You have fresh ideas and are early in your process as a startup company. You have a lot of decisions to make on materials for your new ideas, manufacturing processes, and especially finding a manufacturing partner that can help bring your new ideas to life. Most likely injection molding is one of your manufacturing processes on the list. Choosing injection molding as a process also allows you the opportunity to choose a turn-key manufacturing partner that can help with tooling, design, and day to day production of your product. As you decide on your final design and solution, here’s everything you need to know about injection molding to make your final selection:
What is Injection Molding and Why to Use It?
Injection Molding is a type of manufacturing process to produce parts in large quantities. It is most often used for mass-production processes where the same part is reproduced over and over. Some parts may be produced in quantities of a thousand, while some may be replicated a million times over the course of the injection mold’s life. One of the major advantages of choosing injection molding as your primary manufacturing process is that you can produce a large quantity of parts for a low cost. The tooling will be the largest investment of the project, but you have the ability to scale the project as needed, whether that is more or less parts in a short amount of time.
Are There Additional Benefits to Injection Molding?
Injection molding has other benefits other than being easily scalable. Some of those include:
- Injection molding produces a very low amount of waste. At initial start-up of the machine, you will have some shots through the molding die to purge air and contaminants out. Those will most likely not be useable in the future and will need to be discarded. From there, there will be minimal amount of waste from the manufacturing process in the form of a sprue, the runners, the gates, and flash from the edges of the parts, but all may be able to be ground back into pellet form and reused.
- There are thousands of resins available that have amazing strength, corrosion resistance, and durability that can rival metals, alloys, and aerospace materials. Choosing the functional and visual criteria that the parts need to demonstrate may be harder than finding a perfect resin to match your ideal product.
- Injection Molding is very repeatable from day to day and year to year. The third part can be the same as the hundredth, the thousandth, or the one millionth. If you’re producing a large quanitity of parts over the course of a few years, it will be beneficial to have consistency and efficiency in your products.
- Injection molds can make multiple parts at one time. If you need three of one part, five of another, and then just one of the last part, one mold may be able produce all pieces in one molding shot. In other production processes, that may take three different dies or three different processes altogether.
- The colors available for your products are limitless. Beyond colors, you could choose inlays and overmolds to create unique finishes and designs that aren’t an option with other materials and manufacturing processes.
- You have the ability to design a large amount of assembly and human interaction out with automation. Eliminating as much as possible will reduce cost to individual parts, the overall product, and additional assembly or manufacturing.
Are the Drawbacks to Injection Molding?
As with every process, there are challenges. Although, the benefits and efficiency of injection molding far out weigh these considerations:
- The initial cost of an injection-molding die may be more than your budget allows. Your tooling designer and mold maker should be able to advise you in ways to reduce costs for your molds without sacrificing quality or time. If you need a low quantity of parts, it may be beneficial to use a softer die material to reduce the cost and lead-time of the finished die.
- Mold makers and tooling designers are specialists and experts in their craft, so finding the right partner may be more effort than searching the internet. Computer software is available to make an educated guess at what the final tool will look like, but an expert tool design will be able to refine the tooling beyond what a computer model will predict.
- Injection molding dies will have a longer lead-time than some other processes. A machining program can be generated overnight, and within a day or two you may be able to have a sample part for demonstration. In order to be competitive in that timeframe, you may need to find a rapid prototype operation that can 3D print a part in plastic instead of a part machined from a metal or hard plastic.
- Design revisions may not be easy to make in an injection-molding die. Some dies can be made modular so that pieces can be changed out, but certain details in your finished part may make that impossible. A large enough design revision may require a new mold to be created, and that can add a significant cost to the project. Your designer should be able to reduce the amount of changes needed, and a rapid prototype can help discover areas of opportunity for reduction or revisions to optimize the injection mold.
As a start-up, you have many considerations to keep in mind as you design your finished product and move toward the end-goal of a product brought to market. Some days it may seem overwhelming, but one consideration that should not be is finding the right partner that offers design, manufacturing, and logistics. If you need expert advice from a manufacturing partner that can help with your next product idea, call us (425) 339-0288 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.