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Injection Molding Review | Injection Molding Design Guide
Continued from Injection Molding Molds and Tooling
Injection Molding Molds and Tooling Design: The mold consists of two primary components, the injection mold (A plate) and the ejector mold (B plate). Plastic resin enters the mold through a sprue in the injection mold, the sprue bushing is to seal tightly against the nozzle of the injection barrel of the molding machine and to allow molten plastic to flow from the barrel into the mold, also known as cavity. The sprue bushing directs the molten plastic to the cavity images through channels that are machined into the faces of the A and B plates. These channels allow plastic to run along them, so they are referred to as runners. The molten plastic flows through the runner and enters one or more specialized gates and into the cavity geometry to form the desired part.
The amount of resin required to fill the sprue, runner and cavities of a mold is a shot. Trapped air in the mold can escape through air vents that are ground into the parting line of the mold. If the trapped air is not allowed to escape, it is compressed by the pressure of the incoming material and is squeezed into the corners of the cavity, where it prevents filling and causes other defects as well. The air can become so compressed that it ignites and burns the surrounding plastic material. To allow for removal of the molded part from the mold, the mold features must not overhang one another in the direction that the mold opens, unless parts of the mold are designed to move from between such overhangs when the mold opens (utilizing components called Lifters).
Sides of the part that appear parallel with the direction of draw (The axis of the cored position (hole) or insert is parallel to the up and down movement of the mold as it opens and closes) are typically angled slightly with (draft) to ease release of the part from the mold. Insufficient draft can cause deformation or damage. The draft required for mold release is primarily dependent on the depth of the cavity: the deeper the cavity, the more draft necessary. Shrinkage must also be taken into account when determining the draft required. If the skin is too thin, then the molded part will tend to shrink onto the cores that form them while cooling, and cling to those cores or part may warp, twist, blister or crack when the cavity is pulled away. The mold is usually designed so that the molded part reliably remains on the ejector (B) side of the mold when it opens, and draws the runner and the sprue out of the (A) side along with the parts. The part then falls freely when ejected from the (B) side. Tunnel gates, also known as submarine or mold gate, is located below the parting line or mold surface. The opening is machined into the surface of the mold on the parting line. The molded part is cut (by the mold) from the runner system on ejection from the mold. Ejector pins, also known as knockout pin, is a circular pin placed in either half of the mold (usually the ejector half) which pushes the finished molded product, or runner system out of a mold.
The standard method of cooling is passing a coolant (usually water) through a series of holes drilled through the mold plates and connected by hoses to form a continuous pathway. The coolant absorbs heat from the mold (which has absorbed heat from the hot plastic) and keeps the mold at a proper temperature to solidify the plastic at the most efficient rate.
To ease maintenance and venting, cavities and cores are divided into pieces, called inserts, and sub-assemblies, also called inserts, blocks, or chase blocks. By substituting interchangeable inserts, one mold may make several variations of the same part.
More complex parts are formed using more complex molds. These may have sections called slides, that move into a cavity perpendicular to the draw direction, to form overhanging part features. When the mold is opened, the slides are pulled away from the plastic part by using stationary "Cangle pins" on the stationary mold half. These pins enter a slot in the slides and cause the slides to move backward when the moving half of the mold opens. The part is then ejected and the mold closes. The closing action of the mold causes the slides to move forward along the angle pins.
Some molds allow previously molded parts to be reinserted to allow a new plastic layer to form around the first part. This is often referred to as over molding. This system can allow for production of one-piece tires and wheels.
2-shot or multi-shot molds are designed to "over mold" within a single molding cycle and must be processed on specialized injection molding machines with two or more injection units. This process is actually an injection molding process performed twice. In the first step, the base color material is molded into a basic shape. Then the second material is injection-molded into the remaining open spaces. That space is then filled during the second injection step with a material of a different color.
A mold can produce several copies of the same parts in a single "shot". The number of "impressions" in the mold of that part is often incorrectly referred to as cavitation. A tool with one impression will often be called a single impression (cavity) mold. A mold with 2 or more cavities of the same parts will likely be referred to as multiple impression (cavity) mold. Some extremely high production volume molds (like those for bottle caps) can have over 128 cavities.
In some cases multiple cavity tooling will mold a series of different parts in the same tool. Some toolmakers call these molds family molds as all the parts are related.
Effects on the material properties
The mechanical properties of a part are usually little affected. Some parts can have internal stresses in them. This is one of the reasons why it's good to have uniform wall thickness when molding. One of the physical property changes is shrinkage. A permanent chemical property change is the material thermoset, which can't be re melted to be injected again.
Tool Materials: Tool steel or beryllium-copper are often used. Mild steel, aluminum, nickel or epoxy are only suitable for prototype or very short production runs. Modern hard aluminum (7075 and 2024 alloys) with proper mold design, can easily make molds capable of 100,000 or more part life.
Lubrication and Cooling
Obviously, the mold must be cooled in order for the production to take place. Because of the heat capacity, inexpensiveness, and availability of water, water is used as the primary cooling agent. To cool the mold, water can be channeled through the mold to account for quick cooling times. Usually a colder mold is more efficient because this allows for faster cycle times. However, this is not always true because crystalline materials require the opposite: a warmer mold and lengthier cycle time.
The power required for this process of injection molding depends on many things and varies between materials used. Manufacturing Processes Reference Guide states that the power requirements depend on "a material's specific gravity, melting point, thermal conductivity, part size, and molding rate." Below is a table from page 243 of the same reference as previously mentioned which best illustrates the characteristics relevant to the power required for the most commonly used materials.
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