Injection molding is one of the most versatile and useful production methods available, for a wide range of products — from industrial components to consumer-packaged goods. This versatility is in large part enabled by the relatively straightforward nature of the process, but there are also complexities and challenges that factor into successful plastic injection molding. This piece explains some of those challenges, and how an injection molding partner could help you address and overcome them.
Injection Molding Challenges
Injection molding offers immense potential value as a manufacturing process for your product. In order to unlock this value, however, it’s critical that you are able to navigate a sea of complicating factors and challenges. These include:
- Cost-effectiveness: Injection molding is suitable for low- and medium-volume production, in addition to the high production volumes with which it is typically associated. While the speed and quality of injection molding offer low costs per piece for those high-volume runs, it can be more difficult to gain those cost benefits on your own for lower volumes. Since injection molding equipment represents a large upfront investment, it’s not financially viable for a business to invest in that equipment if it will only be used infrequently, for shorter production runs. This is where an injection molding partner can help, offering its available production resources to meet those lower-volume needs.
- Tooling costs: The injection molding process relies on molds built with cavities in the shape of the desired piece. For high-volume runs, these molds are built from hardened tool steel and are designed to produce millions of parts over their lifetime. With this quality and durability comes a high initial investment, which is recouped over those production cycles. Working with a plastic mold manufacturing partner that can help you navigate more volume-appropriate, lower-cost molds is a key component in boosting your bottom line. Options include softer metals, less or no hardening, and alternative processes like sand casting.
- Material selection: There are thousands of resins — or base plastic materials — available with which to create your product. They differ in hardness, flexibility, strength, viscosity, melting point, appearance and cost — all of which may factor into your selection decision. It can be difficult or impossible to navigate these options on your own while ensuring that you make the right decision for your product requirements and your budget. In these cases, an experienced injection molding partner can help you make your choice.
- Reliability and priority: While some high-volume plastic molding specialists may accept your low- to medium-volume job, they may not prioritize it above other higher-volume jobs — even if your order was placed earlier. The resulting delays in production and delivery can create major problems for you, your sales and service, and your time to market. It’s important to choose a partner that specializes in the type of molding that you need to assure that it remains focused on you throughout the process.
- Supporting production options: Plastic injection molding offers options even for low-volume and prototype needs, when working with the right partner. However, a plastic-molded prototype may not always be required at every step of your product development process. A molding partner that also offers services including 3D printing contract manufacturing can help you gain cost benefits at every step of the development cycle — increasing your profit over the life of the product.
- Production complexities: Plastic injection molding is useful for simple shapes as well as more complex geometries, in addition to processes such as overmolding, where one shape is molded around another existing piece (whether plastic or another material). With more intricate geometries and processes, however, come numerous manufacturability and material selection considerations. Be sure to find a molding partner that can walk you through your options here, as this can help streamline production processes, reduce production time, and improve the overall quality of your finished product.
The Business Benefits of the Right Injection Molding Partner
The above points illustrate where an injection molding partner can help assist you with myriad choices, options and challenges. Here, we’ll explain the direct benefits of that assistance:
- Cost: A good injection molding partner will understand your production, quality, budget and business requirements to help you make the right choices in mold material, resin selection, finishing processes and more. Choosing lower-cost but more appropriate options for these areas is one of the biggest impacts you can make on your bottom line. They’ll also have the capacity and capabilities to engage in short production runs at a favorable price for you.
- Quality: Not all resins are compatible with all mold materials, and processes such as injection molding, sand casting and 3D printing all result in products with different appearances and physical properties. By working with you to select the right materials and processes, your injection molding partner can help you ensure that you’ll see the quality you need — no more and no less — in your pieces.
- Development efficiency: By incorporating processes like 3D printing for prototyping, a good molding partner will help expedite product development by reducing prototype lead times and enabling more iterations and testing — an overall benefit for product quality and development speed.
- Sales and funding: If you’re a startup raising capital for a product, or are looking to sell a product to a buyer or distributor, a high-quality plastic-molded prototype can make a big difference in your pitches. Three-dimensional prototypes and other processes can be useful in development, but do not offer the same appearance or quality of a production-grade prototype. With a bit more of an investment, you can provide a major boost to your value proposition.
To find a molding partner that can handle your needs, be sure to review the above points and ask potential service providers whether they can provide the assistance that we’ve described. If you’re looking for medium- and short-run plastic molding, 3D printing, and other similar processes, RevPart may be one of your options. Whichever partner you choose, this information will help you make the right decision.