The injection molding process is one that, although the baseline concept is simple, involves a number of intricate facets and moving parts (both literally and figuratively). The number of settings, calibrations, sub-processes, and choices that can be made or changed — even minimally — can have major effects on the finished product. Those effects include its quality, appearance and the time it takes to make it — among many others. What’s more, each of those aspects plays a part in another major component of a product — its cost and, by extension, its bottom line.
When you’re talking about universal best practices for designing parts for injection molding, there are a few that are simply unavoidable. At the top of the list, you’ll almost always find the requirement for draft angles for your parts. (If it isn’t draft angles, it’s probably uniform wall thickness, detailed here previously.)
As an entrepreneur exploring the possibilities for manufacturing your new product, you may run into unfamiliar phrases from time to time, and “turnkey manufacturing” might be one of them. That nomenclature hasn’t really crossed over into the non-manufacturing world, so you may be wondering what it’s all about. So what is turnkey manufacturing?
Six Sigma holds a storied place in the recent history of manufacturing. Popularized by none other than Jack Welch of General Electric in the mid-1990s (although started by a Motorola engineer), the phrase “Six Sigma” has come to be synonymous with the ideal achievement of quality — which is fitting, since the methodology strives for perfection.
It’s a pretty awful feeling when, after seeing several defective parts released from a mold, you realize that you’re going to have to halt production and figure out what the problem is. Injection molding defects are certainly not uncommon, but that doesn’t make them any easier to deal with — especially with QA waiting, orders queuing and delivery deadlines looming.
For many manufacturing scenarios, injection molding is the best choice on many fronts: speed, cost and product reliability. The process is perfectly suited when large quantities of highly repeatable, consistent parts are needed at a relatively low per-piece cost. The versatility of injection molding does not, however, mean that it’s without potential pitfalls. Manufacturers and potential entrepreneurs with new product concepts can run into any number of problems without properly considering all aspects of the process, leading to inferior part quality, manufacturing delays and unplanned cost overruns.
Whether you’re an entrepreneur just venturing into the world of new products, or an established business or shop owner with an idea on how to expand your existing product line, the product development process holds the same excitement, opportunity and promise. The product development phase acts as a critical bridge in the manufacturing process between pure brainstorming or ideation, and the production phase of your new product rollout. In short, product development is where your concept becomes reality.
Advances and improvements in 3D printing have raised the technology’s profile as a game-changer in manufacturing over the last several years. While rapid prototyping and the additive manufacturing methods that 3D printing comprises have been around in some form for decades, the greater accessibility, affordability and versatility that today’s 3D printing offers mean that its potential to change manufacturing as a whole is at an all-time high.
Manufacturing shouldn’t be intimidating for a budding startup — but it’s understandable that sometimes, it can be. The mysteries of the unfamiliar processes, terminology and methods that are revealed once you look closer into the “how” of taking your product to market can seem overwhelming. Manufacturing does, like any other aspect of your business plan, demand education and research. Fortunately, by investing the required time to learn some of the biggest pitfalls to avoid, the production step of your product can be solved and perfected, just like other areas like your marketing or distribution plans. You’ve found a good place to start: here are five of the biggest mistakes for a startup to avoid before selecting a manufacturer.