Introduction to Injection Mold Verification
Injection molding is one of the most commonly used production processes for plastics. This is rightly so as it offers a viable solution for the mass production of high-quality injection automotive parts from a broad range of polymers. In the automotive industry, where consistency, safety, and quality are of utmost importance, automotive plastic injection molding is an important manufacturing process.
This article will be discussing automotive plastic injection molding from various aspects, including its history, advantages, applications, alternative solutions, and materials. Swipe down and read on!
In the early days of the automotive industry, cars were made almost entirely of metal, which meant they were clunky and extremely heavy. However, the industry became advanced and the plastics market erupted in the 1940s and 50s. Therefore, automotive manufacturers began to experiment with plastic car parts in their production.
In the 1970s, manufacturers rolled out the first cars with plastic decorative elements. Later in the 80s, they also introduced more functional parts like plastic headlights, bumpers, and fenders.
In the early 2000s, automotive manufacturers unveiled the first plastic structural components for cars, which had the advantage of being more lightweight than their metal counterparts, unlocking improved fuel efficiency and cheaper production. Today, injection molding is now a dominant production method for manufacturing plastic car parts in the automotive industry.
Injection molding is an established production process in which automotive mould manufacturers inject molten plastic materials into a mold cavity. The melted plastic then cools and hardens, and the manufacturers extract the finished part. Though the mold design process is critical and challenging (a poorly designed mold can result in defects), injection molding itself is a reliable method for producing solid plastic parts with a high-quality finish.
Here are a few reasons why the process is beneficial for automotive plastic parts production:
In the automotive industry, repeatability—or the ability to consistently produce identical parts—is crucial. Because automotive plastic injection molding typically relies on robust metal molds, the final molded automotive parts produced using the mold are practically identical. Some factors come into play with injection molding, but injection molding is a highly repeatable process if the mold has a good design and finishing.
2. Scale and Cost
The injection mold-making process can be an expensive process due to the cost of the mold. However, it remains a highly scalable process whose overall cost decreases as the manufacturer makes more parts. For mass production applications, injection molding is thus beneficial to the manufacturer. For anything less than mass production, however, injection molding tooling costs may curb the cost efficiency of the process.
3. Material Availability
A significant benefit of using injection molding for automotive production is the wide range of rigid, flexible, and rubber plastics the process is compatible with. Manufacturers use a wide range of different polymers for various applications in the automotive industry, including ABS, polypropylene, acrylic, acetal, nylon, polycarbonate, and more.
4. High Precision and Surface Finish
Injection molding is ideal for producing plastic parts with relatively simple geometries and results in high surface finish quality. Manufacturers have many finish options when producing parts, including various surface textures—such as glossy, rough, or matte—which they apply directly to the automotive exterior mould rather than the molded part. However, different plastic materials also influence the final surface finish.
At this point of the process, we’ve released our designs to our vendor and molds build has started. The time we have now could vary from 3–4 weeks to 20 weeks or more, depending on the household mould and part. During this time, there are two things we should do:
Time control. It is quite common that the container mould maker will send a bi-weekly report with detailed progress regarding the mold manufacturing. You may want to look only that the first trial, T1, is as promised, but you may also want to monitor the progress to predict delays. For that, you may need a professional who has a deep understanding of the steps of mold manufacturing.
To clarify, this stage is not a chair mould process validation (installation qualification, operational qualification, performance qualification). This is the stage in which we aim to achieve a verified, stable part that will qualify our definitions. Once we get that, we may initiate mold performance validation.