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  • Injection Molding Flow Lines

    Injection molding is a precise process, meaning many things can go wrong. Everything from operator error to minor issues with the mold design can cause problems for the part’s aesthetic or structural integrity. Injection molding flow lines are one such issue. This article explains what they are, how they occur, and the techniques manufacturers can use to avoid them. What Are Injection Molding Flow Lines? Flow lines often appear as a wavy pattern on the surface of a plastic part, though several other patterns may occur. They usually display a slightly different color to the rest of the part and are more likely to appear on narrow sections of the item. There are four main types of injection molding flow lines: Type No. 1 – Snake Lines Snake lines occur when a jet effect is created as the melt enters through a gate and into the mold cavity. The resulting line looks like a snake and appears on the product’s surface. Type No. 2 – Wave Lines Inconsistent melt flowing speeds tend to cause wave lines. The melt slows down or speeds up, leading to the melt wandering and causing wavy lines. Type No. 3 – Radiation Lines If the melt sprays as it enters the cavity via a gate, it becomes radial on the part’s surface. A radial line is usually the result. Type No. 4 – Fluorescent Lines Stress and pressure created by the melt’s flow results in a luster appearing on the product. This defect looks similar to a firefly, hence the name fluorescent lines. What Is the Difference Between Weld Lines and Flow Lines? Weld lines tend to occur at spots where flows meet at different temperatures. This results in inconsistent cooling that leaves a line on the part’s surface where the two flows met. Injection molding flow lines also often occur as a result of inconsistent cooling. However, in this case, manufacturers can have a single consistent flow of hot melt that reaches cooler melt inside the mold, leading to the creation of lines. What Causes Injection Molding Flow Lines? The causes of flow lines break down into four key categories, each of which has various issues that can affect it: The Injection Molding Process The Mold The Material The Operator The Injection Molding Process Faults with the injection molding process can cause an array of issues. Either the holding pressure or injection pressure isn’t high enough to press the solidified melt against the mold’s surface, leading to flow lines that match the melt’s flow direction. If the cycle time is too short, the melt may not be heated sufficiently within the barrel. With a low melt temperature, the material can’t be compacted during pressure holding and flow lines occur. This issue is often linked to improper residence time, which also leads to the melt being held in the barrel for too short a time. A low barrel temperature leads to a low melt temperature. These temperatures affect the holding and injection pressure by ensuring it won’t be high enough to hold solidified layers of the melt against the mold’s surface. The nozzle is the final heating zone inside the barrel. It passes heat to the melt. If the nozzle isn’t heated appropriately, the melt temperature decreases and causes the previously mentioned pressure issues. The Mold Mold design is a key aspect of injection molding. Flow lines can occur if any of the following affect the mold: A runner, gate, or sprue that is too small for purpose creates more flow resistance. When combined with low injection pressure, this problem leads to decreasing melt speeds and can cause flow lines. The cooler the mold, the faster the material temperature drops as the melt is injected. Rapid temperature decreases lead to flow lines occurring as hot melt is poured on top of cool solidified material. Blockages can occur if the mold isn’t adequately vented. Flow lines occur because the melt front can’t push the solid material layer against the mold. The Material Issues with the material used can also lead to injection molding flow lines. If a mold cavity has a large flow length to thickness ratio, the material should have a low enough viscosity to ensure a consistent flow. If it doesn’t, the material's lack of fluidity leads to a slow melt flow that causes the previously mentioned cooling and pressure issues. Failure to increase the material’s lubricant content in line with the flow length to wall thickness ratio can cause flow lines. The larger this ratio becomes, the more lubricant content is required. The Operator Operator errors can lead to flow lines occurring in a part. For example, if an operator mistimes the door switching process for the injection molding machine, this creates irregular heat loss that the machine has to try and compensate for. A lack of temperature uniformity occurs, creating cold spots in the mold that causes flow lines. How to Prevent Injection Molding Flow Lines The methods to prevent injection molding flow lines vary depending on the type of lines occurring in a part. Snake Lines For snake lines, the following techniques may help to reduce or prevent their appearance: Reducing the melt injection rate can prevent the jet effect and expand the flow of the melt, leading to superior surface quality. Ensuring the gate depth is equal to the cavity depth allows an expanding flow that prevents snake lines. Setting the gate close to the cavity wall can allow a manufacturer to use the wall as a barrier that prevents a jet from forming. Adjusting the mold gate angle to between 40 and 50 degrees can also achieve this cavity wall barrier. Wave Lines Several changes to the mold design or its temperature can prevent wave lines from forming: Melt fluidity increases as the mold’s temperature rises. This is beneficial for crystalline polymers, as it leads to a more uniform flow that reduces wave patterns. Maintaining uniformity in the product’s thickness prevents wave lines. Prominent edges and corners in a mold core lead to melt flow resistance. Changing these prominent edges and corners may aid flow stability. Combining low-speed injection with the maintenance of high pressure levels ensures melt flow stability. Radiation Lines Preventing spray issues is the key cause for concern with radial lines. These techniques can help a manufacturer reduce spray: Changing the gate to a fan shape may restore the melt’s elasticity prior to it entering the mold cavity. This prevents melt fracturing, which reduces radiation lines. Extending either the main runner or nozzle lengths the melt’s flow path before it reaches the mold cavity. This increases the melt’s degree of elastic failure, preventing spray and the formation of radiation lines. Slowing the injection speed also increases the elastic melt’s flow time, again increasing the degree of elastic failure. Fluorescent Lines Fluorescent lines tend to occur at the narrowest points of the part. These narrow points stretch the flow, creating internal stress that leads to flow lines. These solutions may prevent fluorescent lines: Increasing the mold temperature reduces internal stress by relaxing macromolecules and reducing the flow’s molecular orientation. This reduces the appearance of fluorescent lines on the product’s surface. Maintaining consistent part thickness reduces fluorescent lines. Kucukoglu, A, et al, emphasize this in their paper A Study for Detecting Flow Lines on The Aesthetic Plastic Parts During Design Phases as Using Material Flow Analysis Programs. They note that uniform part thickness prevents warpage and the shrinkage balance effect. Combining medium-speed injection with medium pressure slows the solidification of the melt per unit volume. Internal stress decreases to reduce the appearance of fluorescent lines. Applying heat treatment to a part, such as baking in an oven or boiling the part in hot water, intensifies macromolecule movement. This shortens the part’s relaxation time and reduces fluorescent lines. Tackle Injection Molding Flow Lines Injection molding flow lines are a key concern because there are several types, each with a variety of potential causes. Manufacturers can prevent flow line formation by tweaking their molds, processes, and machines based on the part’s requirements.

  • Injection Molding Sink Marks

    Even minor errors can cause physical defects in a part during the injection molding process. These defects may damage the part’s structural integrity or make it less physically appealing, with both problems likely leading to the part being unsaleable. Injection molding sink marks are an example of such a defect. This article examines what these marks are and how manufacturers can prevent them. What Are Injection Molding Sink Marks? Injection molding sink marks are small depressions or craters that tend to develop in the thicker areas of an injection molded part. They typically occur due to shrinkage, which affects the inner portions of the product. These marks have several potential causes, meaning solving them is rarely a simple task. Possible Causes of Injection Molding Sink Marks The causes of injection molding sink marks can be broken down into five main categories: Poor Part Design Optimization Issues with Machines or Processes Materials Operator Issues Mold Design Problems Poor Part Design Optimization In an ideal world, parts would be designed with uniform wall thickness. When this isn’t the case, the designer must account for varying wall thickness. Failure to do so by building walls that are too thick in the part can lead to the development of sink marks. The melt can’t flow as consistently into these areas as it can to other areas of the part, leading to visual defects. Issues With Machines or Processes Several issues with the machines used or the injection molding process implemented can cause sink marks: Sink marks may occur if the second stage of the process, often called the pack and hold time, is too short. Though pressure may be correct in this scenario, the short time means the part’s gate doesn’t get sealed. Without the seal, the melt may exit the part, leading to the creation of sink marks. Cooling of the melt must be sufficient to prevent sink marks. If the barrel temperature is too high, the melt enters the mold at a higher temperature, leading to cooling inconsistencies in thicker areas of the part. If a part takes too long to cool, the possibility of sink marks increases. Adjusting the part’s wall thickness can aid in faster cooling. So too can proper regulation of cooling by ensuring runners, nozzles, and barrels are maintained at sufficient temperatures. If the injection speed is too fast, manufacturers may find they end up with inadequate pressure levels. Increasing packing pressure can solve this issue, as can slowing down the melt flow. Materials An incorrect flow rate is usually to blame if the materials used in the melt result in the creation of injection molding sink marks. This is particularly the case if the marks appear far away from the gate. The problem here is that an incorrect flow rate hinders pressure transmission. Solving the problem usually requires the manufacturer to expand the gate, thus eliminating bottlenecking issues that hinder flow. Operator Issues The operator may be the cause of sink marks if they allow inconsistencies in the process cycle. Such inconsistencies can include failing to maintain appropriate machine and mold temperatures or allowing for variances in the time taken for the injection molding process. Ideally, the molding process should run automatically, with the operator only intervening in cases of error. Mold Design Problems Several mold issues may lead to sink marks developing: Improper gate placement is a common cause of sink marks. Typically, this is the issue if the mold has an insufficient number of gates or if the main gate is placed away from the part’s thickest wall. If a junction forms between a mating wall and another wall, the secondary wall should be between 60% and 70% of the mating wall’s thickness. If it isn’t, shrinkage can lead to sink marks developing. Material suppliers often provide data for gate and runner dimensioning. Failure to follow these directions can lead to the manufacturer having smaller gates or runners than required. Failing to maintain a balance between rib and wall thickness can be a problem. If the rib is too high relative to the thickness of the wall, sink marks may occur. How to Prevent Injection Molding Sink Lines Thankfully, manufacturers can use several techniques to prevent the formation of injection molding sink marks. Adjust Pack and Hold Times Pack and hold pressures are one of the most common causes of sink marks. Increasing the pack and hold pressure in the cycle may help to increase the amount of material sent to the thicker sections of the mold. Getting enough material into these areas with enough pressure ensures the material’s molecules don’t pull on themselves and get rid of the sink lines. Change Melt Temperature Ensure the melt temperature is within the material manufacturer’s recommended range. If the temperature is too high, the melt takes longer to cool, and sink marks can form. Adapt the Mold Design Ideally, all areas of the mold should allow for the creation of a part with nominal wall thickness. However, this isn’t always possible if a part needs thicker walls. In these cases, creating multiple thinner sections in the thick area or coring out the thick wall can solve sink mark issues. Corners are also a problem with injection molding. Rounding the inner and outer corners prevents increased thickness from occurring due to the joining of two walls. Avoid Excessive Mold Temperatures If a mold’s temperature is too high, the gate may take longer to seal. As mentioned, a gate that doesn’t seal presents an opportunity for melt to exit the mold, increasing the possibility of sink marks. Manufacturers can contact the material manufacturer to discover the ideal mold temperature range they should abide by. Balance Rib and Wall Thickness Melt follows the path of least resistance, meaning it will fill the thicker wall sections before moving to thinner rib sections. The thicker wall sections cool faster, causing sink marks to form if the rib sections are too high. Avoid making a rib height that is more than three times the thickness of a part’s wall. The following diagram demonstrates how this can occur: Use the Seven Degree Rule Implement a seven-degree slope at the base of any ribs built into the part’s design. This allows the mold to pack the melt more uniformly, thus preventing surface blemishes link sink marks. Adjust the Boss Design Bosses are reinforced posts that hold screws or inserts. Incorrect boss design can lead to sink marks because each boss represents additional mass. Following these steps ensures proper boss design: Make the boss’s wall thickness equal to the hole’s inner diameter Use the seven-degree rule at the base of the boss Don’t place bosses directly against outer wall sections Conduct a Thickness Analysis In their study Visualization of potential sink marks using thickness analysis of finely tessellated solid model, Masatomo, I, et al, proposed an interesting method of extracting sink marks from a part’s surface. Using finely tessellated polyhedral models of the part, the researchers found that the amount of shrinkage likely to occur is proportional to the part’s thickness. Using the sphere method, they calculated the thickness of the polygons in the tessellated model, allowing them to extract sink marks. The study is found at the above link and may represent a novel way to counter sink marks. Use External Gas-Assisted Injection Molding External gas-assisted injection molding (EGAIM) is often used to reduce sink marks in amorphous polymer parts. However, Sheofei, J, et al, discovered that it can also be used when working with crystalline polymers in their study Reducing the Sink Marks of a Crystalline Polymer Using External Gas-Assisted Injection Molding. Prevent Sink Marks Injection molding sink marks are visual defects that affect a part’s aesthetic and structural qualities. By taking steps to remedy the issues causing these marks, manufacturers make products that offer greater commercial viability and increased quality.

  • Micromolds becomes member of Cluster of Manufacturing Innovators (CoMI)

    During the meeting cluster members discussed on the cluster future strategy 2022-2024. The meeting agenda: goal of the cluster, value creation chains, funding options, financial planning, strategy tracking and control. As the main goal of the cluster it was agreed that CoMI members will seek a leadership in resilient and adaptive manufacturing which is compliant of ManuFUTURE 2030 strategy. In the long term the cluster will be integrated in EIT manufacturing ecosystem and other DIH networks and in this way cluster will assure its internationality and competitiveness across the Europe. According to Mr. G. Vilda (the head of cluster coordinating company), production has long gone beyond the boundaries of factories and is related to network and dynamic value creation systems that can be organized in multiple ways. Aligning and adapting different value creation systems to specific needs and key conditions contributes to building a sustainable and resilient European manufacturing ecosystem in a dynamically changing and uncertain world. The cluster was established in 2020. Its main goal is to unite companies of different sizes, the academic community, associations and other organizations into a club of leaders in manufacturing innovation. Cluster members seek to: increase horizontal and vertical integration between manufacturing industries; pursue the transformation of industry into a high- and medium-high-tech industry through the development and deployment of digital and green technologies; increase the production and export of high value-added products; create preconditions for increasing the international competitiveness of the cluster members and the entire manufacturing sector of the country. The innovative manufacturing cluster aims to become an international cluster and offer more opportunities for the international development and activities of its members. The main activities of the Cluster are as follows: Development of general R&D infrastructure International networking and partner search Construction project funding, search for funding Initiation of cluster projects Representing the interests of members at national and international level General employee competence development events Co-marketing projects Development, publicity and popularization of policy guidelines for the promotion of innovation in manufacturing Production digitization projects

  • Injection Mold Venting

    Most of the injection molding tools contain air inside the cavity when tightly closed. When plastic is injected the air needs to squeeze and go out somewhere. Mold venting enables air to pack and free up space for the plastic. The Problem With Poor Mold Venting Failure to vent a mold properly increases mold temperatures and increases the melt’s pressure. The combination of these issues can extremely heat the oxygen in the mold, causing an array of visual defects and part integrity issues, including: Burnt spots Weak and visible weld lines Poor surface finish Poor mechanical properties Incomplete filling, especially in thin sections Irregular dimensions Local corrosion of the mold cavity surface The Mold Venting Methods Mold venting methods are split into standard and non-standard processes for cavity venting. Regardless of the specific method used, the result should always be that gasses leave the mold, thus increasing the quality of the end product. 1. Standard Processes The following are venting methods that are often built into the molds or machinery manufacturers use. 1.1 Parting lines Which are formed by the points where the two halves of a mold meet. This meeting point naturally leaks gases and can be opened for venting. 1.2 Vent pins Which are ejector pins that usually have between six and eight grooves along their bodies. They’re often used during the ejection phase to release gas and air. 1.3 Ejector pins Which apply the force required to eject a part from the mold. Some manufacturers used them to vent deep features in a mold, thus preventing gas traps. 1.4 Tool clearances Which can be used for mold venting, including that of the parting surface, ejector parts, or the core pulling parts. In all cases, manufacturers must be vigilant to ensure blockages don’t occur in the clearance used. 1.5 Injection mold sliders Which switch the vertical movement of a mold opening to a horizontal motion. They typically consist of a slider body, forming surface, wedge, wear plate, and guide pin. They can prevent the displacement caused by pressure building in the injection molding process. 1.6 Mold Inserts Some manufacturers use core inserts to prevent air traps. These inserts are usually placed where melt streams converge to decrease pressure and gas build-up. 2. Non-Standard Processes Beyond the standard methods, manufacturers can use several other techniques for mold venting. 2.1 Using Porous Sintered Materials Porous materials, such as breathable steel, allow gases to flow through them freely. Unfortunately, these materials often have low strength, though their loose texture can help with mold venting. 2.2 Vacuum Technology Vacuuming devices, such as pumps, solve the air trap problem because the cavity is empty prior injection. However, they add cost to the mold and require well-matched parting surfaces to implement. 2.3 Overflow Systems In an ideal world, a manufacturer can design a mold with gas channels, allowing the mold geometry to expel air. When this isn’t possible, they can use overflow wells to direct air into specific areas of the part or increase gas penetration. The idea is that overflow wells provide a path of least resistance away from the main part that the air should follow. 2.4 Venting Valves Venting valves come in external and internal varieties. External valves are usually connected to the mold via a cold runner or channel to allow gases to escape. Internal valves are built into the mold cavity to create a venting channel for gases. 2.5 Exhaust From Vent Groove Molds for medium and large parts require the removal of more gas. Manufacturers place vent grooves on the concave mold, usually at the end of the melt flow. They ensure smooth exhaust while helping prevent overflow. 2.6 Active Air Venting In their paper Active Air Venting of Mold Cavity to Improve Performance of Injection Molded Direct Joining, Kimura F., et al, proposed the use of a micro or nano-structured metal plate that is joined to an injection mold. The plate was made using a porous metal. They evaluated an active system based on this concept on several injection molded specimens. They found that the surface micro or nanostructure used can help with venting, depending on the composition of the structure. 2.7 Air Vents These may be placed on the cavity, near the cavity, or at the furthest end of the melt flow. Venting isn’t limited to the mold. Vents can also be placed on the gate, sprue, and runners used in the process. Though they’re all in different locations, these vents help expel gases as the melt moves from the feed to the mold. 2.8 Mandatory Exhaust This involves placing a vent pint into the mold at the place where gas collects. Though effective, the method leaves a mark on the finished product. Factors to Consider in Designed Mold Venting A wide range of factors affects how manufacturers design mold venting systems. All of the following must be considered before a manufacturer selects the technique they’ll use. Injection Molding Temperature and Pressure Manufacturers have the ability to change mold temperatures and pressures prior to filling. The flow rate depends on these temperature and pressure settings. Temperature, pressure, and the material’s rheological properties also affect viscosity. More viscous materials flow slower than less viscous ones, which affects cooling speeds. Viscous materials also often require deeper venting solutions, as discussed below. Number of Vents There are differing schools of thought on the number of vents needed. Some recommended placing one vent for every inch of the mold, with others stating that at least 30% of the mold’s perimeter should be vented. Wall Thickness and Vent Depth Wall thickness affects the depth of a manufacturer’s venting. As wall thickness increases, the vent depth should do the same. If shear reduces material viscosity, the manufacturer must use a vent depth at the lower end of the range. This often occurs near the gate or at the bottom of a thin rib. Depth should increase if the material’s viscosity increases due to sheer, such as in the thicker areas of the part. The following is a list of vent depth ranges for various materials: ABS: .001-.0015 ACETAL: .0005-.001 ACRYLIC: .0015-.002 CELLULOSE ACETATE: .001-.0015 ETHYLENE VINYL ACETATE: .001-.0015 IONOMER: .0005-.001 LCP: .0005-.0007 NYLON: .0003-.0005 Vent Land Length Long vent land lengths require more pressure to exhaust gases through them. The shorter the land length, the faster gas expulsion becomes. Mold Vent Width Vents are typically 0.25 inches for small parts and 0.5 inches for large parts. These are standard widths. However, nothing stops a manufacturer from using smaller or larger vent widths. Mold Vent Surface Finish Polishing a vent with diamond paste on a felt bob prevents the vent from leaving a milled finish on a surface. Alternatively, manufacturers perform stoning and grinding operations that match the direction of airflow to prevent the vent’s surface finish from being applied to the part. Mold Vent Relief This is the machined area that connects to the vent. The area feeds into a channel, which may connect with other channels. Ideally, the primary relief channel’s width should match that of the vent it’s connected to, thus improving efficiency. Mold Vent Shape Shape impacts the pressure applied within the vent. Think of vents as constrictions. With this thinking, manufacturers can use the coefficient of discharge to compare theoretical discharge to actual discharge. Vent Clogging The gases produced during injection molding aren’t pure. They contain chemical substances that deposit inside the vents, eventually leading to clogging. In the paper Development of the vent clogging monitoring methods for injection molding, Bongju Kim,, proposed using cavity-gas-pressure (CGP) sensors inside vents to detect deposit buildups. These sensors detect changes in internal vent pressure, which can indicate deposits that need to be cleared. Avoiding and Minimizing Bad Mold Venting Defects In addition to accounting for the factors that affect venting decisions, manufacturers can also take steps to minimize defects. Processing and flow analysis both help in this regard. Processing - Injection Molding Processors have to analyze the end product for defects and make adjustments based on what they see. For example, a processor may slow the melt injection velocity if burning is present because doing so creates more time for gases to escape. However, this isn’t a catch-all solution. Processors must examine everything from barrel temperatures to material viscosity to determine which approach works best. Flow Analysis Flow analysis exists to help manufacturers determine weld line locations, dead zones, and how the mold will fill. The process can also help identify venting issues. DuPont recommends spraying the mold with kerosene or hydrocarbon-based spray prior to injection. These sprays leave black spots on the part in areas where the air is trapped. Conclusion Mold venting is a crucial part of the injection molding process. If manufacturers fail to take venting into account, they’ll likely produce deformed parts that have visual and structural defects. Understanding the factors that influence how a mold should be vented, coupled with the standard and non-standard techniques used for venting, can prevent these issues.

  • Weld Line (Knit Lines) in Injection Molding

    No matter the size of a production run, the presence of blemishes on the finished product leads to unhappy clients. Weld lines, which are also referred to as knit lines, are among the most common of these blemishes. This article looks at the issues presented by a weld line in injection molding and the techniques manufacturers can use to avoid them. Why You Need to Avoid Weld Lines Weld lines lead to two significant issues with an injection molded product. The first is that they deform the part’s surface by leaving unsightly lines that the consumer may not want to see. Second, weld lines compromise a product’s structural integrity. The result is a more fragile piece that has a higher likelihood of breaking. What Can Cause a Weld Line in Injection Molding There is no singular cause of a weld line in injection molding. Instead, several issues can lead to the formation of knit lines that manufacturers should aim to manage. Obstructions in the Melt Flow Knit lines typically form around holes and obstructions in the melt flow. If the flow can’t properly access part of the mold, it enters in an inconsistent way that leads to weak areas. Low Melt Temperatures Temperature inconsistencies in key areas of the mold can lead to issues with material flow. In addition to the temperature of the mold itself, variations in the injection molding machine or its runners can also lead to knit lines. In the paper, Study of the Effects of Injection Molding Parameter on Weld Line Formation, Azieatul Azrin Dzulkipli and M.Azuddin concluded that decreases in melt temperature also raise the possibility of weld lines forming. Material Composition The same paper highlights that the material used for the melt also affects both the possibility of weld lines forming and the nature of those lines. For example, a composite material made using polypropylene, fiber, and glass that has a high filler weight will usually have shorter knit lines, though these lines have a wider angle. Pressure Inconsistent application of pressure can lead to flow fronts failing to be pushed close enough together to allow the melt to merge properly. The result is often a broad melt line. Pressure issues tend to occur if the user creates incorrect settings or if the injection molding machinery is faulty. Mold Design Several mold design issues can lead to the formation of a weld line in injection molding. Examples include improperly placed gates, which affect the material flow, and incorrect wall thickness. This demonstrates the importance of design testing and prototyping to ensure a mold fulfills its purpose correctly. Impurities If the material injected into the mold contains impurities, the melt can’t form properly. Weld lines tend to form around these impurities, leading to compromised structural integrity. Impurities can also lead to inconsistent flow, resulting in one part of a flow being faster than another. Excess Mold Release Mold release affects speed. If there is too much mold release, a manufacturer must find a way to create a higher pressure inside the mold. Otherwise, the melt isn’t pushed through the machine at the required speed to prevent knit lines from forming. Techniques to Prevent Weld Line in Injection Molding Just as several issues can cause a weld line in injection molding, there are also several solutions a manufacturer may use. Manufacturers may need to conduct tests with each solution to determine which solves the specific problem that leads to the weld lines in products. Increase Mold Temperature Increasing the temperature in the feed cylinder may solve the issue if the material entering the mold isn’t fully melted. Higher temperatures also lead to more efficient material drying, again preventing knit lines. Change the Product Wall Thickness Wall thickness affects the time taken to fill a mold. Adjusting wall thickness can slow down or speed up the melt at various points in the process, allowing the manufacturer to create a more consistent flow. Move a Gate Melt is injected into a cavity using an opening that’s called a gate. Many molds have several gates that determine how melt is inserted and how it fills the cavity. Adjusting the position of these gates can help manufacturers to limit weld lines by ensuring consistent flow throughout the mold. Reduce Runner System Dimensions Small runner systems conduct heat faster. By reducing the size of the runners, manufacturers can increase the temperature of the molten material at the front of each flow. This reduces the possibility of knit lines by keeping the flow heated for longer. Adjust to a Single Flow Design Having multiple gates can cause weld lines due to inconsistencies in flow speed and direction. By using a single flow source, the manufacturer avoids the issue of multiple flows coming together. Faster Injection Speeds Premature cooldown is a major issue in plastic injection molding. This cooldown often occurs if the melt flows into the mold too slowly. The melt inside the mold starts to cool even as the hotter melt is layering on top of it. Increasing flow speeds can prevent premature cooling. However, it can also lead to weld line’s simply moving to another location on the part if the flow isn’t managed properly. Use Plastic With Lower Viscosity In the research paper A Review Article on Measurement of Viscosity, M. Maheshwar discusses the importance of viscosity in material selection. He points out that viscosity affects a melt’s internal resistance, with higher viscosity leading to more friction. This friction is a form of resistance that can slow down the speed at which melted materials flow through a mold, resulting in knit lines if unmanaged. Use Vibration-Assisted Injection Molding (VAIM) With VAIM, a manufacturer introduces a vibrational movement to the injection screw used during the injection portion of the molding process. In the paper Vibration Assisted Injection Molding for PLA with Enhanced Mechanical Properties and Reduced Cycle Time, researchers from Lehigh University tested how VAIM affects the physical characteristics of polylactic acid (PLA) melt. They discovered that using VAIM reduces injection cycle times by up to 25%. As discussed earlier, shorter cycle times reduce the possibility of melt cooling, leading to fewer knit lines. Conclusion Though weld lines are a prominent challenge in injection molding, several solutions exist that can prevent or reduce the chances of their formation. The key challenge manufacturers face lies in identifying the cause behind the knit lines they observe so they can implement appropriate solutions.

  • Injection Molded Plastic Housing for 1 Channel EMG Sensor

    The company specializes in robotic hand prostheses end-to-end development and production. Since 1998 Company continuously and patiently was developing robotic hand prostheses. Beginning with thin foil soft robot hand with 5DOF and ending with modern commercialized and daily-used worldwide product. This company is a true lives changing global innovator. Robotic hands are controlled by variety of sensors interacting with human body. We are proud that Micromolds was selected to make plastic cases for one of them, even though it took us long time to prove credibility for such project. We are used to long term partner selection processes: “Lead conversion time to customer usually varies between 1-3 months” – says CCO Dominykas But this one took us truly long time. Whole five months were already passed since the client contacted us first time. To our surprize, the order was made within few days when decision was confirmed. The company was working on new designs and it took them nearly 5 months do develop them. Design for Manufacturing (DFM) – mouldability analysis After signing quality assurance agreement, we proceeded further with the DFM. Even though it was spent a lot of time on designing the part we still had to do some minor changes so the part could be mouldable. All designs can look nice and be created to function properly, but not all of them can be technological – manufacturable. We had to add some inner radiuses as those are unavoidable due to the CNC mills used. We also had to set ejector marks and injection gates of the part. Tooling - mold making The surface of the part had to be EDM machined and have a mate look. Thus we also had to design electrodes for EDM machining and do the EDM. Since the plastic case was assembled from 2 pieces, one side of it had hooks that snap fit with the other. To form those undercuts we had to use a metal 3D printed inserts. The parts were small enough to fit in our aluminium 1+1 micro mould thus we CNC machined 2 cavities in it and did EMD machining to finish the surface. Samples injection moulding We understand that designing something new – something that was never created before is enormously challenging but also very satisfying. However, this satisfaction comes at some cost – which is trial and error. Errors can occur not only due to the faulty design but also due to the errors made by moulder. It is important to understand that sometimes there is practically impossible to tell which party was wrong or right. In such cases it is best when both contractor and subcontractor can remain solution focused. Since the housing was very small and with thin walls, too tight fit during the assembly resulted in slight deformation of the whole plastic case which caused inconsistent part match at the corners. It was agreed that the distance could be decreased to loosen the fit so the deformation would be eliminated. When the mould modification was done the new samples were much better and reached the demanded quality of the customer. The results After the first batch was moulded we did a careful visual inspection of every piece. We also did an assembly to check if the parts match correctly and there are no deviations. The first batch was shipped on time and reached the client successfully. We are truly happy that we could contribute to such an innovative project.

  • Injection Molding Process

    The injection molding process is often used when a manufacturer needs to create technical components in large quantities. This isn’t to say it can’t be used for smaller production runs. Injection molding can also be economical for small runs of up to 1,000 parts due to the material savings it offers and newly emerged rapid tooling possibility. This article details the benefits of the injection molding process, the general process and main types of injection molding, and some of the process’s limitations. What Is the Advantage of the Injection Molding Process There are several reasons a manufacturer may use the injection molding process ahead of other part manufacturing processes. Injection molding large Item Quantities With its extremely fast cycle times, which can be as low as 10 seconds, injection molding is ideal for high-volume production runs of 100,000 or more products. This is particularly the case if the manufacturer uses multi-cavity molds, which enable the creation of multiple products per cycle. Cost-Effectiveness Though creating a mold requires a large upfront investment, this investment is repaid by the low cost per part injection molding offers. Even in smaller runs, manufacturers have the option of using aluminum or 3D printing to keep their mold costs down. Precision Injection molding involves injecting molten plastic under high pressure. This pressure forces the molten material against the mold for the creation of intricate shapes and detailed parts. Repeatability The injection molding process enables manufacturers to produce the same part over and over again. When followed correctly, the process ensures no variance between items. Low Waste Manufacturers have full control over the amount of material poured into a mold. This typically means very little waste because the manufacturer only uses the amount of material needed to fill their mold. Large Material Choice There’s a large range of plastics a manufacturer can use for injection molding, which again offers them control over their production process. Injection molding also allows for the use of recycled, bio-degradable, and bio-compatible materials, with the latter being especially important in the food and medical industries. For example, manufacturers can use injection molding to create implants for surgeries. Finally, 2K molding allows a manufacturer to use two materials in a single mold, allowing for the creation of multi-colored and multi-component parts. The Injection Molding Process There are several types of injection molding process, which this article explores in more detail later. However, as a general process, injection molding typically includes the following steps. Step No. 1 – An Idea Before a manufacturer can create a mold, they first need to come up with a product idea. The versatility of injection molding means this idea can be extremely intricate. Step No. 2 – Create a 3D Model Conceptualizing a product before investing in a mold is crucial. Many manufacturers use computer-aided design software to create a 3D model of their idea. In addition to allowing them to view their idea, these 3D models also allow them to check for any issues that may arise when using a mold. Step No. 3 – Mold Design Assuming the 3D model is viable, mold design comes next. The mold is designed around the 3D model to ensure it can create perfect replicas of the product in question. A key issue here is the concept of design for manufacturing (DFM). This is the process of designing a product in a way that maximizes manufacturing efficiency based on the equipment that will be used. It involves the selection of the right tools, materials, and technologies, in addition to using modern design principles. DFM ensures that the designed part can be created using the chosen tools. It’s also a time-consuming process as designers must often find a balance between the designed part and what’s feasible with the tooling. Step No. 4 – Mold Machining With the mold design solidified, it’s created using a relevant material. Such materials include steel, aluminum, and thermoplastics, among others. The material choice depends on the production run. High-volume runs tend to use sturdier materials, such as steel. Step No. 5 – Injection Molding Machine Once created, the mold is set up in a molding machine. The three main types are hydraulic, electric, and hybrid machines. Hydraulic machines offer exceptional clamp force and durability, though that comes at the cost of high energy consumption and imprecise molding. Electric machines are more accurate and energy efficient, but they cost more and require regular maintenance. Hybrid machines combine many of the best aspects of hydraulic and electric, though they also combine maintenance procedures and are more difficult to source parts for. Step No. 6 – Injection and Cooling Methods With the machine chosen, the manufacturer then selects injection and cooling methods. Examples of injection methods include screw and piston. With screw injection, the raw material is poured into a chamber for plasticizing before moving to another chamber that’s used to inject the material into the mold. Piston injection involves using a plunger to push the plasticized material into the mold. For cooling, the manufacturer may use water, which cools the machine and prevents bacterial growth. They may also use oil that involves the use of an oil cooler that keeps cold oil pumping around the machine. Variothermal cooling involves using cyclically changing temperature controls that are ideal for long, thin, and micro-components. Step No. 7 – Plasticizing by Heat Raw material granules are heated to the point where they’re liquefied. The mold is closed and made ready for injection. Step No. 8 – Injection The liquified plastic is injected into the mold based on the machine’s pre-determined settings. Step No. 9 – Repress As the molten material settles in the mold and begins to cool, it also starts to shrink. The repress step compensates for this by adding more molten material to fill any gaps left by shrinkage. Step No. 10 – Cooling The mold is cooled using water or oil coolant. Some manufacturers also experiment with variothermal technology. The coolant typically cycles through the machine and installed mold and cools the injected plastic to make it stable. Step No. 11 – Demolding/ejection The mold is opened and the plastic part is removed. The manufacturer may also have to manually remove the sprue used in the mold, depending on the type of sprue and gate they’ve used. The Three Main Injection Molding Processes: There are many types of injection molding processes, with each having benefits and drawbacks. The three most common are: 1. Thermoplastic Injection Molding Thermoplastic is inserted into the machine as granules and melted down for injection. This melted material accumulates in front of the injection tool ready for insertion. Monitoring is crucial to this injection molding process as several changes can occur during its application. 2. Thermoset Injection Molding Thermosets are often used for parts with thick walls of up to 50mm, such as vehicle headlights. However, recent advances allow this injection molding process to create parts as thin as 1mm. Thermoset molding cures via exposure to heat. 3. Elastomer Injection Molding This is another heat-based process, meaning the molding tool must maintain a higher temperature than the raw material poured into it. Vulcanization times are higher with this form of injection molding. This form of injection molding offers a good alternative to rubber and silicon processing. The Limitations of the Injection Molding Process The injection molding process has several drawbacks to consider before a manufacturer uses it. Though injection molding saves money in terms of material costs and production efficiency, initial set-up costs are high. Injection molding is also not suitable for very large parts, often due to the clamping mechanisms being unable to hold large molds together effectively enough. There’s also a possibility of visual defects, such as weld lines, ejector marks, and defects caused by gates, in some types of injection molding. What Is Made Using the Injection Molding Process? The injection molding process is used to create a wide variety of products. These include general household products, such as toothbrushes, disposable cutlery, drinking straws, and laundry baskets. Injection molding’s precision also enables the creation of medical components, such as disposable syringes, heart valves, tubes, and even artificial joints. The process can also be used to make electrical switches, toys, car and computer parts, and food packaging. The Injection Molding Process – Versatile Product Creation This article has examined the general injection molding process. However, the exact process varies depending on several factors, including the type of injection molding chosen and the manufacturer’s requirements. It’s this versatility, combined with lowered product creation costs and the process’s repeatability, that has made injection molding one of the world’s foremost product manufacturing techniques.

  • Cavity Injection Molding (What is Cavity and Core?)

    The mold is one of the most important parts of injection molding. A mold is made up of two halves that have a hollow space between them into which a melted material is injected. This hollow space is shaped by both the core and the cavity when the mold is closed. Many people confuse the cavity with the core. In injection molding, the cavity is the female portion of the mold that forms a product’s external shape. The core is the male part that is responsible for forming the product’s internal shape. This article explores cavities of injection molding in more detail, with a specific focus on multi-cavity injection molding. Single Cavity, Multiple Cavity, and Family Cavity Injection Molding There are three main types of cavity injection molding a manufacturer may leverage: No. 1 – Single Cavity Molds The simplest and most cost-effective option, single cavity molds produce one molded part per production cycle. These molds are easier to produce than multi-cavity molds, which reduces lead times and allows the manufacturer to start production faster. However, they’re not appropriate for parts in high demand as the tool reaches its production limit quickly. Single cavity injection molding may be a good choice for low-volume production runs. This type of injection molding is often called 1 x 1 to reference the fact that there is one cavity inside the mold producing one part per cycle. No. 2 – Multiple Cavity Molds As the name implies, multiple cavity injection molding uses a mold that produces several parts per production cycle. In addition to reducing the cost per part, this speeds up the production process. Creating the mold itself is more expensive. But for high-volume production runs, that expense is quickly accounted for with the faster and more cost-effective production times. Multiple molds are often denoted as multiplication sums, such as 1 x 2, In this case, the mold produces two identical parts per production cycle. This can extend to 1 x 4, 1 x 8, and so on based on the manufacturer’s needs. No. 3 – Family Molds Expanding on the concept of 1 x 1 molds, there are family molds too. Though these tools are more expensive to produce, they can create multiple different molded parts with a single injection mold. Though 1 +1 is the most common, it’s possible to create 1 + 1 + n + ... molds, which would create 'n' different parts per cycle. Examples include: 1 + 1 – The mold produces two different parts per cycle. 2 + 2 –The mold produces 2 different parts with 2 cavities each (4 parts in total). There is also a more modern form of injection molding that involves injection of two different materials into a mold that produces two parts, but this requires valves inside the runners to control polymer flow. Family molds offer challenges when the parts are of different sizes. The manufacturer needs to balance filling each cavity evenly. Large imbalances lead to product quality issues because of not equal pressure distribution. Arrangement of the Cavities After understanding that there are different types of cavity injection molding, a manufacturer needs to determine how to arrange the cavities in the mold. This includes figuring out how many cavities the mold should have. Several factors influence these decisions. Centric Clamping When a mold is closed, it needs to be clamped together to prevent leakage and ensure equal pressure is exerted to each side of the mold. This can be a challenge with larger molds. If a manufacturer clamps the mold at the top and bottom, the center of the mold may not have the appropriate pressure applied to it to produce consistent parts (without flash). Centric clamping must be used in these cases. This type of clamping ensures pressure is placed on the center of the mold. Centric clamping is fairly simple to accomplish with a single-cavity mold. However, multiple and family molds require forethought in clamping mechanisms due to each having several cavities. Easy Tool or Multiple Tool Easy tool is another term for single cavity injection molding. Often, a manufacturer will use a large tool wherein the mold cavity is slightly off-center. This gives the tool larger dimensions but allows for the injection of melt via a side gate. Some manufacturers place the gate directly on the part, allowing a more direct injection that leads to smaller tool sizes. With multiple and family tools, the manufacturer has to consider sprue distance. This distance must be the same for each part or the mold cavities fill unevenly. The article explores different sprue types later. Cavity Pressure According to a Clemson University paper that examined the concept of cavity pressure as a quality indicator in injection molding, cavity pressure is a reliable indicator for part quality and process monitoring. The research found that creating a cavity pressure curve illustrates the molding cycle’s progression, even in the case of micro-injection molding: As demonstrated in the graph, the peak cavity pressure line matches the part weight line. It increases as the weight increases, and decreases accordingly. As such, a manufacturer can track pressure increases and decreases in line with part weight. If pressure decreases substantially for a heavier part, this suggests an issue in the mold that could lead to quality problems. It also found no significant difference in the curves created by different types of materials, leading to cavity pressure being a suitable indicator of product quality. Cavity Surface Finish All injection molded parts have a surface finish applied by the tools used to create them. The type of surface finish applied affects the time and effort required to create a part. The finish must be produced, with each step of refinement adding time to this production effort. Sandblasting and EDM are two common methods for ensuring a stable cavity surface finish. EDM is a subtractive method that uses electrical discharges to create features on a mold. Sandblasting involves forcing solid particles across the part’s surface using compressed air. This serves to clean and smoothen the surface. Examples of Gates and Sprues A sprue is a channel through which molten material flows during the injection molding process. Sprues guide the material from the hopper to the desired location inside the mold. In multiple cavity injection molding, the distance of the sprue is crucial to the production of quality parts. Variances in sprue distances lead to uneven cavity fills that compromise part quality. There are several types of sprue a manufacturer may use in injection molding. Film Section Used for large-area parts, film section sprues and gating involve filling the molded part using a rectangular cross-section. This prevents internal tension and warping, though the sprue has to be mechanically separated from the part after demolding. Tunnel Cut The molded part is filled using a cylindrical and conical cross-section. This is also known as a side injection. Tunnel cuts allow automatic separation of the mold and sprue during demolding, though it also leads to pressure loss and material shearing. Banana Cut Banana cut sprues are curved to enable access to more difficult injection points. It requires the use of easily deformable melt materials, though it does allow automatic ejection of the sprue during demolding. Screen Gating Used specifically for ring-shaped parts, this sprue prevents weld and flow lines from appearing on the part. It evenly distributes the melt as it flows through, allowing the production of high-quality parts. But this sprue must be manually removed during the rework process, leaving marks behind in the process. Cone or Bar Cone and bar sprues offer very little resistance to the melt, which flows straight down into the cavity. This makes it ideal for filling difficult cavities. However, the mold has to be removed manually, again creating visible sprue marks. Ring Ring sprues are ideal for long tubular parts. They solve the problem of the pressure of inflowing melt leading to bends by providing support to the mold on all sides. Understanding Cavity Injection Molding Noting that there are several types of cavity injection molding allows a manufacturer to determine which types of molds serve their products best. For low-volume runs of a single product, a single mold, or easy tool is preferable. In high-volume runs, it’s often best to use a family or multiple mold to produce multiple parts per injection cycle.

  • "Allergomedica" Uses Moulded Plastic Cases to Enable Health Tests Kits at Home

    The Allergomedica (UAB Imunodiagnostika) clinic is an innovative place where not only comprehensive and professional help can be provided for the patients but also novel health monitoring solutions are developed. The clinic specializes exclusively in the diagnosis and treatment of allergic diseases. Allergists and clinical immunologists, laboratory specialists, and researchers work together to address each patient’s individual problem. Knowledge about allergic diseases and their diagnosis is constantly changing. New and new ways of treatment and diagnosis are emerging, so the highest quality care can be provided to the patient only by specialists who are constantly improving in this field. Health Tests at Home One of the newest innovative initiative of the clinic was to provide patients an opportunity to perform health tests at home with the use of simple blood test kits which can be shipped from home to the clinic for research. To develop such kits Allergomedica has chosen Micromolds as a design and manufacturing partner. The kit hardware consisted of a plastic stick to collect the test samples and the plastic case where the stick would be safely located for the transportation. It required a close teamwork of the clinic medical specialists and Micromolds engineers to design and make the first prototypes of the plastic hardware. The SLS printed prototypes For the first prototypes we used 3D SLS printing technology just to get the feel and look of the plastic case and the stick inside of it. Also, we had to check the assembly and fit of the assembled parts. It was also, necessary to assure a good snap fit of the closing parts of the case. Aluminum Micro Molds for Low-volume Production When the prototype versions were confirmed for further manufacturing we had to make a transition to the tooling and moulding of the first batch. For the tools, as almost always, we used aluminium and EDM machining to achieve desired surface finish of the final plastic cases. The results The plastic cases were delivered on time and in a good quality. We have many more projects to come with this innovative clinic and we take this as a proof of our good work.

  • Low Volume Injection Molding

    Injection molding small series is a type of injection molding primarily used for small runs of products. This differs from typical injection molding, which focuses on mass production at a higher cost. Manufacturers often use injection molding small series for runs of 100,000 or fewer products. Though this may seem like a high number, it’s small in comparison to the millions of products a manufacturer may produce for high-volume parts. The Step-by-Step Workflow for Low Volume Injection Molding The key difference between injection molding small series and traditional injection molding lies in the rapid tooling methods used for small-scale manufacturing. Here are the three key steps of the process. Step No. 1 – Mold Design The manufacturer uses computer-aided design (CAD) software to create the design for the mold. The specific design methods differ depending on the tool required for the part. For example, molds intended to be 3D printed require different design techniques than aluminum molds. Step No. 2 – Select a Rapid Tooling Method With the design in place, the manufacturer moves on to choose a rapid tooling method. There are several available, each offering benefits and drawbacks. 3D-Printed Molds 3D printing has become increasingly popular for low-volume production runs because it offers the most cost-effective alternative to aluminum molds. The printed parts are both solid and isotropic, allowing manufacturers to maintain consistency during production runs. The main drawback of 3D printing is that molds have short shelf lives. Certain techniques, such as injecting the mold with polylactic acid, may help improve a 3D-printed mold's lifespan and quality. 3D-Printed and Soluble Inserts Inserts improve the structure and strength of molds made using thermoplastic, such as those made using 3D printing. For example, a manufacturer may use a heat-set insert to soften the material used to create the mold as it’s being installed. Following installation, the manufacturer removes the heat source, leading to the thermoplastic solidifying around the supportive insert. Aluminum Molds Though aluminum’s perceived lack of strength often means manufacturers prefer steel for large-scale injection molding, the material has several qualities that make it suitable for injection molding small series. The material can usually withstand the creation of up to 100,000 replicas, making it suitable for prototyping and mid-range production. Aluminum’s more pliable nature also allows manufacturers to make slight adjustments to their molds if they discover errors during the production process. Micro molds Micro molding becomes relevant if a manufacturer needs to create parts weighing a fraction of a gram or maximum up to 20 grams. Such precision parts are often used in the medical and dental industries, though other sectors can benefit from micro molding too (E.g. electronics). The tooling used for micro molding is incomparably simpler and thus cheaper than traditional molding as well as the molding machine used for molding. Mainly the molds are many times smaller as the machine too. All this reduces NRE tooling costs and machine operating costs which enables rapid tooling and low-volume injection molding. However, this comes with a limitation of producing only small parts – not weighing more than 20 grams. How Low-volume Injection Molding Differs from Traditional Injection Molding From the technology point of view those two are the same. However, small volume injection molding differs from traditional injection molding processes in a variety of other ways. Lower Cost Compared to making a mold using CNC-machined metal, injection molding small series is cost-effective. Manufacturers may spend between $10,000 and $100,000 on a CNC-machined mold made from steel, with the price varying depending on the size of the mold. Though these more expensive molds last much longer, their cost makes them prohibitive for small production runs. By contrast, a 3D-printed mold can cost less than $500, but it will likely last for less than 100 products before failing. The golden middle here seems to be an aluminum micro molds, which on average cost €2,500 to make and can withstand up to 200,000 cycles depending on part complexity. Also, in low-volume production, simpler and thus cheaper molds (molds without automatic sliders or hydraulic actuators) can be used whenever undercuts are present. By using manual work, the inserts that shape undercuts can be taken in and out. This prolongs the cycle time but at low-volumes it may pay-off considerably on overall project cost. Faster Mold Production Times A steel CNC-machined mold can take between four and eight weeks to produce, depending on the material. This isn’t ideal in time-sensitive situations. Molds made using 3D printing techniques offer a much shorter lead time of one-to-three days. Aluminum molds also offer shorter lead times than steel molds, clocking in at between two and three weeks. The Limitations of Small Batch Injection Molding The lower costs and lead times for most injection molding small series techniques result in molds that aren’t as durable as their CNC-machined traditional steel equivalents. Manufacturers must consider more traditional mold-creating techniques for large production runs. However, some emerging techniques may make small series molds more durable in the future. Freeform Injection Molding combines the short lead times of small series molds with the greater scalability of injection molding, though it is more time-consuming and has compatibility issues with some polymers. Additive manufacturing (AM) processes may also lead to the production of strong molds. Unfortunately, AM processes come with surface finish issues and higher fabrication costs. The AM approach also has drawbacks in its nature. Additive manufacturing used for mold making where subtractive manufacturing is more reasonable is not always the most efficient way to go. The huge potential of creating intricate shapes by AM cannot be fully used since undercuts are unavoidable in molding technology. The Benefits of Low Volume Injection Moulding If looked at the product life cycle it's clear that on-demand injection molding is relevant at the beginning stages. So why might a manufacturer use low volume injection molding? Simple Prototyping Creating a steel mold is cost-prohibitive, making it unideal for developing prototypes. A start-up company can use injection molding small series to develop a working prototype of its product at a low cost. Lower Costs Speaking of lower costs, low-volume injection molding costs are less than traditional injection molding. The cost benefits decrease as the manufacturer produces more of the same type of part as the cost of tooling seems to dilute into the quantity of the parts produced. Material and Shape Diversity The various rapid tooling techniques used in low-volume mold creation allow for a great deal of material and shape diversity. For example, it’s possible to create elastomeric parts with this technology. The Mechanical Strength of the Molded Part Using a low-volume mold is preferable to simply 3D printing the intended part. The part produced using the mold doesn’t have the layer-by-layer printed surface of a 3D-printed part, even if the mold itself does have that surface. This makes the molded part homogenous and continuous with greater mechanical stability and visual appearance. Low-volume Injection Molding Applications Injection molding small series comes into its own when helping manufacturers to overcome short time cycles for small-scale product production. Examples include prototype creation and meeting on-demand molding requirements. However, many small manufacturers use this process to speed up the production of limited-run products. Using the Micromold rapid tooling process, a manufacturer can take a product from idea to manufacturing in 4 weeks or less. In traditional injection molding, it can take up to eight weeks to create a mold, which doesn’t account for the time spent designing the mold or creating products using it. Injection Molding for Small Production Runs Injection molding small series isn’t suitable for large production runs. The molds created don’t hold up to high-volume use (millions of cycles). However, the technique has many applications, including prototype production and small-scale product runs. Furthermore, developing technologies may improve the strength of small series molds in the future, though many of these technologies have drawbacks that need to be overcome first.

  • Uniweb Chooses Micromolds to Mould Grip Testing Device for Geriatrics

    Uniweb – a leading partner in Healthcare and Life Sciences of world-class innovative digital solutions that improve quality of life for their patients. Uniweb collects and processes clinical data in a regulatory and compliant way with the use of EDC solutions, Clinical Data Management, ePRO and registries systems. The company also develops its own healthcare apps and devices. Even though Uniweb’s main focus is in IT sector, this time, company has stepped into the world of hardware. Together with a consortium of Radboudumc university and ZGT Academy the team of engineers and medical students develops a medical device to measure the strength of a grip of elderly people. Low-volume injection molding for clinical tests Much research and many prototypes has been developed before Uniweb first contacted our company. It was instantly clear that the team has already put much effort in this project as the RFQ received was very informative and straight to the point. Despite that, 3D printing technology is very different from injection molding and this meant that some of the printed prototypes had to be optimised for low-volume injection molding. We had to know the critical dimensions that must remain the same in order to not disrupt the whole assembly and we successfully did that. The device itself had many plastic components which were perfect for our micromolding technology in respect of a lead time and costs of tooling. This is the main reason why we have received the contract from the client. However, because of the confidentiality issues we cannot disclose all of the information. The elastomer tube The first component that we had to mould was a tube with 2 outlets and 1 inlet. Not surprisingly, it was the most difficult too. To shape out all of this tubing we had to use 3 sliders with moving pins which had to be precision machined to enclose the whole internal channelling system. We used aluminium for the mold core and cavity and steel for the precision inserts. We delivered the project in 3 weeks with successful tube samples and were confirmed to continue with the next device components. We are proud that we can share our knowledge and contribute to the development of geriatric devices for elderly people. Soon be updated...

  • Injection Molding Cycle Time

    Understanding the injection molding cycle time of a part in production is crucial for several reasons. It allows manufacturers to determine their production rate, which influences the quantity of the parts produced and thus efficiency of the machine. Understanding a part’s cycle time and its stages may also help manufacturers to determine changes they can make that may reduce the time taken to produce a part. This article breaks down the stages of the injection molding cycle time, explains how to calculate total cycle time, and offers some tips that may help to reduce the injection molding cycle time. What Is a Cycle Time in Injection Molding? The cycle time for injection molding is the total amount of time taken to complete the key stages of the injection molding process. The average length of this process varies depending on how long it takes to go through each stage of the cycle. For example, a manufacturer’s total injection molding cycle time may go beyond two minutes if it has a large part or some manual work is needed (e. g. placing the inserts when overmolding is used). Suchana A. Jahan, et al, examined average cycle times in their paper “Thermo-mechanical design optimization of conformal cooling channels using design of experiments approach.” They found that injection times tend to be approximately two seconds, with average cooling times varying between 12.76 and 17.2 seconds. The Stages of the Injection Molding Cycle Time The injection molding cycle time is divided into four stages, each of which is fairly short. Stage No. 1 – Clamping Molds typically come in two halves, which need to be closed material is injected into them. This is accomplished using a clamping unit. The closed mold is then attached to an injection molding machine, with the clamping unit keeping the two halves of the mold connected throughout the molding process. Stage No. 2 – Injection Also referred to as fill time, injection is the process of filling the mold with plastic material. This usually involves using a hopper to feed plastic pellets into the mold. During injection, the barrel of the injector unit is heated and under pressure, which melts the pellets into a more pliable liquid plastic. The volume of material injected into a mold is called a shot. In most cases, the injection time ends when the mold is between 95% and 99% full. The exact amount depends on the nature of the mold. Stage No. 3 – Cooling Once the material makes contact with the mold interiors, it begins cooling. The plastic hardens during this process. Cooling can lead to shrinkage. Hence, it’s vital to inject the mold with the correct volume of material. The mold can’t be opened until the cooling process completes. Several factors affect how long this cooling stage takes. The packing time determines how long it takes to fill the mold with material. As the mold is filled, the pressure inside increases to the point where the flow of material slows down. As the material cools, the pressure decreases, and space becomes available to pack more material if needed. These pressure changes can also lead to discharge, which needs to be accounted for. As the cooling process continues, sealing occurs at the gate of the cavity. This prevents excessive material coming in. Upon reaching the sealing point, the remaining pressure inside the mold continues decreasing as sealed cooling occurs. Stage No. 4 – Ejection The mold is unclamped and opened using an ejection system, which also pushes the completed product out of the mold safely with the help of ejectors. Since the plastic has shrunk and stuck to the mold, the system applies enough force between the product and the mold to detach (demold) it. After that, the produced part can be processed further - to remove sprues or paint. After ejecting, the mold is clamped again and the process repeats for the next product. How to Calculate Injection Molding Cycle Time? Manufacturers can calculate the injection molding cycle time using the following formula: Molding Time (sec) = t1 + t2 + t3 + t4 The “t” numbers are as follows: T1 = Injection time + dwelling time T2 = Cooling time T3 = Time required to remove the molded product T4 = Time needed for opening and closing the mold Cooling time is the main factor affecting the injection molding cycle time. This can vary depending on the cooling capacity of the mold’s cavity. Cooling time is also affected by the type of material used and the product's wall thickness. Determining cooling time is crucial to ensure products are manufactured safely and to the appropriate quality. Configurable mechanical components supplier MiSUMi references “Molds for Injection Molding" by Keizo Mitani when providing this experimental formula that can estimate cooling time: T = s2 ∙ ln[8 ∙ (θr - θm) / (θe - θm) /π2] / (π2∙α) The following are what each of the parts of this formula refer to: T – Cooling time related to average temperature of the wall thickness measured in seconds s – Wall thickness of the molded product measured in millimeters α – The heat diffusion rate of the plastic at the surface temperature of the cavity (in mm2/s) Use λ/(c∙ρ) to work out the value for α. λ – Coefficient of the plastic’s thermal conductivity c – Specific heat of the plastic ρ – The plastic’s density θr – The molten plastic’s temperature in degrees Celsius θe – The temperature needed for removing the molded product in degrees Celsius θm – The surface temperature of the cavity in degrees Celsius Keep in mind that measuring cooling time is typically done using software with varying formulas until a working solution is reached. How to Reduce the Cycle Time in Production? Reducing the injection molding cycle time allows manufacturers to make more parts in a shorter period. This creates a more efficient production process. The following tips help to reduce the cycle time. Tip No. 1 – Reduce Opening, Closing, and Ejection Times These factors are determined by the machinery used to control the mold. Investing in more efficient clamping and ejection mechanisms results in faster speeds. Tip No. 2 – Optimize the Cooling Process Creating a more robust cooling channel design may allow manufacturers to reduce the time spent on the cooling process. Muhammed Khan, et al, considered this in their research paper “Cycle Time Reduction in Injection Molding Process by Selection of Robust Cooling Channel Design.” It was found that combining additive and conformal cooling lines provides a faster and more uniform process compared to conventional cooling lines. In particular, additive cooling lines are 11.29% faster than conventional lines. They also result in 8.477% shrinkage when compared to conventional cooling’s 11.39%. Tip No. 3 – Reducing Holding Times Beyond making the cooling process more efficient, manufacturers may simply be able to reduce the amount of time the part spends in holding. The key here is to balance any time reduction with quality. If shaving seconds off the holding time leads to a reduction of part quality, avoid doing it. Tip No. 4 – Alter the Part Design The wall thickness of a part directly affects how long it takes to cool. If a manufacturer can reduce wall thickness, cooling times can decrease. Again, one eye must stay on the part’s quality if when reducing wall thickness. The temperature controller used must also be able to extract heat energy from the cooling fluid quickly enough to make this idea viable. Tip No. 5 – Change the Runner System Cold runners, which are typically used in two and three-plate molds, are slower than hot and insulated runners. The latter two runners aren’t affected by cooling times either, whereas large cold runners sometimes require more cooling time than the part itself. By switching to hot or insulated runners, manufacturers can lower their injection molding cycle time. Understand the Process Several factors affect the total injection molding cycle time, with cooling being the most important. By using the above tips, manufacturers may be able to reduce the time taken to produce parts. The resulting seconds saved per part can allow them to produce many more parts per day, assuming they can implement the above measures without affecting quality.

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