Injection molding stands out to be one of the processes in the lead for manufacturing plastics. It is cost-effective and a piece of repeatable technology that results in a higher yield of high-quality parts for surplus production. It is also used to produce identical parts with a higher tolerance. It is a fast and intensive process in which high pressure and heat are applied to inject a molten mass inside the mold. The materials known best for this process involve numerous thermoplastics, for instance, TPU, PS, PE, PC, and ABS.
Low-volume injection molding is used explicitly in house mold production and house molding. The equipment required to perform this includes 3D printers and a desktop injection molding machine. The mold should be a 3D-printed polymer. It usually costs lower than $90. And it is typically used in custom injection molding, rapid prototyping, and short-run injection molding.
The step-wise workflow of Low Volume Injection Molding
The complete process starts with-
- Mold Design: The first thing to do is design the mold in any CAD software. It is advised to adhere to the standard design rules for additive manufacturing and injection mold design.
- Mold 3D Printing: The next step involves choosing a printing material and starting with the procedure. Rigid 10K Resin is ideal for most mold designs at 50-micron layer height, giving it high strength, stiffness, and heat resistance. You need to print the mold flat and directly on the build platform with no support to reduce the warpage.
- Mold Assembly: you need to finish the mold to meet the critical dimensions with a desktop, hand-sanding, or CNC machine. We recommend placing the printed mold inside a standard frame or a Master Unit Die to support it against the high pressure resulting in the extending lifetime of your printed mold.
- Mold Clamping: You need to insert the plastic pellets and input the required settings to start production. However, if a metal frame does not protect the printed mold, you need lower clamping force. When it comes to thermoplastics that can be injected with 3D printed mold, there is a wide range of thermoplastics like TPE, PE, PP, ABS, ASA, POM, PA, TPU, or PC.
- Injection: Identifying your ideal process may require a few shots, as many factors are at play. Factors include part geometry, injection temperatures, and pressures. It would help reduce the injection pressure and temperatures as much as possible.
- Cooling: the cooling time of metal is lesser than that of a polymer printed mold because of the morse thermal resistance of plastic. Defacto, it is unnecessary to use cooling channels for your printed mold. Instead, it can be accelerated by applying compressed air to cool down the mold.
- Demolding: the final step requires you to demold the part. It is performed either manually or with ejector pins. You need to apply a release agent with high viscosity for the thermoplastics. Mold releases are available, although silicone mold releases are more compatible, so the process is called low volume silicone molding.
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