When you’re getting ready to begin the injection molding process, the first choice you make—and one of the most crucial decisions—is which plastic mold manufacturing partner you’ll select. The partner you choose should, of course, deliver on all your mold requirements—but they should also prototype your part, help you with part design adjustments, warranty their work, and much more. And most importantly, the right partner will ensure you don’t end up with a useless mold that doesn’t produce quality parts—or, as we like to call a faulty mold—a boat anchor.
By asking potential plastic mold manufacturing partners these 11 questions, you’ll all but eliminate any doubt that they will be a great partner for you.
11 Questions To Ask Your Plastic Mold Manufacturing Partner
1. Can you build a tool that will match my annual volume requirement?
Molds are most often constructed in one of three classes: Class 101, 102, or 103. Each class varies in the material it uses, how (or whether) it’s hardened, the maintenance it requires, and the cycles it can tolerate before it requires adjustments. A class 101 mold, for example, is most often built from hardened stainless steel—but if you’re only going to run 50,000 parts a year, a class 102 tool built from a different, less expensive material may be more appropriate for your part. A good plastic mold manufacturing partner will walk you through the benefits and considerations of each class of mold, and guide you to the class that is ideal for your situation.
2. Can we get a warranty on the tool?
Be advised: Many plastic mold manufacturing companies do not offer warranties unless you specifically request one. Even if they do, study the ins and outs of the warranty and precisely what it covers before signing on the dotted line.
At Micron, we typically warranty a class 101 tool, for example, for up to one million cycles without any cost to the customer. This means we’d cover any and all maintenance and/or expense on the mold up to that point. So if you have a 64-cavity tool from Micron, this warranty would last you through 64 million parts.
3. Do you do mold-making in house or are they made overseas?
Some plastic mold manufacturers simply broker a mold deal between your company and an overseas mold maker. There can be major differences between a tool created in China vs.the U.S.—check out this article for a full rundown.
4. Do you have the ability to rapid prototype or 3D print parts to reveal potential flaws in the design?
The creation of your tool is one of the most expensive parts of the injection molding process, so doing it wrong is not an option. You can make adjustments in the prototyping stage until the mold is correct—but otherwise, changes are expensive.
Here at Micron, once we have a tool order, we print a prototype of the part for free. Giving customers a chance to see alternate ideas, or flaws in the design, helps us both in making a better part.
5. Can you build a mold for the size part I need?
Not every molding manufacturer is equipped to mold extremely large or extremely small plastic parts. If you’re building an injection molded car bumper, for example, some plastic mold manufacturers won’t have the capability to mold something of that magnitude. If the company asserts that they can build an unusual-size injection mold, ask for examples of similar parts they’ve previously created .
6. What materials will the finished mold be able to handle?
If your plastic part will be molded using highly abrasive plastic material—or a type of plastic material that is injected at very high temperatures—you’ll want to be certain the company you’re considering can build a mold that will handle these requirements.
7. How do you achieve the right mold tolerances?
Specific mold tolerances may be critical for your plastic part, and understanding how the molder achieves and validates those tolerances is useful information to have. Additionally, if any part of your mold needs specialized measurements—say, an one-dimensional automotive part that needs to be extremely precise so there’s no variation part-to-part—be sure to let them know ahead of time.
8. What is your process for high-cavitation molding?
If you need a high-cavity mold, find out how your potential mold manufacturing partner manages the mold building process. For example, to ensure that plastic evenly distributes in your high-cavitation mold, your partner should include a high-quality hot manifold (used to inject plastic into the mold) to assist with this distribution process.
9. Can you validate that the mold will work?
To validate what they build, your mold manufacturing partner will need to sample the tool to ensure it produces quality parts. If you’re getting your mold separate from your injection molding manufacturer, be sure that the tool is sampled at the same cycle and cooling time you’ll need when you move to production. For example, if your part requires a 30-second cycle time and the part needs to cool for 15 seconds, but the sample only includes a 2 second cooling stage, the sample parts won’t be an accurate reproduction of what you’ll get during production.
10. What specific molding capabilities can you accommodate?
If you need to fit a small metal bearing inside your plastic part, you likely need a vertical injection mold. If you’re molding a computer mouse or a toothbrush with a hard plastic material and soft plastic grip, you’ll need either two-shot or overmolding. Be certain your mold manufacturer can create a mold for the characteristics you require.
11. How quickly can you turn out a mold?
Everyone wants something fast, cheap, and high quality—but we typically tell our customers they can can have two out of three. For example, if you want a high-quality mold created fast, it’ll cost you. And some mold manufacturers specialize in rapid tooling, but these molds are typically fast and cheap, not high quality. At any rate, be sure the mold manufacturing company you select can turn out a mold in the timeline you require. Here at Micron, if you need a tool built more quickly than usual, we can often partner with outside resources to save time. Or, if you need a mold built for less than our mold shop can create it for, we can partner with outside tool builders that will work under our quality and engineering guidelines.
You know what to ask a potential mold manufacturer—but what about your injection molding manufacturer?
In this ebook, you’ll learn about 13 questions to ask an injection molding company before selecting them. Download it for free today!