Although injection moulding appears to be a significantly advanced process used by many companies to achieve a high-quality finish at a competitive price, it’s really based on a simple, traditional method. This means that it lends itself to the old adage of ‘if it ain’t broke don't fix it’. Instead, we’ve simply introduced new technologies - and sometimes automation - to better the dependability and versatility of the manufacturing process.
What Is Injection Moulding?
Injection moulding is a manufacturing process in which a molten material, such as plastic or metal, is injected into a mould. This mould is often made of anything from hardened steel to aluminium, to rubber. Having injected the molten material, it’s then cooled and allowed to harden. After this, the mould is removed, and you’ll have a ready-to-use item.
Injection Moulding Today:
In our ever-changing world of manufacturing, technology and strategy, the way in which we manufacture is in constant evolution. Due to this, manufacturers are often under pressure to adapt and change with the times and so are our processes. While this is the case with most manufacturing techniques, injection moulding has managed to mostly stay the same throughout the years. Although we have developed processes and updated the efficiency, the core techniques are the same.
Today’s style of plastic injection moulding is a computer-managed process. With this, you’re getting precision and efficiency, but often the completed product isn’t quite so finished - they sometimes need a little care and attention to give the product the perfect shape and finish. Although the moulds are specially made with accuracy in mind, they can sometimes become worn; similarly, when the moulds aren't made of the correct materials, they can become warped which results in an imperfect item. This is why it’s important to get the mould material right the first time. This will help to lower the costs and wastage involved.
Thermoplastics are used in the plastic injection process and it’s usually a physical change as opposed to a chemical change. Some of the most common thermoplastics used today are Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, Polyethylene and Polycarbonate.
The Future of Injection Moulding:
The future of the plastic injection moulding industry isn’t exactly clear. With the popularity of 3D printing growing exponentially, some see these as competing technologies. However, these processes should really be working together to create a streamlined manufacturing environment. While both manufacturing technologies can be used in rapid prototyping, most of the serious plastics manufacturing is done using injection moulding. This is often due to the fact that manufacturing this way offers a low-cost method of producing parts and tools. Similarly, due to the way in which injection moulding is done, the finished products aren’t prone to delamination. The product will be a homogeneous piece - it’s cured to form a single product, rather than layering materials over one another, which can result in a stronger bond.
However, if we were to start using 3D printing and injection moulding in conjunction with each other, a number of processes could be streamlined and efficiency could increase. Using a 3D printer to create a mould, for example, is a brilliant way to bring these technologies together to form a simpatico relationship. This would mean that you’re using CAD to design a product and its mould. You’d be able to 3D print the mould and then use this in the injection moulding process. In doing this, the wastage should be reduced, as using an additive manufacturing process means that only the materials that need to be used have been used. This creates a number of environmental benefits too; not only is the wastage reduced dramatically, but there will be less need for multiple iterations of the same mould or product.
While injection moulding doesn’t usually create single-use plastics, the current plastic crisis could push for the end of injection moulding. With the growing awareness of the environmental impact that single-use plastics can have on our planet, it’s a worry that the public would, at some point, push for a ban of all plastics. This wouldn’t be a sustainable plan, but it could result in injection moulding becoming a thing of the past in a worst-case scenario.
With the interest in polymer science in perpetual growth, the research being done lends itself to new materials for manufacturing. This is one of the most interesting parts of the injection moulding, because innovation is everything. Making sure that you’re ahead of the curve and creating somewhat experimental processes to promote efficiency and precision is the only way that our world can develop.
With this in mind, injection moulding could be taken anywhere and, in our eyes, the only way is up! Whether that means that new materials could be used, or we find new applications as time goes on, we’re excited to see what happens next.
Pro-Moulds are long-standing experts in mould tool making and injection moulding. For more information, please visit www.pro-moulds.co.uk or call 01623 904 417.