You’ve spent weeks, months and probably years developing a concept and sourcing funding. You are now ready to get the product to your customers out there. Now comes the hard part: making the big leap into production. Whether you are doing an initial prototype or going large scale from the get go, production can be intimidating.
The financial resources required is one obvious hurdle. Another is getting a manufacturer who can deliver what you want, when you want and how you want. Production of the product may be through 3D printing, CNC machining or rapid injection molding. We’ll focus on prototype injection molding since it is one of the most widely used methods by businesses keen on scaling production fast.
Here are a number of tips on getting injection molding right.
The Right Tools
When you think about injection molding, perhaps the first thing that comes to mind is high volume manufacturing. Such molds are often machined from steel or aluminum. Developing and perfecting the mold is a relatively expensive process and, depending on complexity, can take months.
Steel and aluminum tooling are ideal for high volume environments, complex geometries and diverse surface finishes. However, 3D printing is cheaper and faster than aluminum or steel tooling even though it produces a rough surface finish that will require secondary processing. 3D printed molds are best suited for low volume production.
The Right Material
Determining the best material for your product will largely depend on the mechanical properties you consider most critical to the product’s core function. There are hundreds of alternatives so specifying your preferences in as much detail as possible from the onset is vital. The most common thermoplastics used in molding are acrylic, polypropylene, polystyrene, polyethylene, nylon and liquid silicone rubber.
What weight will it need to support? What range of temperatures must it endure? Is the product transparent? The more you can craft and answer these fundamental questions successfully, the easier your decision-making will become.
If your product prototype was designed with 3D printing in mind, you must make sure its attributes are amenable to 3D printing. Ergo, some adjustments may be necessary before
submitting final designs to the manufacturer.
Whereas 3D printing is popular because of the wide range of complex geometries that can be produced, designs that allow resin to flow smoothly into the mold and enable cooling evenly minimize the likelihood of defects such as warp, flash, knit lines and sink.
In this regard, two of the most important things you’ll want to pay attention in your design is consistent wall thickness (stark variations in wall thickness cause warp and sink) and rounded features (sharp corners and edges increase stress and fragility).
The Right Partner
The nature of your product is what should determine your choice of manufacturing partner. That being said, identifying the right partner is similar to buying a new car. The more research that goes into finding an appropriate supplier, the more likely you are to get the right one.
Selecting a manufacturer can make or break your product. That means you need to look at more than just price. Minimum order quantity, lead-time, experience, customer service and quality of past work are crucial aspects.
The versatility of injection molding is one of the reasons that have made it such a popular alternative in manufacturing. However, its inherent strengths do not negate the need to pay attention to the design considerations necessary to deliver a high quality product. The better your research and planning before production, the more likely you are to reduce molding defects.
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