Injection molding has been in use for decades, but that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t grown as an industry with evolving technology. There are many small innovations that have made a large impact to increase efficiency and reduce operational costs, and we have selected five noteworthy innovations that have made a significant impact to date. These five innovations will continue to evolve and shape the future of injection molding for years to come.
The Emergence of 3D Printing
If we go back 10 years into the past, 3D printing was pretty expensive. The printers were large, they cost a small fortune, and the materials they could use was limited. Over the last decade, the machines have gotten smaller and smaller, the cost per machine has come down significantly, and the materials that can be printed have expanded to a large variety. You can now find desktop units able to print carbon-fiber infused resin filaments. With the rise in popularity, 3D printing has become a simple option to produce prototypes for design reviews and tradeshows, plus a low-cost option for small manufacturing. If you can dream it, 3D printing can probably create it. Tooling, part creation, and manufacturing samples are just the tip of the iceberg.
In recent years automation has become an expanded frontier that has moved beyond stationary capabilities. When robots are mentioned with injection molding, most would probably envision a stationary robotic arm removing fresh molded products from an open injection mold. Automation can easily complete that function, but in recent years it has expanded from stationary functions and moved into supply chain. Automation is now being used to move raw products within facilities, added to assembly lines completing repetitive motions, and being used side-by-side with human workers to increase efficiency.
Micro Injection Molding
Injection molding has been used to make larger and larger components in recent years. Think of big screen TVs, automotive panels, and large-scale equipment. While injection molding is getting larger, it’s also gone in the opposite direction. Micro injection molding is being used to create smaller and smaller products. As smart devices have decreased in size, they have required smaller components at an economical price. The medical industry is also utilizing micro injection molding to create smaller surgical tools and medical devices, and the military is using smaller components with technological advances. Quality control over these small components has been kept very high with specialized inspection methods, and it looks to be a promising trend in the future.
Remote Control and Monitoring
If the last two years has shown us anything, it’s that we can do a lot from a remote location. Injection molding can be monitored and adjusted from a great distance using applications and connected technologies. New smart device applications are being used to monitor multiple injection molded machines at once, can track trends for molding operations, and produce reporting to keep everyone connected and informed.
Automated Quality Inspection and Prediction
Quality is a term that is used frequently, but in general the inspection function to quantify quality is done after the product or component is produced. Software and applications are now being utilized to predict and monitor quality metrics with quantifiable data. These applications are being incorporated into daily operations to reduce the human involvement in manufacturing and allowing employees to make higher-levels decisions instead of tracking repetitive operations through the day. Advanced vision systems are being incorporated to take dimensional data and judge color harmony, which can reduce errors and reduce the cost associated with poor quality.
The impact of innovations can be hard to quantify as they are happening, but these five mentioned topics have given way to more efficient operations and better quality in the last few years. Adopting these technologies and advancements into your operations can improve many of your business metrics, but making the changes may be easier said than done. SEA-LECT Plastics has faced the challenges surrounding the incorporation of these technologies and innovations, and we can offer guidance on how to make these changes to positively affect your daily operations. We have an elite staff that can audit your operations to find improvements, help manage inventory more efficiently, create specialized designs for part assembly, and mitigate risks to keep your business on track. We are in the top ranking for turn-key manufacturers that can offer industry-specific design options, material selection for competitive cost and performance, and turn-key assembly options. If you have a new idea or need help to navigate the global supply chain, call us (425) 339-0288 or email us at email@example.com. We can offer you advice on the best technology to use, the best materials to meet your product demands, and how to navigate through each development stage with ease.
Matthias Poischbeg was born and raised in Hamburg, Germany. Matt moved to Everett, Wash., after finishing his bachelor’s degree in business in 1995 to work for Sea-Dog Corporation, a manufacturer, and distributor of marine and rigging hardware established in 1923.
In 1999, Matt took over the reins at Sea-Lect Plastics Corporation, a sister company of Sea-Dog and a manufacturer of plastic injection molded products with an in-house tool & die shop. Matthias Poischbeg is also a contributor to Grit Daily.