What is Injection Molding

Injection Molding Overview

Injection molding is a manufacturing process for producing parts by injecting material into a mold. Injection molding can be performed with a host of materials, including metals, elastomers, and most commonly thermoplastic and thermosetting polymers. Material for the part is fed into a heated barrel, mixed, and forced into a mold cavity where it cools and hardens to the configuration of the cavity. After a product is designed, usually by an industrial designer or an engineer, molds are made by a moldmaker (or toolmaker) from metal, usually either steel or aluminum, and precision-machined to form the features of the desired part. Injection molding is widely used for manufacturing a variety of parts, from the smallest components to entire body panels of cars.Parts to be injection molded must be very carefully designed to facilitate the molding process; the material used for the part, the desired shape and features of the part, the material of the mold, and the properties of the molding machine must all be taken into account. The versatility of injection molding is facilitated by this breadth of design considerations and possibilities.

Injection Molding Cost

The cost of manufacturing molds depends on a very large set of factors ranging from number of cavities, size of the parts (and therefore the mold), complexity of the pieces, expected tool longevity, surface finishes and many others. The initial cost is great, however the per-piece cost is low, so with greater quantities the unit price decreases.

Injection Process

With injection molding, granular plastic is fed by gravity from a hopper into a heated barrel. As the granules are slowly moved forward by a screw-type plunger, the plastic is forced into a heated chamber, where it is melted. As the plunger advances, the melted plastic is forced through a nozzle that rests against the mold, allowing it to enter the mold cavity through a gate and runner system. The mold remains cold so the plastic solidifies almost as soon as the mold is filled.

Injection Molding Cycle

The sequence of events during the injection mold of a plastic part is called the injection molding cycle. The cycle begins when the mold closes, followed by the injection of the polymer into the mold cavity. Once the cavity is filled, a holding pressure is maintained to compensate for material shrinkage. In the next step, the screw turns, feeding the next shot to the front screw.This causes the screw to retract as the next shot is prepared. Once the part is sufficiently cool, the mold opens and the part is ejected.

Process Troubleshooting

Like all industrial processes, injection molding can produce flawed parts. In the field of injection molding, troubleshooting is often performed by examining defective parts for specific defects and addressing these defects with the design of the mold or the characteristics of the process itself. Trials are often performed before full production runs in an effort to predict defects and determine the appropriate specifications to use in the injection process when filling a new or unfamiliar mold for the first time, where shot size for that mold is unknown, a technician/tool setter may perform a trial run before a full production run. He starts with a small shot weight and fills gradually until the mold is 95 to 99% full. Once this is achieved, a small amount of holding pressure will be applied and holding time increased until gate freeze off (solidification time) has occurred. Gate freeze off time can be determined by increasing the hold time, and then weighing the part. When the weight of the part does not change, we then know that the gate has frozen and no more material is injected into the part. Gate solidification time is important, as it determines cycle time and the quality and consistency of the product, which itself is an important issue in the economics of the production process. Holding pressure is increased until the parts are free of sinks and part weight has been achieved.