Mold flow analysis is an often overlooked but important step in the injection molding process, and it’s absolutely critical to do whenever a large number of parts are going to be produced. Let’s learn more about this process, and how it can improve Return on Investment (ROI) for engineering companies, and simplify the consumer product development process. But first…
The basics of injection molding and why it’s a great manufacturing process:
Injection molding is a manufacturing process for producing parts in large volume. It is most typically used in mass-production processes where the same part is being created thousands or even millions of times in succession. Once the initial costs for design and tooling have been paid, the price per unit during injection molded manufacturing is extremely low. The price also tends to drop drastically as more parts are produced. Injection molding is most often used for parts made from various types of plastics. Visit our Plastics page, or take our PLASTICS course which are two of the most comprehensive resources available to learn about plastic characteristics, uses, and more.
Thermoset or thermoplastic material in granular form is fed through a hopper into a heating barrel. The plastic is heated to a predetermined temperature and driven by a large screw through the gate(s) and into the custom designed mold. Once the mold is filled, the screw will remain in place to apply appropriate pressure for the duration of a predetermined cooling time. When cooling is complete, the mold is opened, and the part ejected. Gates will either shear off automatically or be manually removed. This cycle will repeat over and over, and can be used to create hundreds of thousands of parts in a relatively short amount of time. Read our blog Avoiding Design and Engineering Mistakes in Injection Molding.
What is mold flow analysis?
Mold flow analysis is the process of simulating an injection molding cycle with a particular plastic and analyzing the results. Mold flow analysis should occur before the injection molding process ever begins, through the use of specialized software that simulates the design of the part to be manufactured. Since the flow of the liquid material in the mold makes a massive difference to the behavior of the product, this step can save a great deal of effort down the road. This software creates color maps of different properties of the design as they would be reflected in the actual mold flow. These may include heating/cooling, fill pattern, injection pressure, potential air traps, shear stress, fiber orientation, and many more properties. Mold flow analysis is a careful, hands-on-process meant for experts.
How does mold flow analysis improve the injection molding and manufacturing process?
The consumer product development process is much more complex than just creating a design and having a machine spit out material in a desired shape; plastics are not as inert as they seem and do not operate like static building blocks. The color maps created by mold flow analysis assist in adaptive changes of the design in order to create a quality product before the molding process actually occurs. This ensures that when a prototype or product goes into production, it is going to perform and behave optimally. Despite the overhead that it adds to the process, mold flow analysis more than makes up for this in terms of final quality. In fact, it has been considered a factor in keeping North American manufacturing competitive in the face of cheaper product development processes elsewhere. Furthermore, it demonstrates a commitment to quality, and is a good indicator of design and engineering firms who are competent, reliable, and produce quality solutions.
Creative Mechanisms is a design and engineering firm that will exceed your expectations.
Our team has developed longstanding relationships with our injection molding partners, and this allows us to design engineering solutions that have great success rates when they get to production. We are incredibly familiar with the injection molding process and how plastics behave in various conditions. Contact us for more advice on the best techniques for industrial prototyping and information on how we may be able to assist you...or visit our Client Testimonial page to see what others have to say about working with the Creative Mechanisms design and engineering team!