What Is the Molding Pressure

Molding pressure typically refers to a measurement of force within an injection molding machine. In injection molding, plastic resins are melted and pushed into a steel or aluminum mold, fabricating small plastic parts. The mold pressure determines with what force the melted resin is forced through the machine and injected into the awaiting mold.

Solid plastic objects can be fabricated using a process called injection molding. An injection molding machine begins with a large hopper into which small plastic pellets, called resin, are loaded. The pellets are then heated to a certain temperature and melted. Inside the machine, molding pressure determines the speed at which material is passed by a large, rotating screw or ram and injected into the mold. A mold is typically a steel or aluminum block which is hollowed out in the reverse shape of the item to be molded. Then when the melted plastic is injected into the mold and subsequently cooled, it has conformed to the shape and created the part.

The amount of molding pressure should be enough to fill the mold completely, preventing what are known as short shots, or plastic parts that are not formed all the way. If this happens, the molding pressure should be increased. Once the mold is full, the pressure is reduced and stays level while the parts cool. Once the plastic cools, the mold is opened and the part is ejected from the machine.

The manufacturers of resin can assist machine operators with the complex task of determining optimum pressure for the plastic in the machine, but practically speaking, exact pressure is tested through trial and error. Molding pressure affects the velocity — or flow rate — which is another variable, along with temperature and time required to cool the plastic. Once the variables for optimum performance are established, an injection molding machine can be set to these levels for future runs, with minor adjustments necessary from time to time throughout the life of the machine and the mold.

The molding pressure on an injection molding machine is regulated by a pressure gauge and can be programmed to a certain pressure rate. The least amount of pressure needed to fill the mold should be used. This means the least amount of energy will be expended.

In the US, pressure is measured in pounds per square inch (psi). In many other countries, pressure is measured in bars. A bar is equal to 100 kilopascals, or approximately the measurement of the pressure of the atmosphere at sea level.

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What Is a Plastic Test

A plastic test is any type of test done on a sample of plastic. These tests can be used to determine the strength, flexibility, or durability of a plastic and are often used as a measure of quality control. Laboratories that offer to perform plastic tests use a variety of different machines and techniques to determine the quality of the plastic.

One common type of plastic test is a test of how the plastic holds up under different temperatures. For this type of test, a sample of the plastic is placed in a chamber where the temperature is either raised or lowered at a slow but constant rate. Engineers watch for changes in the quality of the plastic, such as expansion, breaking, melting, or contraction, depending on the specifications of the test, and note the temperature at which the change took place.

Plastics may also be tested for how durable they are under stress. One plastic test that determines durability uses a machine that bends a piece of plastic until it breaks. In another type of test, a piece of plastic may be pressed firmly between two sides of a machine until it compresses or cracks with the strain. Engineers may also use a machine that hits the sample, testing the capacity of the plastic to resist the impact and slow it down. Examining the forces used in each of these types of stress tests gives engineers information about how strong a sample of plastic is.

Some plastics that are intended for use as lenses may also undergo a plastic test that determines how the plastic interferes with light that passes through it. In one such test, a light with a specific wavelength is viewed through the sample, and the color and quality of the light is compared to the color and quality of the same wavelength of light that has not passed through a lens. Haze, or the amount of visible light that is refracted as it passes through a plastic lens, may also be tested in a similar plastic test.

For plastics that are intended for use in different types of conditions, weathering tests may also be performed. A sample can be tested to see how much water it absorbs or to see at what temperature it will catch on fire. A machine that mimics the effects of weather over a long period of time may be used in a plastic test that determines how a sample will hold up over time and exposure to the elements.

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What Is a Hot Runner

A hot runner is a heated nozzle and manifold assembly installed on injection molding equipment. This assembly allows the plastic charge material left in the feed mechanism to remain fluid after injection while the part itself cools and solidifies. Injection molds equipped with hot runners are more economical, featuring faster cycle times and less material wastage. These savings are possible due to the fact that the manifold and nozzles keep the plastic in them fluid between injection cycles, eliminating the wasted time and material associated with the solidified “runners” in conventional cold molds. Installing a heated runner assembly adds significantly to the cost of any mold, limiting the viable use of the devices to high-production volume processes.

Injection molding is a production process where granulated materials, typically various grades of plastic, are melted and injected into a mold under pressure. Once the injection process is completed, the mold and parts are allowed to cool and solidify, allowing the product to be ejected from the mold cavity. The path within the mold followed by the melted plastic prior to reaching the actual cavity is known as a manifold or runner. Typically, these consist of one or more narrow channels. each ending in a nozzle which forms the cavity entrance. In conventional cold mold processes, the plastic left in these channels and nozzles cools and solidifies along with the molded part.

These solidified sprues or “runners” are then discarded prior to commencement of the next injection cycle. This not only represents material wastage, particularly in cases where the runners can’t be recycled, but also adds a production step to the process. This increases cycle times, cuts down on productivity and increases the unit cost of the parts produced. The use of a hot runner system almost entirely eliminates these problems by keeping the plastic in the manifold channels and nozzle fluid between injection cycles. This is achieved by including electrical heating elements in the manifold and nozzles, which keeps those parts at a constant temperature of approximately 550 to 590 °F (290 to 310°C).

Hot runner heating elements fall into two categories: internal and external types. External hot runner heaters are located withing the manifold body immediately adjacent to the channels and around the outside of the nozzles. Internal heater elements are located within the channels and nozzles. Although the internal heating method is used in some specialist applications and older machines, the more efficient external heating method has largely replaced it. While the use of hot runner systems represents significant savings, the high associated installation costs restrict their use.

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What Is Coinjection

Coinjection is an injection molding process in which different polymers are injected into the same mold to produce a specific effect. In many cases, the desired effects include changing the physical properties of the polymers or reducing production costs. This process is also known as sandwich molding. There are two types of coinjection processes: machine based and mold based. Each type offers its own specific advantages and applications.

Machine based coinjection requires the use of two or more processing units. This is considered a cold-runner process. The molten plastic of each processing unit is forced through a manifold where it is combined and then exits through a single nozzle. By processing the plastic through this means, the result is a core product covered by a skin of polymer.

Mold based coinjection is a hot-runner process in which the two molten plastics are kept separate until the last phase. The streams are joined when they reach the mold, forming a part with a dual layered effect. This type of molding is commonly seen in household products such as toothbrush handles that have a clear outer surface surrounding a colored core. While this application is suitable for creating certain aesthetic effects, it is also useful in other ways. The combination of a core product with an overlay of polymer allows manufacturers to create a wide variety of different properties for products.

The reduced cooling time required in the coinjection process makes this method a practical technique for low temperature core products. By using an inexpensive recycled core material coated with a more costly polymer skin, the manufacturer can save production costs. In a similar arrangement, a strong core material, such as glass, can be used to add strength and rigidity to a more flexible polymer. In some cases, coinjection molding is combined with a foam core to create products with sound absorption properties.

Aside from the obvious benefits to the manufacturing side of the process, coinjection offers advantages from a consumer and environmental standpoint, as well. This process makes recycling of plastic parts and post-industrial materials possible. These materials are ground and used to form inexpensive cores for injection molded parts. By using recycled materials, it lowers the cost to consumers and eliminates waste products in landfills. The strength added by core choices can also result in more durable, long-lasting products.

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What Is a Flow Mark

Sometimes known as flow lines, flow marks are a phenomenon that can occur during the process of injection molding. A flow mark is usually manifested as a line or series of lines which form a pattern that is slightly off-color from the rest of the molded material. There are several reasons why this type of pattern can appear, including issues with the speed that the injection is taking place.

The creation of a flow mark is usually an indication that there is some problem with the process used to created the plastics. Most commonly, flow mark patterns occur when the rate of injection is slower than it should be. When this happens, the plastic has time to cool during the injection, resulting in the uneven and somewhat wavy lines that appear in the molded material. Typically, increasing the injection speed will reduce the incidence of the flow mark patterns and allow the plastic materials to have an unblemished appearance.

For the most part, the presence of a flow mark is seen as a defect. This means that manufacturers will normally monitor the efficiency of the equipment used in the injection molding process to make sure the injections are occurring at a speed that is in keeping with company standards. Quality inspectors usually examine samples from every lot of plastic goods produced in order to determine if there is any presence of flow mark patterns, and call for adjustments before the next lot is poured using the same equipment. When there is some sort of malfunction and a piece or several pieces are produced with prominent flow lines, they are often sold as second-quality goods, even though the pieces can normally be used with no apparent decrease in efficiency.

Businesses generally attempt to keep the incidence of those marks as low as possible. This is true when the production process calls for the production of plastic goods that are intended to have smooth surfaces with no lines or patterns in the plastic itself. There are instances in which the creation of the flow mark is intentional, adjusting the speed of the injection so that the plastic does have the chance to cool and form the pattern. By managing the injection at various speed throughout the process, it is possible to create an interesting pattern on the finished piece.

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Cost Effective Injection Molding Tips from a Design and Engineering Firm

Injection molding is one of the most popular and effective manufacturing processes, because it is capable of producing high quality parts in large numbers, and generally very quickly. In a nutshell, injection molding is when a material (generally plastic) is heated until pliable, forced into a mold made for a specific purpose, allowed to cool and harden, and then ejected from the mold. Depending on how the mold is made (and what material is being injection molded), this process can be repeated over and over in order to create large numbers of a given product. Although popular and effective, injection molding is not a cheap process; projects typically cost between $10,000 and a few hundred thousand dollars to manufacture. Let’s look at some ways to ensure that cost effective injection molding is a reality for your project.

Tips for cost effective injection molding 

Make sure you’re using the right material. Did you know that there are hundreds of plastics (let alone other materials) that can be injection molded? It’s important to consider what function you want a particular piece to accomplish, and which material is most appropriate to make that happen. Does a piece need to be pliable or rigid? Will it be exposed to heat or extreme temperature deviations? How does Factor of Safety affect the materials required for design? It’s a common mistake to assume that a state-of-the-art, top-of-the-line material is the right one to utilize, but if its good qualities aren’t pertinent to your project, then they are essentially useless – and may cost more money overall. For instance, why use a 40% glass filled nylon when polyethylene would do the trick just as well? The best material for injection molding is the one that best fits your requirements and is not simply the better material overall.

Identify where processes can be consolidated. There are a lot of secondary processes involved in producing a part from scratch. Such processes (like custom inserts, label printing, painting, etc.) can prove to be time consuming, as they require extensive setup – and in injection molding, time is money. All those extra costs – and the time that could have been saved with better production management – ultimately drive the part price up. The best practice is to try to combine all of these processes into one single robust process.

Be selective when choosing who does the injection molding. Like most industries, the injection molding industry is full of small, mid-size, and large companies. One or the other may be more appropriate depending on your project. Smaller companies will generally offer more flexibility and lower costs, whereas prices may be driven up with large companies due to higher overhead, higher salaries, and sometimes more advanced technology. In general, it’s best to choose a company that has experience molding your type of product, as it will save time during the research and development part of the project. Remember that bigger and more expensive does not necessarily equal better quality.

Consider bulk production. Molding operations are rarely personal projects or projects that will produce small numbers. In the research and development phase alone, some projects produce hundreds or thousands of prototypes, as many benefits come from extensive testing and feedback. When the product moves into the production phase, it is even more important to be able to mold as many parts in one shot as possible. Molds for production should also have as many cavities as possible without compromising the quality of the parts produced. In a competitive market, a product must be the best it can be while also being affordable. That is why it is advisable to produce as many parts as possible at one time – because it spreads the setup cost out over more parts, thus leaving you with a lower price per piece. You can now sell your product in a competitive market. 

Is the mold design optimized for cost effective injection molding? In mold design, as in bulk production, it is beneficial if you can produce as many parts as possible in a single shot. For mold design, it is also very important to be able to eject the plastic product quickly and to be ready for the next shot without wasting movements. Rods, an air blast, or a plate are typically used for the ejection stage of injection molding. Every second in the injection molding process translates into money, so it is critical to minimize the mechanisms of molding to as few and as fast as possible. A design and engineering firm that is familiar with the nuances of injection molding will create parts that will lend themselves to optimized mold design.

Optimize product design and materials. You can save a considerable amount of money, especially in material consumption, with an optimized product design. Using ribs and gussets to reinforce a product, for example, will save on material consumption, as well as ensuring that the product has uniform wall thickness that is neither too thin nor too thick. Incorporating adequate draft is also essential, as it allows for quick ejection of the product from the mold, saving time and money. If there is a need for a mechanism in the product, there are quite a few to choose from. Many can be incorporated into the molding process without the need for secondary processes or machining. Some mechanisms, such as living hinges, take advantage of the properties of the material that was used to mold the plastic part. These mechanisms can be made directly from the molding process versus spending extra time and money on other processes, such as stamping.

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5 Different Design Methodologies in Solidworks

Five design features in Solidworks that every design engineer should know

Designing in Solidworks starts with a 2-dimensional sketch. From a 2D sketch one can create 3-dimensional objects using built-in tools called “features.” Features are simply different ways of converting 2D outlines into 3D objects. Two of the most common tools (methods) for doing this are extrusions (the “extrude” feature) and revolutions (the “revolve” feature).

  1. Extrusions: The Extrude feature takes a 2D sketch in the x-y plane and gives it thickness or depth by developing it linearly in the z-axis. For example, a sketch of a circle would be extruded into a cylinder. A sketch of a square would be extruded into a rectangular block (or a cube in the event the thickness were made to be the same as the x and y dimensions).
  2. Revolutions: solidworks tips for design engineersThe Revolve feature takes a 2D sketch in the x-y plane and gives it thickness or depth by rotating it about one of the two sketch axes (i.e. the x or y axis). A commonly known item that demonstrates the utility of the revolve feature is a pawn from the game of chess. An otherwise extremely intricate piece to design, the revolve feature allows the designer to develop a 2D profile which is rotated about the vertical axis for 360 degrees and easily completes the part.

Although extrusions and revolutions are some of the most common features used to design parts in Solidworks, they are nowhere near the only available options. Here are three more features that help round out a basic inventory of design tools:

  1. Sweeps: The designer can create parts using multiple sketches on perpendicular planes. One sketch will act as the profile and the other will act as the path. The profile sketch is dragged along the path to create the 3 dimensional object. The sweep feature is very effective for things like handles or pipes.solidworks tips for design engineers
  2. Surfaces and Lofts: Surfaces typically work similar to sweeps in that they utilize profile and path sketches but they also introduce guide curves. Guide curves act as a second path of sorts in the event that the surface is not going to be symmetric about the path. Surfaces are great for things like handles or nozzles. Additionally, surfaces are hollow by default (the designer simply applies a thickness to the shape which is different than most solid parts). Lofts are typically used to connect different pieces into a single part by using mathematical equations that blend the curves between parts according to the designer’s inputs.
  3. Sheet Metal: Sheet metal drawings are the most effective way to design parts that are actually manufactured by sheet metal forming (adding flanges and bends to a flat “sheet” of metal).solidworkstips.png

In truth, even these five features are only the beginning. There are a great many other tools to design and refine the design of various parts such as patterns (linear and circular are very common), holes, and a built-in toolbox for off-the-shelf (OTS) components. When determining which tools and/or features to use in your design, it is often useful to think about how the part will be fabricated once you are finished with the design. Some processes are subtractive (such as CNC), while others, like sheet metal work, manipulate a flat surface in different ways. Sometimes it is easy to buy components from manufacturers that make their Solidworks files available on the web. Sometimes parts are combined via fasteners and in other instances they might be welded together. Solidworks has powerful design tools for all of these decisions and more.

Pro Tip: Once you’ve settled on the right design, think about how you’ll display it to your clientele. What types of files do you want to export when you are finished with your design? The three most fundamental file types are .sldprt (the basic file extension for a part designed in Solidworks), .sldasm (the basic file extension for an assembly of multiple parts designed in Solidworks), and .slddwg (the basic file extension for a Solidworks drawing). But are these the right files to send to a customer?

  1. Sending files to customers: Oftentimes when we send files to a client it will be as a .STP or .STEP file. The interesting thing about this file type is that it doesn’t display the individual features that were used to build the part but rather simply displays the part as a single piece. E-drawings are another good way to send pictures or videos of the design to individuals who do not have Solidworks on their computer. Functional depictions of designs can be exported in multiple formats such as html, .exe (executable files) or .zip.
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Avoiding Design and Engineering Mistakes in Injection Molding

To bring an idea from concept to reality is no small task – ask any engineer, entrepreneur, or inventor. No matter how basic the product, there are a lot of moving parts required to get an idea designed,prototyped, and then manufactured. Avoiding costly mistakes is a must, and one of the biggest mistakes that can be made early on is poor design. A great design and engineering company can help you create a product that is designed for function, aesthetics, assembly, manufacturing, and more. Design for manufacturing is a way to minimize costly mistakes later in the production process, and there are a lot of considerations to take into account – especially when a part will be injection molded.

Injection molding is a common way to manufacture parts made from plastic, and with it comes certain considerations during the design process. In a nutshell, polymers in granule form are gravity fed through a hopper into a heating barrel, which melts the plastic. It is then forced through a nozzle under pressure and injected into a custom-made mold. The material is then allowed to cool, so that it holds its shape when ejected from the mold. Various factors will add to the complexity or cost to manufacture with injection molding, such as what material is used for the molds (steel, aluminum, beryllium copper, etc), how many cycles a mold can withstand, how long each cycle takes, whether gates are trimmed manually or automatically, and more. Injection molding is particularly suited to parts that need to be made in large quantities quickly and reliably. Let’s discuss different factors to check when a product will be injection molded so that costly mistakes are avoided.

Proper gate design, size, and location for injection molding

The gate is the opening in a mold through which molten plastic is injected under pressure. Depending on whatever piece is being created, there may be more than one gate, different types of gates, and gates in different locations. Each of these can have a positive, neutral, or negative effect on the finished piece. For instance, every type of gate will leave a mark of some sort on the part being molded – direct gates leave a large linear vestige, while hot tip gates leave a small raised blister or nub. Does it matter aesthetically or functionally if the scar is on a particular side of the completed part? Or does it need to be on the top or bottom? Poor design when it comes to gate location can result in voids or excessive sink. In addition to gate location, gate size must also be considered; larger gates permit more flow and shorter cycle time, but will also leave larger marks. Smaller gates leave a smaller vestige, but may not be ideal for proper flow and filling. Gates may be automatically or manually trimmed after the material has set. Automatic gate removal when the part is ejected from the mold avoids an additional operational step and therefore may be more cost- and time-effective, but some materials cannot withstand the shear forces required for automatic gate removal, and therefore must have the gate removed manually.

Do you have the proper wall thickness for injection molding?

When at all possible, parts should be designed with uniform wall thickness. Why? An important part of the injection mold process is when the part is cooling down, and thicker walls will take longer to cool than thinner walls. This disparity in hardening time can result in warping, cracking, or other injection molding defects, which are amplified with high shrinkage materials. (Learn about the top ten injection molding defects and how to prevent them here.) If uniform wall thickness absolutely cannot be achieved, it is possible to mitigate some adverse effects by gradually transitioning from one thickness to another. Design features like ribs and chamfers can help, as well as going back to the drawing board in general.

Design to avoid sink marks

As mentioned above, thicker parts will cool at a different rate than thinner pieces, and this can create warping, additional stress, and sink marks. The inner portion of a feature becomes insulated by the already-cooled outside, and different cooling rates mean that the inner portion will shrink inwards. This can be a difficult situation when the strength of a solid piece is required, but solid pieces that are injection molded are much more prone to developing sink marks. One way to mitigate this drawback is to core out the middle of a solid piece and reinforce it with ribs. Another is to design walls as thin as possible; thinner walls cool faster and thus decrease production time (which further decreases costs). It’s also possible to camouflage minor sink with textures…keep reading to learn more about textures.

Using textures in injection molding

As part of the manufacturing process, textures can be added to hide imperfections, increase functionality for the end user, or to lend a certain aesthetic. Texturing might include a certain finish (like gloss or matte), or actually refer to raised patterns molded into the part (crosshatching, lines, checkered, etc). Failing to factor in texturing during the design process can result in costly mistakes later, however. For instance, if a raised pattern is not accounted for during the CAD* phase of design, then ejection problems may occur if there is not enough draft factored in for a textured piece. In turn, this can result in a lot of wasted product and lost time. *Read here for Solidworks tips from the people who use it most.

Designing for stress avoidance in injection molding

To be clear, a certain amount of stress in a part is unavoidable. The very process of injection molding, in which the molecules in a resin are broken down, injected, and then allowed to harden and reform is a weakening process. For obvious reasons, it is not a good use of money to manufacture parts that are stressed to the limits of their functionality. Thankfully, there are multiple considerations throughout the manufacturing process that can counter the potential weakening associated with injection molding. First, a great design and engineering firm is going to select the proper material based on client, safety, aesthetic and functional requirements. Certain plastics are pliable, for instance, others are strong, and still others have a variety of characteristics that may be advantageous for a particular application. (To learn about various plastics commonly used in injection molding, and which might be appropriate for your own project, visit our Plastics page.) Other ways to minimize the stress built into injection molded parts are to ensure gradual transitions between different features, and to create corners that are not hard or sharp.

Be selective when choosing a design and engineering company

There is a difference between simply getting a design from a random design firm, and going to a company that has a lot of experience creating parts that will eventually be injection molded. The former route leaves much more room for error, and increases the chances that there will be a lot of back and forth between the injection molding company and the client. Conversely, design engineers who are very familiar with the injection molding process can design with the particular advantages and disadvantages of manufacturing in mind. The path from concept ideation to hitting the shelves is long and busy; it’s important to settle on the absolutely right design before going to manufacturing. To do otherwise is to lose valuable time, and like most industries, time costs money.

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Design for Affordability and Different Ways to Minimize Costs of Production

There are so many obstacles in getting a product from concept to shelves for consumer use; design, finding the right partners and funding, manufacturing costs, the validation process, competing patents, and more can all combine to make the consumer product process a fairly intimidating endeavor to undertake. That being said, billions of products have made it to market, so there are definitely chances for success. One of the ways in which we aim to help our clients is to share elements of success that we’ve gleaned from decades in design and engineering, and how to optimize for manufacturing and eventually market success!

As you might infer from above, design is a critical component of the consumer product development process, because it is really the first opportunity to create something awesome (and conversely, avoid making costly mistakes later on as a result of poor design). There are a number of objectives to prioritize when designing a part or a product, such as design for assembly, design for manufacturing, and so on. Aesthetics may be more or less important based on the specifics of the project; function is always important. In most cases, the need to design for affordability is a significant factor and an important consideration on the way to success. Let’s discuss different ways to design a part or piece for affordability.

How to design for affordability in the consumer product development process

  • Minimizing parts to the maximum extent possible. Generally, the fewer components there are in a given project, the lower the labor cost to put it together…as well as lower chances of incorrect assembly when 3 parts are used rather than 13. This also means that fewer fasteners are required. Typically, the cost savings from optimization of part assembly considerably exceed the extra costs of mold adjustments and material requirements. Use the KISS method and Keep It Simple in order to meet requirements most effectively. For instance, if snap tabs and fastener locations are done correctly, it’s possible to use only one injection molding tool for a particular assembly. Assess your design for any opportunity to combine functions and thus reduce the final number of parts required for assembly. One good way to get ideas on how to minimize parts is to look at earlier iterations of the same product. Complex tools typically have an origin as simple tools; consider simple mechanisms like levers, gears, and springs and how they may accomplish the same function that multiple parts are currently accomplishing. Bottom line: Minimizing the number of parts in a design will drive down costs, and also decrease chances of improper assembly.
  • Utilize commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) parts as opposed to custom parts. This is an important concept for one major reason: you can leverage the work that has already been done by others in terms of capital/equipment, process development, and process validation. Consider that all of the manufacturing equipment has already been invested in, created, and tested. By using COTS equipment where possible, you can save money on costly procedures that have already been accomplished by someone else. You may pay a slightly higher price for a finished product, but it’s unlikely to be more than the costs you would incur by reinventing the wheel! Another potential downside to using COTS equipment is relying on another company’s product; it would be hard to control upward changes in price or decreased production in the future, so these are risks that need to be accounted for. Bottom line: Using COTS equipment is a smart way to leverage the capital and expertise that others have already invested.
  • Volume, volume, volume. The manufacturing process is time- and capital-intensive. One of the easiest ways to drive down cost per unit is to manufacture higher numbers…think thousands, tens of thousands, and even hundreds of thousands of parts. It is expensive to create, alter, or adjust heavy machinery (as well as the energy required to run manufacturing equipment), so it is important to get the maximum amount of use when you’re paying for time and equipment. Take the injection molding process for example. In many cases, a specific mold must be custom created, which costs money and time. The number of parts required will be a driving factor in what sort of material to use for the mold, which will also impact cost; steel molds cost more than aluminum molds, but will generally last much longer. When a product moves into the production phase, it is even more important to be able to mold as many parts in one shot as possible. Molds for production should also have as many cavities as possible without compromising the quality of the parts produced. In a competitive market, a product must be the best it can be while also being affordable. That is why it is advisable to produce as many parts as possible at one time – because it spreads the setup cost out over more parts, thus leaving you with a lower price per piece. Bottom line: Complex machinery is capital-intensive and time is money. Leverage the equipment’s capacity to make thousands of parts to drive down cost per unit. (Pro tip: Use a design and engineering company that has extensive familiarity with the manufacturing process you are going to use. This ensures that any final design is compatible with the process, and common opportunities for mistakes are mitigated.)
  • Reduce weight wherever possible. Excess material means extra cost, so this is definitely an avenue to explore during the design process. Design for affordability must be balanced with design for function – when a particular strength is required, care must be taken to achieve this functionality without also wasting material. Using ribs and gussets to reinforce a product, for example, will save on material consumption, as well as ensuring that the product has uniform wall thickness that is neither too thin nor too thick (which is an important consideration for injection molding in particular).
  • Assess which functions can be accomplished with automation rather than labor. In general, labor is expensive (especially in the United States). Design for affordability may require using manufacturing equipment that is located elsewhere in the country, or in another country entirely. This is especially true if the product is going to be distributed or sold elsewhere (to cut down on transportation and shipping costs, which must also be factored into price per unit). Design for affordability also means to seek out automated processes wherever possible.

As you can see, there are multiple ways to mitigate the costs of the manufacturing process, but this is by no means an all-inclusive list. It may not be feasible to manufacture in another country, or perhaps manual labor is required for a particular application, but there are multiple ways to design for affordability that companies, engineers, and inventors can keep in mind.

How can Creative Mechanisms assist organizations with design for affordability?

As mentioned above, design is one of the first critical points of the product development process. Of course, the concept must be a good one to begin with (read more about that here), but product design really sets the tone for success or failure. There are a few characteristics that are helpful to creating the right solution to a complex problem:

  • An environment that fosters creativity and problem-solving among a team. Creating an environment where team members can brainstorm and constantly iterate on a solution is key to success. Out-of-the-box thinking can present solutions in unexpected ways. One of the ways Creative Mechanisms fosters this environment is through our U-shaped arrangement and the way our team members interact with each other. We also take great care to hire individuals who are passionate about problem-solving and have the skills and tools necessary to innovate. You can get a better idea of this by reading some of our employee profiles (learn about Michael, Nick, and Ersen, just to name a few).
  • Expertise with computer-aided design (CAD) software. CAD is an incredibly important component of the design and engineering world. Our team has proficiency particularly with SolidWorks. We use this software to design solutions, and we then create prototypes for our clients that can be tested, evaluated, changed as necessary, and more. If you would like to learn more about using SolidWorks, read the following blogs:
    • SolidWorks Tips for Design and Engineering
    • Different Design Methodologies in SolidWorks
  • A breadth of experience. One of the characteristics that sets our team apart is the breadth of experience we’ve garnered over the years. We have created solutions for clients in the medical device, consumer products, automotive, personal care, toy industry, and more. We pride ourselves on this diversity, and our ability to transfer skills or lessons learned from one project into another. We have brought multiple products to market, and have assisted countless clients with the same. We can lend assistance as consultants, designers, model-makers, and engineers, and we are passionate about finding the best way forward for clients. But don’t take it from us – read some of the Client Testimonials we’ve collected that you can read here.
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Top 10 Reasons to Use a Professional Design and Engineering Team

Innovative companies use a variety of methods to find design and engineering success in the product development process. Some organizations have in-house designers, others use large industrial design  firms, and still others partner with small, skilled teams like we have at Creative Mechanisms. In this blog, we’ll discuss the merits of using a specialized group of design engineers for product development, as well as the benefits that that smaller firms provide.

Why you should use a design and engineering team to bring an idea from concept to reality.

  • Manufacturing costs will be lower. Every additional part in a mechanism translates into additional costs by way of extra material usage, extra manpower, and extra time to produce. Simply put, the more parts a mechanism has, the more it costs to make. One of the most apparent and immediate benefits of working with a design and engineering team is the reduction in manufacturing costs, because an experienced mechanism design team has “been there, done that” and will be able to find a simple solution that still achieves the desired result. (See some of the solutions we have come up with here.)

    In addition, every part in a mechanism is able to do only so much; known as the “part tolerance,” this must be considered when determining which parts to put together in a mechanism. Years of experience will have taught the mechanism design team which parts work together most effectively and which parts can be combined to achieve the desired motion with the simplest means. Because they have this knowledge, less time will ultimately be wasted tinkering with design options.

  • Your product will be easier to manufacture. The most elegant solution to a mechanism is the one that uses the fewest parts possible to create a series of complex motions. The elimination of excess parts reduces assembly time in addition to manufacturing costs, and it also improves the manufacturability of your mechanism. A design and engineering team must also constantly be aware of the way that the product will be physically assembled on the factory floor. The design of the assembly is just as important as the design of the mechanism, because the mechanism must be tested when it is assembled – without closing the housing. An upside down assembly in which you are able to install all the mechanical parts in the top housing is the best assembly method; your team of mechanism design specialists will be experienced in the tricks and nuances of this technique. (Read our comprehensive blogs Design for Assembly and Design for Manufacturing and Manufacturing Process Improvement.)
  • A small, highly functioning team is more nimble. Bigger is not always better. There are absolutely benefits to working with a large industrial design company, but one of the most critical components to successful product design is being quick to adapt changes and reiterate. How quickly can your design engineers go through the Design – Fail – Learn – Repeat process? The team that can iterate quickly and successfully is most likely to bring in a project on time and on budget. When you have a dynamic team that works well together, but is not burdened by the trappings of bureaucracy, then you have gained a significant advantage over your competition. At a firm like Creative Mechanisms, the sole purpose of our design team is to engineer solutions and communicate with clients…no additional duties, no red tape, and no lengthy decision-making process.
  • The odds of developing better features for your product will increase. When you approach a design and engineering team, chances are that you have one thing on your mind: getting your product to market as quickly as possible. Even if improving product design is on your mind, it’s probably not at the forefront; you’ve spent so much time working with this product that you feel like your design is finished – and now you want to make as many as possible in the least amount of time. Meeting with a group of mechanism design engineers, however, is akin to meeting with a group of muses; if you let them use their deep wells of knowledge and experience to think of new designs for your product, they might even discover that your design can do completely new functions that you never considered. If you embrace the opportunity to consult with a design and engineering team, their creativity and imagination can only heighten and improve the uniqueness and functionality of your design, especially in the conceptualization stage. Each member of the team will interpret problems differently, and these concepts can be presented to the client to create a “super” concept, which combines the best elements of multiple solutions.  Your product may have more potential than you imagined.
  • Get a better functioning design. A good design and engineering team will evaluate all the possible ways of achieving your desired function. They know more methods of achieving that function because of their experience. They have seen and made a wider variety of mechanisms simply because they do this day in and day out. They have a tried and true process for evaluating options and determining the best solution based on cost, manufacturing, reliability, consumer preference, and ergonomics.

 

  • You can shorten your time to market. A good team of specialists works so well together that your design can be passed around in such a way that the most efficient person for each stage of design and production is hard at work on that portion of the project. Having multiple people – especially experienced people – working on a project simultaneously means that your project will be finished more quickly. And because each step has been assigned to the best person for the job, you know that each phase of making your design a reality is being completed in the most efficient manner possible. In addition, multiple people working on a single project prevents boredom; energy and enthusiasm will remain high and your product will be finished and to market more quickly than if you worked on the project by yourself or with only one specialist. Read our comprehensive guide on bringing products to market.
  • Your ideas and designs will be treated with ultimate discretion. Signing a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) is an industry standard for design and engineering teams. But you will also benefit from the accumulated knowledge that designers accrue after working on various projects in various industries for years. While we can’t always share our success stories publicly, we can adapt lessons learned from previous projects into a better solution for you.
  • Your product will be of higher quality. Why try to solve a problem multiple times when you can get it right the first time? An experienced mechanism design team has had multiple opportunities and projects that allowed them to experiment with a product similar to yours, which means that the testing has been done, the mistakes have been made, and now, instead of working to make your product right, you can work to make it better. This means you can work on reducing parts, finding parts with higher tolerances, and other things that will improve your mechanism design.
  • You’ll have a greater opportunity for Intellectual Property Ownership. Many mechanisms are rooted in fundamental mechanical concepts,
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Edited by Leafly Mould Provides Injection Mold, Plastic Mold, Injection Molding, Die Casting Mold, Stamping Mold