In Conversation: Plastic Injection Molding Challenges and Expertise

by Sarra Zoghlami

Listen to our interview with plastic injection industry expert Scott Peters, Division Chair at SPE Mold Technologies.

Peters brings his nearly 50 years of experience to our conversation about the concerns that are shaping the industry. We delve into the issues and challenges facing molders and mold makers today, the factors driving change in the plastic injection industry, and the core principles needed for success.

Modern molding challenges

The molder’s and mold maker’s main challenge is to get a part out of the tool that is representative of what the product designer had in mind. It is at the core of what they do.

Molders are on the constant quest to make the product better and more profitable, with a shorter lead time. Problems can sneak in in many ways, whether with the tooling or with the injection phase.

The cooling phase is key to both quality and profitability. Unfortunately, its importance is often discounted, and the cooling phase is not properly taken into account early enough in the development process.

If you’ve ever found yourself thinking I’ve got everything designed, how do I get the water in there? it’s time to consider adding new tools to your toolbox.

Mold designers are an experienced bunch – they have solid intuition and a good eye – but they aren’t infallible. Even the best and most experienced mold designers miss things.

“Having a tool that would allow us to predict the hot spots and maybe adjust for those would be wonderful,” says Peters.

Driving change in mold making

The tried and true method for cooling solutions is to rely on the mold designer’s experience. Mold designers who have been around for 15-20 years have really good experience and intuition to draw from.

The problem is that not many people are going into a career in mold design, and the workforce is aging and shrinking. “The intuition is walking out the door as people retire,” says Peters. “We have to replace intuition with technology.”

The plastic injection industry in general has been slow to adopt tools for digital transformation. However, as molders and mold makers increasingly recognize the need to be more competitive, they are looking for ways to improve their bottom line and deliver the highest quality products with the least lead time.

Solutions such as mold flow simulation tools, conformal cooling and alternate high-thermal materials all have benefits, but they come at a steep price, and they don’t always work.

Trust is key to adopting new tech

One of the reasons the industry is lagging behind digital transformation has to do with hesitance about new technology in general, and about using cloud services in particular. Many companies are concerned about data integrity – about being hacked or having their data stolen.

The truth is that much of the technology we rely on every day – email for example – is not as secure as we think it is. To overcome hesitancy about new digital technology, users have to trust that the cloud services they use are secure, that their data is secure. Who is more likely to be hacked – large multinational companies that invest billions of dollars into cybersecurity or a small supplier with a part-time IT department?

If a cost-effective and fast simulation service can provide end-to-end encrypted services, mold designers should not hesitate to take advantage of the benefits of the new technology.

Accelerating the pace of mold development

Molders and mold makers cannot afford delays in the development process. Fast delivery and immediate feedback are a must. There’s no leeway to drag out the mold development process with analysis. In a six week program, a delay of even two or three days is too much.

Needless delays mean clients aren’t getting the best service, and that can translate into lost business.

Technology that can enable almost instant feedback gives molders and mold makers a valuable competitive edge. “The speed we have to work at is no longer walking, it’s running flat out, constantly,” says Peters.

Molding the future of success

Peters sees the three-legged chair approach as the best way to combine collaboration, expertise and technology.

The tool maker, product designer and molder should work together as primary stakeholders. All three should collaborate in kick-off and design review meetings where each stakeholder’s expert opinion is valued and heard, and where new software or digital solutions can be introduced. If a tool can bring consensus between the stakeholders, that will go a long way to ensuring success.

Knowledge and technological know-how provide an excellent advantage. Together, they win more repeat business. Combining fast, secure and inexpensive simulation technology with expert intuition will improve the overall product for the customer and the bottom line for the producer.

Key take-aways for plastic injection molders and mold makers:

  • Solve problems early, before they become problems.
  • Work together, with the tool-maker, mold designer and molder as equal stakeholders, early in the process.
  • Incorporate secure technology that accelerates processes and complements expertise without significantly increasing cost.
  • Collaborate and ensure stakeholders are heard and included in decision-making to increase ownership and success.

Find out how SimForm meets the needs outlined by Peters to accelerate your mold development processes, helping you deliver high-quality products that win you more satisfied clients.