No matter your level of experience, getting an injection molding quote can be a complex and, at times, overwhelming undertaking. For entrepreneurs starting the sourcing process for a new product, just as much as for experienced engineers with five hats to wear and plenty of other projects on their plate, the process of getting an injection molding quote is one of the most information- and time-intensive parts of the job. Or at least it should be, if you want to get an accurate injection molding quote. We’ll go more in depth about that point, as well as four other factors to consider about getting a quote, below.
A Quote Is Only As Useful As the Information That Goes Into It
Accuracy is the key here. An inaccurate quote that doesn’t reflect the full details of your job doesn’t do much good for your budget or your bottom line — and, in the worst case, can hurt you in the long run with cost overruns. It’s certainly tempting to get a quote as early as possible in the process — and not totally inadvisable to do so — but the further out you are from a finished design, the more flexibility you should allow in budgeting down the line. In other words, your early quotes should act much more as ballpark figures than set-in-stone numbers around which to plan.
The additional points below are more about the components that should go into an accurate injection molding quote, and all feed into this overarching theme: A quote isn’t much use if it’s not accurate.
Not all parts are (or should be) created the same. If you’re operating in a commodity space, this statement may be hard to buy, but there’s always a reason for a customer to select one supplier over another. For more specialized parts, that statement becomes a bit more self-evident. Yet one of the biggest differentiators, even for commodities, is the intended use or application.
This information is important for an injection molding quote as well. We’ll continue to drive the point home: Your injection molding service provider should know as much about your project as possible, and application is a key component of that. With knowledge of an intended application or market that you aim to sell into, an injection molder is much better equipped to help in material selection and even part design. The best injection molders will also be able to help you with any certification or other regulatory requirements for specialized industries and uses, such as:
• Extreme hot or cold temperatures
• Medical-grade products
• Food-grade products
• Mil-spec or other requirements
• ISO and other quality certifications
Don’t falsely assume that it doesn’t matter what your product does, it only matters how it’s designed — your injection molding quote will likely tell you otherwise.
A Good Drawing Can Be Your Best Friend
Most shops will tell you that they can get started with just a napkin drawing, 2D sketch or other early-stage design. As mentioned above, those quotes can be useful for ballparking a budget and scope for your project, but shouldn’t be carved into your budget in stone. The more comprehensive your drawing, the better your service provider will be able to understand the intricacies of your part’s form and function. Thus, helping the service provider to provide a more accurate quote.
No matter how many early-stage quotes you get, it’s rarely a good idea to move forward with anything less than a quote based on a fully developed, 3D CAD or other technical drawing. Whether you create or source this drawing on your own, or work with your service provider to develop one, is up to you. However, the important point to remember is that a fully pledged 3D drawing is the closest digital representation you can have to your finished product, and thus is able to provide a basis for the most accurate quote possible.
Quantity Should Be Discussed Upfront
We mentioned earlier that the form or design of your product isn’t the only aspect to be concerned with when sourcing quotes. Simply knowing whether or not a shop can or will produce your part is just the tip of the iceberg. Quantities for the specific project that you have in mind are also important to consider. This way, the service provider can give you an accurate assessment of the lead and production time required, and can assist you with mold design and creation, as well as process considerations.
For instance, if you’re only looking for a prototype, but your service provider assumes you’re interested in a high-volume production run, your quote will not be very useful. Moreover, the shop may be able to help you explore other methods of one-off or short-run prototyping, depending on the design of your part and the purpose of the prototype. Short to medium runs may also be suitable for more cost-efficient mold materials — again, depending on your specific requirements and intent for this particular project. By discussing your quantity needs as early as possible, you’ll have a much more productive conversation during the quoting process.
There’s More to Materials Than You Might Think
To the layperson — or even those with a rudimentary knowledge of manufacturing and injection molding — it may seem that there aren’t that many injection molding plastic resins from which to choose, and that you can just match up a set of requirements to a table of available materials. In reality, the range of different materials, combinations and formulations that are available is vast. To that end, it helps to have an idea of material or material requirements in mind, but to factor in time to work with your provider to determine the best possible material for your product.
All of the above information, and more, can aid in this. Application plays a big part in material selection, as does quantity. Part design and size do as well. The best injection molding service providers will be willing to get innovative with zeroing in on the perfect material to meet your needs in the most cost-effective way possible — be sure to provide them with all the information they need to do so.