Even the simplest-seeming injection molding projects have a multitude of complexities behind them, which all need to be accounted for in order to produce a successful injection molded product. The numerous “moving parts” of any injection molding project (including the people working on it, the material or materials used, the internal stakeholders and external end users, and of course, the processes and the product itself) mean that a comprehensive plan for product design, development and production is necessary, and should be in place as early as possible. In scenarios like an injection molding project, where so many aspects must be planned and accounted for, it can be helpful to have a checklist on hand, making it easier to remember which bases to cover, at a glance. Read on for our checklist of what to consider in your injection molding project.
Product Development Stage
What problem does the product solve? Aside from helping to gauge the marketability of your product, the answer to this question can help to set design and functionality guidelines.
Who will be the end user of the product? Having a clear vision of your product’s user will help you understand what it does (and doesn’t) need to do.
What market is your product aimed at? Try to be specific here: If it’s a consumer product, which segment are you targeting (for instance, what “aisle” would your product be found in)? If it’s an industrial product, what types of end uses would your product be sold for?
What price point will your product be sold? This should be set in advance, at least in a ballpark figure. A viable price point for your product should dictate your production budget, not vice versa.
Product Design Stage
How complex does your product need to be? Ideally, your product should only be complex enough to execute its core functions efficiently and safely for your end users. Additional, noncritical complexity opens the door to design and production errors.
What material should you use? Injection molding resins such as ABS, nylon, polypropylene and many others, are available to suit just about any production requirements. Be sure to review your product’s intended specifications to determine the best material for you.
What injection molding process is best for your product and production requirements? It’s best to start determining the answer to this question in the design stage, so you can make any necessary design adjustments prior to production. Will your product require overmolding, insert molding or any other complex processes?
What color does your product need to be? This question arises for consumer products for aesthetic reasons, as well as for industrial products for safety and regulatory reasons. The answer to this question can help you determine which material to use, and whether any additional colorant, dye or finishing processes will be required.
Are there any design risks of which to be aware? The requirements of your product might call for design aspects that present a risk to the production process. These include walls that are thicker or thinner than recommended, squared-off corners, suboptimal flow design (for the injection molding resin), lack of draft in design, lack of gussets, lack of internal supports, and risk of sink. It’s important to understand how any of these design considerations can affect the injection molding process, so that they can be reconsidered prior to production (and any potential errors or defects).
Are injection molding best practices being followed? Similar to the risk assessment described above, it’s also helpful to review injection molding best practices in the design stage to ensure that as many as possible are being followed.
Pre-Production and Production Stage
What tolerances will be accepted in the quality control process? QC parameters should be carefully determined and reviewed at this point so that the QC process will be consistent and effective.
What quantity of production will meet business needs while remaining efficient? Longer production runs yield lower costs per part, but depending on your business and the plan for this product, may not be efficient overall — for instance, if excessive inventory will be on hand, or if sales may be lower than expected. Take this time to determine whether lower production runs may be more beneficial (in which case, a different production process may be more efficient).
How will the tooling for your part be handled? If you’re going with a tool steel mold, understand upfront whether the customer or the facility will be responsible for storage and maintenance of the mold. Be sure that storage and/or shipping plans are accounted for if your mold will be made of another material.
How will part inventory be handled? Inventory can be one of the most difficult parts of selling a product and running a business. Don’t count on having low or no inventory. Be ready to handle your full production run at any time.
How will fulfillment be handled? Will you contract externally for order fulfillment, or handle it in-house? What delivery/fulfillment terms are your customers expecting? Be sure to communicate to be sure that everyone is on the same page regarding these aspects, which can make or break a business relationship very early on in the process.
How will excess material be handled? Will the facility or the customer own reclaimed waste/excess material? Have all avenues been explored to maximize the efficiency of the material chosen? Are recycling and disposal methods in compliance with all laws and regulations — local and federal?
This checklist can function both as a comprehensive resource for your injection molding product, from design to production, or as a jumping-off point for a checklist of our own design — depending on the specifics of your project, manufacturing partner, facility and so on. Above all, be sure to ask any questions that you feel are important, whether or not they’re included on this list. Every manufacturing project is different, and your chances of success are only as good as what you know and what you’ve planned. This checklist is intended to give you an advantage on both of those fronts.