How Injection Molding Works
In this post I’m going to explain how injection molding works. Creating polymers is an amazing process. Then there is the question of forming the plastic or rubber into useful objects….another fantastic discipline. One of the most common methods of forming rubber or plastic resins is a process called injection molding. Injection molding is made possible by large machines called injection molding machines.
Material, either rubber or plastic resin is fed to the machine. This can be in the form of a hopper for plastic pellets or an auger for thicker, heavier compounds. Colorants are usually fed to the machine directly after the hopper. The resins enter the injection barrel by gravity though the feed throat. Upon introduction into the barrel, the resin is heated to the appropriate temperature to make it melt.
This now viscous material is injected into the mold by a reciprocating screw or a ram injector. A reciprocating screw provides the advantage of being able to inject a smaller percentage of the total shot1. The ram injector on the other hand, must typically inject at least 20% of the total shot. A screw injector can inject as little as 5% of the total shot. Many factors also come into play such as the type of mold, how the material is injected, etc., effect the shot.
The Plastic mold is a cavity in the machine that receives the material and shapes it accordingly. In order to make the injected material solidify, the mold is cooled constantly to a temperature which makes the solidification possible. The mold plates are forced together, usually by hydraulic force. The clamping force is defined as the injection pressure multiplied by the total cavity projected area. Molds are typically over-designed with regard to the pressures they must endure depending on the material to be cast. In addition, each injectionable material has a calculated shrinkage value associated with that has to be accounted for as well.
Some Typical Complications
Burned or Scorched Parts: Melt temperature may be too high. Polymer may be becoming trapped and degrading in the injection nozzle. Cycle time may be too long allowing the resin to overheat.
Warpage of Parts: Uneven surface temperature of the molds. Non-uniform wall thickness of mold design.
Surface Imperfections: Melt temperature may be too high causing resin decomposition and gas evolution (bubbles). Excessive moisture in the resin. Low pressure causing incomplete filling of mold.
Incomplete Cavity Filling: Injection stroke may be too small for mold (ie. not enough resin is being injected). Injection speed may be too slow causing freezing before mold is filled.