Plastic injection moulding is one of the most common production processes in the world today.
It combines speed with accuracy and is a very efficient way of producing thousands of parts quickly in a very wide variety of plastic polymer materials for use in almost all industries.
Take a look around you and you will find injection moulded parts everywhere.
Injection moulding is a rapid production process that takes plastic polymers, usually in pellet form and melts and injects them into mould tools under very high pressures to create virtually any shaped product in a wide range of materials chosen to suit their end use.
It is usually fully automated and products produced this way can be designed to suit many applications.
Injection moulding can be used for a very wide range of applications in most industries. It’s used in the automotive, medical, electrical, building, food and drink industries along with many others where strong, aesthetically pleasing components are required.
It can also be used as a metal replacement material to save costs and weight without detracting from performance.
For injection moulding as your chosen manufacturing process firstly you will need an idea, a drawing or a 3D computer model. Nowadays, 3D models backed up by an engineering drawing is the most common way to get started.
Quite often a 3D print will be produced from your 3D computer generated model so that it can be checked for form, fit and function before heading into the production of an injection mould tool. Then a decision will be made whether to go with rapid tooling or conventional tooling dependent on budget, the product and the quantity of parts required.
For injection moulding first you need a mould tool, this can either be termed rapid tooling or conventional tooling.
Rapid tooling is used when components are required quickly and in small quantities, typically between 10 and 10,000 parts. Quite often it is used to provide fully functional and mechanically sound components for testing and proving before stepping up to conventional tooling or when only a few parts are needed.
The material used for rapid tooling can be either 3D printed resin or metal for appropriate parts or mould grade aluminium for it’s ease of machinability.
It can also utilise universal mould bases to keep costs down whereby the cavities for the required mouldings are machined separately in small blocks and are then fitted to these bases that then allow them to run on injection moulding machines. This negates the need to purchase the whole tool, just the cavity blocks.
Conventional tooling is the term used for the production of a full mould tool that is fully functional on it’s own without need to mount it on any universal base or similar. Generally they are fully automatic when on an injection moulding machine and are capable of running thousands to hundreds of thousands to millions of parts throughout it’s lifetime.
The material used for these is a hardened and toughened tool steel or a fully hardened tool steel so the lifetime for the tool is maximised.
No, for non single use products injection moulding is quite the opposite. If compared to other forms of producing the required components is considered then injection moulding is virtually zero waste and very energy efficient. With modern reprocessing systems installed injection moulding will only use the material needed for the product with nothing thrown away.
With a surge in national reprocessing plants there is also a big move within the industry to utilise the materials produced there within new plastic moulded products thus creating a full circle of material use. In fact plastic polymers can be recycled up to seven times before they degrade and if they are mixed with newer reprocessed materials that have been reprocessed less then this number increases.
3D printing is a very useful way to verify product designs before moving to traditional production methods without incurring too much cost. It also allows you to make design changes and material changes efficiently and cheaply compared to other processes.
The speed at which a 3D print or prints can be produced is very quick allowing designers to create their product or modify it within hours rather than having to wait days or weeks for traditional production methods thus reducing the time from idea to reality significantly.
3D printing creates parts by building objects one layer at a time in either a resin, a plastic polymer or a sintered metal. This method offers many advantages over traditional manufacturing techniques the most obvious of them being time.
3D printing can be used for anything where a component is required to be used on it’s own or part of an assembly.
It is extensively used for testing and proving designs before moving to a traditional manufacturing process and with the advance in some materials 3D prints can now be utilised as end use components in the right environment and application.
For 3D printing as your chosen manufacturing process firstly you will need an idea, a drawing or a 3D computer model. Nowadays, 3D models are easily produced via computer programs readily available to the general public but they must be able to produce a file in .stl format for them to be processed by a 3D printer.
Quite often a 3D print will be produced from your 3D computer generated model so that it can be checked for form, fit and function before heading into production with your chosen manufacturing method.