. But then you have the companies that like to keep using used machinery because they are just as good as new and as the old saying goes if it isn’t broke don’t fix it. Not every company wants to be the fancy company with all new machines.

Some companies want to just be known as the company that did my job in the most outstanding way. They want the recognition for a job well done rather than for the company who spend a lot of money on a piece of new machinery.

Companies that keep using used machinery don’t have to increase their prices and customers like to see that and they will keep coming back to the company that does great work for a great price.

Contract Injection Molding

Contract Injection Molding

When you are looking for a company to do a terrific job handling your custom injection molding contract. You want to make sure that they can cover your needs. If at all possible, tour the facility of where you are interested in having your work done. But you want to make sure their facility can handle the load.

You want a company that handles both a large and small volume of work. Some companies only will do a certain amount of work therefore they turn down small amount jobs. You want them to provide samples, you want to be able to see what kind of job they will do for you before you contract a huge order and do not like the work.

You want full production abilities, process optimization, and Insert molding and over molding, PPac capabilities. You also want packaging and domestic and international shipping capabilities. The company that you contract for your work, you want to handle the type of job you have for the price that you want.

That is why it is important to tour the facility to see first hand how the company will handle your job load. You want a guarantee that the job you give them will be nothing less than spectacular. This is what contract Plastic molding is all about.

Injection Molding Machines

Injection Molding Machines

One type of injection molding machine is the Milacron LIM, Liquid Injection Molding; there are many benefits in having this machine over the traditional LIM. This machine has its own controls and especially made soft ware for this product only. It has a low pressure set up for injection setup and it has a closed loop control.

Unlike the traditional LIM this machine has an increased power ejector force, so it can inject the mold quicker. It has a standard injection screw, a cooling plate on both sides, eight new pneumatic valves, and two heat zones on each paten, a 3-stage air ejector. The improvements from the standard LIM also include a revised rear seal on the injector screw and also a revised seal that is on the nozzle.

These machines have a thermo set process that uses a silicone rubber material that is used to be injected into the heat plastic molds. The best part about these Milacron machines is that no other machine can use their software is designed just for their machines and no one else’s. The Milacron also has a complete design line of Fluid Auto meter mixers.

Milacron is one of the best in the business of injection molding and if your company needs to replace a machine, consider this one, it is one of the best.

Injection Molds

Injection Molds

The designs of the mold are predetermined by whose company is requesting the parts. A lot of thought has to be put into making the molds, the molds have to be designed so that the molds don’t get stuck inside the mold and ruin the piece. The molds are designed that when the resin (hard plastic) is complete that the mold can be taken out and polished to be the piece that the mold was designed for.

If any air gets into the plastic molds or any kind of condensation the mold could get ruined and must be done again. This is not very productive, so the molds must be made to the exact specifications. The molds come in tow parts called the core and the cavity, the core is the middle of the mold and the cavity will encase the core when the mold is complete. Each part must be removed with care, any imperfection and the mold has to be tossed out.

There are molds that they are considered easy and then they have what they call the more complex molds. Some molds are very complex that they have different parts to them such as slides as well as a core and a cavity. Remember, you can create a car door with injection molding so you have to know that the mold for that is going to be very complex.

When you get a mold that is very heavy, the core and the cavity in conjunction with cooling hoses working together they form a molding tool. Sometimes when the tools are heavy they have to be lifted into the molding machine. When the tool needs to be cleaned or maintained they can hoist it back out again. So far, these are the basics of injection molds.

Injection Molding Glossary

Injection Molding Glossary

Injection Molding: this is a technique used to fabricate parts made from thermoplastic materials.

Thermoplastic materials: are materials made out of plastic that are able to melt into a liquid when heated at a high enough heat and when it freezes it will be in a glassy state when it is cooled.

Polystyrene is a polymer that is a liquid hydrocarbon that is commercially made from petroleum.

Polypropylene is a very hard plastic that is used for many different uses such as food packaging, reusable containers and textiles. It is a very durable and rugged unusually.

Resin is comes from many plants especially from the Coniferous tree that is used for its chemicals. You can use resin for adhesives and incense and some perfumes.

Solidify is to become hard or firm.

Pellet is a small compressed piece of material or a substance.

Nylon is a chemically resistant, it is also heat resistant, but it is tough and very flexible.

Injection Molding Questions and Answers

Here are some frequently asked questions when there are problems in the process of injection molding, here some of the most popular ones and their solutions.

What happens when the molds are brittle and delaminate? The cause may be an improper injection screw. The screw that is used for molding at a low-pressure ratio fro the amount of resin being used; causes the plastic’s molecules to form incorrectly. Basically, a weak molecular structure can cause brittle parts. When this happens de lamination can occur as well. The result will be a to take a pressure reading and record the ratio. This should be performed once every six months.

Another problem may be discoloration; the possible cause for this may be excessive dwell time or what they call residence time. When a part has been discolored or changed the problem is usually found in the residence time. The material stays in the barrel too long, the base will become discolored. What can be done is the heat sensitive materials have to be set at a certain ration. After every injection shot clean out the barrel.

Discoloration may also be caused by an improper plastic mold temp. The hotter the mold is it will keep the material melted for a longer period of time. The temp of the mold should be adjusted to the supplier’s specs on material and cycle times.

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