Moulding is a process used to manufacture a broad range of parts and sometime entire products. In this method, material is injected into a mould. The materials used include metal, glass and polymers. When metals are used, it is also referred to as diecasting. Simply put, the selected material goes into a heated barrel where it is mixed. Then it is pushed into the cavity of the mould. There, it hardens as it cools into the structure of the mould’s interior. This process is also called injection moulding.
Developing the Mould
When a new product need is identified, the concept is given to an industrial designer or an engineer to design the piece or product. This design plan is then given to a mould-maker who creates the mould necessary to create the piece. Mould-makers most often work with metals, such as steel and aluminum, to machine the mould into the correct form. Precision-machining allows the mould-maker to create the intricate, precise features of the product mould. This traditional method of mould production is used to create large items, such as entire plastic chairs and automobile body panels, as well as, small parts and pieces, such as gears and levers.
3D Printing Technology
With advances in modern technology, this is not the only means of production today. The rapid development in 3D printing technology have opened the door to new methods and materials. This method allows the use of photopolymers that do not melt during traditional injection moulding methods to be used to produce new products. Dubbed the third industrial revolution by Futurist Jeremy Rifkin, 3D printing brings the potential of an incredible shift in manufacturing. In this process, a computer model is used to create parts and objects. The computer guides the application of multiple layers of the selected material to create the object or part.
Moulding machines, also called presses, are constructed of several parts including the material hopper, the heating unit and an injection ram or plunger. The machines contain the production mould used to produce the product or part.
The process of injection moulding, regardless of the method chosen, is very complex. The design process is exacting. The intricacy of the process continues with the mould-maker’s work. They must ensure that every feature is accurately represented and that the best materials are used to produce the desired product. Then the abilities and limitations of the moulding equipment must be factored in. While this is a versatile production method, it is necessary to understand the amount of focused effort and expertise is it requires. One benefit of this production method is that it can be used to mass produce millions of pieces relatively easy if the design and production elements were executed correctly.
Another aspect of the mould industry in the exporting and importing of moulds. In some situations, it makes more fiscal sense for a company to export the mould and even mould equipment to lower production costs. This can be a double-edged sword though as more consumers’ desire locally produced goods. Companies have to weigh benefits and disadvantages of both importing and exporting segments of the production process.