Plastic injection molding is a process that involves injecting melted and shaped plastic into a hollow cavity in a mold. This allows for the production of very complex parts with a high level of accuracy at a very low cost. However, the production of these complex parts is not without its challenges. A common injection molding problem is warping which can be caused by a variety of factors including the design of the part, material choice and injection conditions. A better understanding of the process and how to avoid these issues will ensure that your injection molded parts are defect free.
Injection molding begins with resin pellets being poured into a hopper. These are heated to a molten state and then injected through a nozzle into the mold. The molten plastic will then flow through a channel in the mold called a sprue and into branched runners that lead to individual gates. The sprue and runner are then cut off from the part and trimmed away to produce the final molded product.
The choice of the right thermoplastic is crucial to the success of your injection molded part. There are many types of thermoplastics to choose from and they can all be reinforced with various additives like fiberglass, rubber particles, minerals or flame retardant agents to change their physical properties. For example, a higher stiffness can be achieved by adding glass fibers to the pellets before injection.
Different molds are available depending on the type of part you want to manufacture. The simplest molds (called straight-pull molds) consist of 2 halves that hold the cavity and core. They are CNC machined from aluminium and are typically used for lower volume production as they are more affordable than steel moulds. They are also less prone to damage and wear due to the injection and clamping forces.
A rib or groove is often added to the part to increase its rigidity. This can be a very effective way to reduce warping of the part and improve mechanical performance.
The most important factor in avoiding injection molding defects is the quality of the initial part design. To ensure that the resulting part meets your requirements it is necessary to create a drawing with all the dimensions and features that you require. This should be done using a professional 3D CAD program like SolidWorks or Inventor. This will allow you to see how your part will look once it is manufactured and identify any areas that may need reinforcement or modifications.
It is also essential to consider wall thickness when designing your injection molded part. Thinner walls will cool and solidify much faster than thicker sections. This will prevent warping of the part as it shrinks. Parts that have non-uniform walls can also be prone to sink marks which occur when a section of the part cools and solidifies before the surrounding areas. This can be caused by poor drafting angles or by using a thick section in the area that is supposed to be thinner.