If you’ve asked for a quote for a new injection molding project, there is mostly likely a category on the quote for manufacturing and maintenance. Injection molds require preventative maintenance as most mechanical equipment does. While the category is there, do you know what is included in that maintenance? If not, we’ll explain what injection mold maintenance covers.
What is Included in Injection Mold Maintenance?
Maintenance is a general term that can cover many different things. Maintenance on your personal vehicle is a little different than on your washing machine, so you can expect that maintaining an injection mold is more different than you may realize. These are the common items included for maintaining an injection mold:
- A visual inspection: Basic maintenance starts with a visual inspection before and after every use of the injection mold. Both the exterior and interior of the mold should be clean and debris free. No leaks should be present from any fittings. You can also check for any surface damage on the molding surface that will impact part quality once molding operations start.
- Cleaning the molding surface: Molten resin can leave a thin film or residue on the molding surface during a production run of parts. The surface should be gently cleaned with a solvent that will not affect the surface quality.
- Blow out debris: The injection mold can collect debris, dust, and water in the small joints and crevices of the mold during storage or in production. Compressed air can be used to blow out each of these items to prevent future damage or downtime. The injection mold may be complex with extra runners, sprues, and moving details. Each should be inspected and cleaned out.
- A deeper inspection of components: Simple injection molds may have just a few components, but more complex molds may include sliding details, ejection pins, cooling fittings, and more. The mold may need to be completely disassembled after a certain number of cycles (perhaps 50,0000 or 100,000) to inspect and replace worn components. Lubrication may need to be done with all moving parts also.
- Logging work details: Any work completed, whether it’s simple maintenance or a repair operation, should be detailed in a maintenance log for the injection mold. Dates, components replaced, and personnel involved should be noted for future reference. Detailed information will take the guess work out of who did what and when.
- Verify the mold is dry: Water can be an unseen enemy of injection molding. Water is often used for cooling and cleaning, but it needs to be completely removed from injection molds before they go into storage. Any water left in a mold can cause rust in warmer temperatures or could cause cracks if the mold is allowed to freeze with water inside. Compressed air can be used to remove the water from the mold.
Why Injection Mold Maintenance Isn’t Done
Maintenance is an important part of keeping an injection mold performing at its best, but that doesn’t mean that it is done regularly at some injection molders. They may skip a maintenance cycle, do just the minimum required amount of work, or just not complete any maintenance at all. There are three main reasons why they don’t do it:
- It requires downtime: You know the saying that time is money. If the injection mold is in the repair facility, it isn’t making parts. Downtime may cost time that the shop doesn’t have if they are under a tight deadline to meet an order. Otherwise preventative maintenance should be part of a production schedule to ensure long-term success of the mold.
- It requires trained employees: Maintenance on injection molds doesn’t have to be complicated, but the staff in the molding facility should be trained properly. Training and education does require time for the molding facility, which some businesses may not want to invest in. Maintenance employees aren’t typically involved directly in making products, which is where the revenue is made. Higher profits could be made with less maintenance, but it’s not a good trade-off.
- A lack of knowledge: Most injection molding facilities know that maintenance should be done, but mold failures and poor quality parts still occur frequently because of a lack of knowledge and understanding of maintenance. Maintenance isn’t a should be done, it’s a must be done item for any injection mold. If maintenance isn’t a regular part of the business in your injection molding facility, it’s a gamble with your future success.
What Happens Without Proper Maintenance?
Most injection molding facilities won’t ignore maintenance all together. The simple visual checks are easy to do before and after a production cycle, and they can be done by anyone. The deeper cleaning and repairs may be where maintenance is reduced because it does require trained staff to complete. What happens if it is skipped?
- Poor quality parts: Maintenance can contribute to good quality molded parts, and poor maintenance can be detrimental to part quality. While making poor quality parts is bad, you may send them to another facility or to your customer which causes further costs to accrue. The parts may have to be molded again to complete an order, they may require additional work to be used, and shipping may have to occur again. The cost of quality (or lack of) can be more than the maintenance would have been.
- Premature mold failures: Small issues can lead to big problems if left unchecked. Most small problems can be found during the pre- and post- visual inspections, while some internal components may be found during the mold disassembly. Catching these problems early can prevent mold failures and costly damage later.
- Injection molding machine damage: Mold failures can lead to machine failures during production. A small maintenance item could be left for later, which may cause the mold to fail at the wrong time. That small item could cause the complete machine to be damaged. That machine is part of your revenue for the facility and having it out of commission negatively impacts business.
Maintenance doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does need to be a daily part of any injection molding business. A well-maintained injection mold will produce high-quality parts, and keep production schedules running smoothly. If you’re unsure of the maintenance requirements of your current injection molds, or you need advice on a future project, SEA-LECT Plastics is here to help. We have an elite team that designs for preventative maintenance, and produces world-class products. Give us a call at (425) 339-0288 or email us at email@example.com. We look forward to offering support and advice on your next project.
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.