If you’re thinking about getting something made, have a look at this infographic here about the steps you need to go through and the questions you need to ask before you go too far.
1. Needs Analysis.
The major problem for most injection moulding projects. By their very nature, injection moulding tools have a high cost of entry but a low production cost.
Unfortunately, there is one overriding pair of factors the most beginners aren’t necessarily aware of that has a huge impact on the whole process and life cycle of the product.
Mould tools = high cost
Injection moulding production = low cost
Normally this is quite a shock to most people who haven’t been involved with the industry before but this is the fact of the matter. Injection mould tools aren’t cheap. If you’re going to be making more than 1000 parts/year for some years, a 1-16 impression mould tool will cost you something in the region of between £3-20,000 to make – and take anything between 5-12 weeks to be made – from finalisation of the design.
This is the most common barrier to entry to the market. You’ll need a budget! That is a budget for the design of the part, tool and following that, the production of the tooling.
After you have paid for the tooling to be made, the cost of the parts are relatively inexpensive – depending on materials, sizes, cycle times, impressions/mould etc.
This is the most significant factor for almost all people starting with a part idea. High upfront costs mean that at the very least you’ll need some capital to start the project – and furthermore: sales must be guaranteed or at least assured.
There are options for short run, lower cost injection moulding tooling. These generally involved some kind of modular tooling being made – this basically means that your tooling is built from a small block of steel inserted inside a tooling template. The template stays the same – all you need to do is change the inserted metal part. Softer metals can like aluminium, mild steel, nickel or epoxy (as opposed to hardened tool steel or berylium copper) can be used, but for the most part these are not advisable as the tooling can get damaged quite easily, making the saving a false economy. Often lower budget modular toolmakers will also ask you to reduce the simplicity of your product as they may not be able to produce complex tools for parts.
Or a budget for one. The design stage is a very important for one, and if you can supply us with some 3D models for your parts, fantastic. If you’re not able to do that, then at least you’ll need to provide us with some sort of sketch of how you want the part to turn out. It’s great that you’ve had an idea, but to make it real, we’ll need something a little more concrete – or you’ll need to pay for someone to design your idea for you.
Once we’ve got the budgetary issues and design out of the way, we can go into a bit more detail about exactly what your specifications for the tooling might be. This could include asking about production quantity, application, materials etc. This will effect the production of the tooling as it needs to be made according to this information.
Many people want to see a finished item once they’ve got the design and the 3D drawings made up. We can provide 3D prototypes at our facility in Kent up to a certain size. Please see our page on 3D Printing for more information.
As mentioned, the FDM printing has some constraints. As you’re depositing layers on top of each other through an extrusion nozzle, there is a limit on how much material you can deposit on thin air, so to speak. If there are any problems, we can outsource the work for you.
Before we give the go ahead on the tooling, we’ll need to make sure that our chosen toolmaker has sent us over a layout of the interior of the tooling. We’ll make sure that we’re happy with how the toolmaker has laid out the tool before giving approval to go ahead and make the tool.
Normal production time is something between 6-10 weeks to get a tool made. Please see more information on our toolmaking page.
We’re nearly there. Once the tool has been made, we’ll either get some samples sent over (if they have injection moulding machines at the toolmaking facility) or we’ll get the tool to be able to produce the samples. Here’s where we do the initial fine-tuning for you. We can see whether parts fit together, and whether we’re happy with the textures on the interior of the tool (ie your parts). Simply let us know and barring any huge u-turns on the design of the part, these modifications will be done as part of the tooling cost.
Once we’ve made some samples, we’ll also be able fine-tune colour and material. Again, the ball is in your court for this one, you’ll have to balance all the factors into getting exactly what you want. The good thing is, now you’ve got the tooling made, changing the material and colour isn’t such a big deal, so if you want to modify something a little bit down the line, you shouldn’t be presented with too many problems.
For further information, visit our pages on the injection moulding process and the advantages of injection moulding. If you would like to know more about AV Plastics, please go to our Products & Services and Manufacturing or About Us pages.