The Injection Moulding Process from Concept to Product
We are regularly asked by new clients how do I get a plastic part made and how much will it cost. Below is a brief outline of the main stages involved in a typical project.
The Production Process
To manufacture an injection moulded part a bespoke mould tool must be made and the complexity and exact cost of this will be determined by the design of the part. Usually we can have a discussion about the product and potential quantities and provide some qualified budget costs which will usually enable the client to identify if the project will work commercially.
Often customers who haven’t previously bought tooling are surprised at the tooling cost as it typically costs between £3,000 and £30,000 to produce a mould tool. This high start-up cost can often stall a project but the advantage is that once the tool is made the parts are of a high quality and capable of being produced in high volumes for a modest cost.
A typical injection moulding project would run through the following steps:
1. Preliminary Discussion
We would hold an initial meeting with the customer to determine what the product is intended to do and if it needs any unique features or properties. At this stage we would ask questions about the final use of the product, to try and establish if there are any material or design requirements which we need to consider such as flame retardancy or food contact. We will determine how much design input is required to convert their idea to a moulded part and advise on the best course of action to get their part designed. At this stage we should be able to provide a rough cost of tooling and parts.
2. Product Design
If the customer has comprehensive details about the product and just wants to get this converted to CAD then we would usually undertake this in house. If more design input is required or other disciplines are involved such as metalwork then we regularly work with 2 local designers who could carry this out. The timescale can be a few days for simple projects to several months for more complex projects requiring several iterations in the design and possibly some sample testing.
When the design has been completed either inhouse or externally it will be reviewed again by us taking into consideration DFM (Design for Manufacture) and we would also consult with the customer to gain their input.
When we are all agreed that the design has been refined, we would recommend getting some prototypes 3d printed. The cost of rapid prototyping has plummeted in the past 10 years so we recommend getting a 3d printed part for verification on nearly every job we undertake. Most parts can be produced in 5 working days if they don’t need painted or textured finishes and typical costs are £30-£250 depending on the size of the part.
Once the design has been approved by the customer and the initial payment received, the tooling can commence. This build time can take between 4 and 16 weeks and typically cost between £3k and £30k depending on complexity. When the tool build is finished it will be scheduled for a T1 (initial) trial which is used to produce sample parts for initial measurement and testing. It also enables the tool to be proven in production conditions and any refinements to ejection, flow or venting to be addressed.
Once the parts have been tested by the customer they can be produced in volume. Injection moulded parts are produced on one of our production machines which all have closed loop CNC control which monitors for any variation in the production quality of the part. This means that once set up and running the parts are all produced to a consistently high quality.
7. Capacity and Longevity
In the initial discussions of a project we are often asked how long will a tool last and how many parts can it produce. A mould tool is typically made from toughened or hardened tool steel and if producing parts in a standard unfilled material it should be capable of producing millions of parts. Like any complex moving mechanical part it will need maintenance from time to time and after many years of reliable service it might need some refurbishment but this would typically only be a small fraction of the initial outlay. By this time in the tool/products life you might actually be considering the improved Mark 2 version if the Mark 1 has been such a success and this might be a suitable time to consider improvements and further cost savings.
The production capacity of a single cavity mould tool is usually thousands or tens of thousands of parts per week. If the required production volume is likely to be high or has increased after a successful launch then it is worth discussing multiple cavity tooling which can produce more parts in the same timescale and usually at a lower cost but it is worth noting that it does result in a higher outlay for tooling.
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To request a quote please complete the form on this page with as much detail as possible, stating the approximate quantities you may need, along with a description of your injection moulding requirements. A member of our UK-based team will aim to get back to you as soon as possible.
If you would like an informal discussion about a current or future project or have an enquiry of any kind, you can also contact us on 01256 782 333. If you have a general enquiry please use our enquiry form here. We look forward to hearing from you.