6 Tips to Control Injection Molding Part Costs

PlasticPartBudget is one of the most important factors a manufacturer faces with getting a product to market as quickly as possible. Designing a plastic part for manufacturability involves considerations that can ultimately have a significant impact on cost. Whether you are in the initial design phase, prototyping or production, controlling injection molding costs requires analyzing of various factors. Here are a few tips to help you control plastic injection molding costs:

Collaboration:

Over the years, collaboration has taken a different form with the introduction of robust project management software. Working with a plastics manufacturer who incorporates highly effective project management software can create efficiencies within every phase of the planning and production process. With every step in injection molding building upon the next, communication and collaboration are key factors to addressing customer’s primary stress points such as timeline and budget.

Collaboration begins at the quoting state when individuals from both sides including designers, engineers and other experts will need to provide input that will help keep part budgets within or under budget.

Optimized Mold Design:

How many times have you encountered an issue in production that was the result of inadequate mold design? If the issue persists or is unresolvable with various tactics, you may have to modify or re-create the mold – both of which are expensive solutions. To avoid these costly situations, it is essential to review mold design in the early stages.

Additionally, in mold design it is beneficial to be able to produce as many parts as possible in a single shot. The ability for the plastic to eject quickly without wasting time / movements is another critical cost-savings factor.

Integrating the issues and recommendations identified in the design and simulation phases are a key aspect of effective mold design review. However, a mold’s true performance also relies on part design.

Optimize Part Design:

-Wall Thickness

Wall thickness is one of the most important factors with part design. The first rule of thumb is to determine the minimum wall thickness that will meet your design requirements. It is always good practice to work with our injection molder / design engineer to check thickness specifications for the material(s) you are considering for your part. Typical wall thickness ranges from .04 – .150 for most resins.

Important wall-thickness facts:

  • Thinner walls require easier flowing plastics
  • Longer flow lengths (distance from nozzle to the furthest corner of the part) may require thicker walls

-Undercuts

Undercuts are a feature that can add to part complexity and cost, and in some cases can even prevent part ejection. This feature is created by including holes or snaps and should be eliminated when possible. One solution would be to work with your design engineer and injection molder to include a side action, sliding shutoff or pick out.

Using sliding shutoffs, pass-through cores or by changing the parting line and draft angles may provide an easier mold build. These also reduce tooling and manufacturing costs.

-Draft

Draft is a design feature that must be added to the walls of all injection molded parts. Allocating sufficient draft not only makes it easier to remove a part from a mold, it also minimizes tool wear. Without draft, parts may stick in the mold. Having 1 degree of draft is a good starting point, however, there are considerations that may determine exactly how much draft is needed. Drafting internal features like ribs and bosses is always good practice. Remember – the more draft, the better.

While draft facilitates the removal of the part from the mold, it is particularly important in rapid injection molding to maintain parting lines, part quality and tool functionality. It typically takes working with an experienced design engineer to know how much and where to add draft.

-Gating

Each plastic part design must have a runner and ‘gate’, or a path and opening that allows the molten plastic to be injected into the cavity of the mold. Gate type, design and location can have effects on the part such as part packing, gate removal or vestige, cosmetic appearance of the part, and part dimensions & warping.

It is essential for a part designer and molder to work together to determine where the runner and gating system should be placed. To allow for the shortest overall flow length (the distance plastic flows from the gate to the outer most point of the part), gates should typically be placed at the center of a part.

If more than one gate is needed, the gates should be placed to both reduce the flow length, and must take into account the parting line created by plastic from each gate meeting. A ‘parting line’ is the line of separation on the plastic part where the two halves of the plastic injection mold meet. Ideally a part designer will account for the parting lines by designing the part in such a way that any blemish is visible on a non-cosmetic surface.

-Material Selection:

There are many resins that can be injection molded – but it is important to consider design intent and particularly what the piece needs to accomplish. For example, does the part need to be firm or pliable? Will the part be exposed to elements like extreme heat or cold? What safety factors should be considered?

The newest, most innovative materials may not be the best fit for your particular part – and may add more cost to the overall project. Working with a design engineer who is familiar to resin characteristics and behaviors when molded, will help you pick the material that best fits your needs and may save you critical time and budget in the long run.

-Mold Flow:

Working with your injection molder to perform a flow simulation is an important step in verifying part design. Flow study allows designers and engineers the opportunity to strategize gate location, runner layout, as well as optimize water placements. The level of simulation needed depends on part complexity.

-Minimize Finishes & Coatings:

Finishes and coatings include textures or patterns that leave an imprint on a molded part’s surface and are often used to reduce surface wear. Finishes, however, can add to cost with medium to high cosmetic finishes (where tooling marks are removed and the surface is textured or polished) and high quality clear finishes being the most costly.

Overall, managing the design and complexity of your part can play a huge role in the overall time and cost. If your part has many variables that need to be addressed, your design engineer and injection molding partner should provide insight regarding what can or cannot be eliminated. Time efficiencies will come with simplified designs that are optimized to fit your time, budget and product needs.

How have you overcome challenges with design and controlling part production costs?

To learn how Nicolet Plastics, Inc. can help, please contact Bob Gafvert at bob.gafvert@nicoletplastics.com.

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Save the Date for the 14th Annual Nicolet Walk / Run

Low section of multi-ethnic marathon runners competing at park. Horizontal shot.

The 14th Annual Nicolet Walk/Run is almost upon us! Have you started your training yet?

This year’s event will be held on Saturday, June 17th, 2018 beginning at 9:00 AM and will circle the scenic 4.37 mile route around beautiful Maiden Lake.

Sponsored by Nicolet Plastics, LLC. and the Pirates of the Northwood’s Parrot Head Club, the event has raised over $77,400 benefitting area emergency response departments since 2003.

Registration:

In Wisconsin, approximately 75% of emergency service workers are volunteers that are trained to help individuals in the event of a severe medical occurrence, car accident, and other life-threatening situation. These brave men and women put their own lives at risk each day to help others in need. As a special reward for these hardworking emergency professionals, proceeds from the Nicolet Run / Walk will be contributed to area emergency response departments to purchase life-saving equipment and training supplies.

The event site is located 80 miles northwest of Green Bay, or 40 miles east of Antigo and west of Marinette. Travel and hotel accommodations can be made through the Lakewood Area Chamber Website.

Organizations or individuals interested in event sponsorship should contact  Lee Ann Anderson at (715) 276-4269 or email leeann.anderson@nicoletplastics.com.

Nicolet Plastics Acquired by True Venture Composites LLC

This post was originally published by Plastics News on March 9, 2017 and written by Dan Loepp

Nicolet Plastics sold; new owner to seek additional acquisitions

Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 11.18.32 AMWhen Bob Macintosh started to plan an exit strategy from Nicolet Plastics Inc. six years ago, he wanted to leave the company in the hands of a stable buyer.

The custom injection molder’s location, in the Wisconsin North Woods, was a complicating factor.

“My end goal was to create stability for this plant and this area. This is a community of 700 people. If something happened that affected the jobs of the 82 people who work here, that would be devastating to this area,” Macintosh said.

After a long search, Macintosh thinks he found the right buyer. On Feb. 28 he signed a deal to sell Nicolet to True Venture Composites LLC, an affiliate of family-owned Badger Mining Corp. of Berlin, Wis.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Badger Mining was looking to diversify outside its core business of mining and processing sand and other aggregates for industrial applications like hydraulic fracturing. It settled on plastics as an industry of interest, and contacted Macintosh about Nicolet.

Nicolet may be small, but it has a reputation in plastics and manufacturing circles. The company was twice a finalist for Plastics News Processor of the Year, and in 2013 it won a Frost & Sullivan Manufacturing Leadership 100 award.

Macintosh had talked to other potential buyers, including plastics processors and private equity investors. But he was having trouble finding the right fit. A key was protecting the workforce.

True Venture understood his priorities, so Macintosh expects very few changes. True Venture bought both the business and the plant, in tiny Lakewood, Wis., in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. All the employees and the management team are staying.

John Ogorek, the chief financial officer, is adding CEO to his title, but Macintosh said that transition started about a year ago.

The biggest changes: a new name, Nicolet Plastics LLC, and a new role for Macintosh. He’ll be working with the new owners to find more investment opportunities in the plastics industry.

“Businesses either grow or die. We are definitely growing,” he said. “I’ll be working with them the next two years, making sure this business grows and survives, and looking for other opportunities.”

Macintosh said Nicolet needs more molding capacity. But as he approaches age 70 he didn’t want to go back into debt to make that happen. Plus, because of the scarcity of new workers in the North Woods, expanding at Nicolet would be difficult.

Now he’s looking to buy companies with capacity to take on more work, and that have complementary values to Nicolet and Badger.

Nicolet has 82 employees and 19 presses, ranging from 40 to 610 tons of clamping force. It generated $14 million in sales last year, Macintosh said.

Nicolet is known for making the most of complexity — molding small lots, with numerous tool changes — using a philosophy called Quick Response Manufacturing, which they learned from Rajan Suri at the University of Wisconsin. The company specializes in low- to moderate-volume projects, and highly complex custom parts.

The company celebrated its 30th anniversary last year. Macintosh and three partners started the company in 1985 and incorporated in 1986. They started with an investment of $1,200 — $300 from each partner — molding in a small garage with a leased Newbury press.

Over time, Macintosh bought out the other three partners, the last one in 2008.

Focus on Lead Times: Using QRM to Get Ahead

Nicolet_PartThis article was originally published by Plastics Business in the winter 2017 issue and written by Lara Copeland, contributing editor.

Business gurus often talk about the view from 30,000 feet – the big picture that provides a look at overall operations. Perhaps, however, the focus should be on the view from 30 feet – a close-up of specific processes and procedures that make an impact now.

Over 30 years ago, at a time when a new home in the US cost an average of $90,000 and many Americans were embracing “Hands Across America,” a small group of four entrepreneurs collaborated and – contributing $300 each – established a plastics manufacturing company in the middle of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. Nicolet Plastics Inc. (NPI), Mountain, Wisconsin, since has expanded beyond its initial $1,200 investment and one leased press to a 19-press, 42,000-square-foot production facility that focuses on complex industrial and medical components and assemblies. Throughout the years, the company has thrived by pursuing business endeavors and facilitating growth. More recently, Nicolet has set itself apart from the competition by centering its efforts on shrinking lead times and increasing customer satisfaction.

When the global financial crisis struck the country nearly a decade ago, the manufacturing sector did not escape its wrath. Nicolet leaders, aware of the ramifications of surrendering to the recession, realized they needed to act to reinforce the company. Bob Gafvert, business development manager, explained, “Nicolet knew we wouldn’t survive trying to be like the 5,000-plus other molders in the country at that time. We needed to do something different and approach our business in a new way that would further differentiate us from the herd of molders.”

Nicolet reviewed its business and found its complexity score was off the charts when benchmarked against other molders. “In 2010, Nicolet was scoring in the millions while other molders were at a score of 300,000,” Gafvert continued. “We knew our complexity was something we could exploit when the easy, high-volume parts were being sourced off shore.” Wanting to explore options in efficiency, the company contacted the University of Wisconsin-School of Engineering and Dr. Rajan Suri, the founder of the Center for Quick Response Manufacturing.

According to the website for the Center for Quick Response Manufacturing, QRM begins with an understanding that time is the most valuable resource in any enterprise. The QRM methodology was designed specifically for high-variety manufacturers of custom-engineered, low-volume products looking to reduce lead times – much like Nicolet. This companywide approach is geared toward reducing lead times in all phases of manufacturing and office operations and is not to be confused with lean manufacturing – a philosophy focused on eliminating waste for high-volume repetitive production manufacturers.

Rather than eliminating all variabilities in manufacturing processes, QRM focuses on the elimination of dysfunctional variabilities, such as organizational issues that can cause rework, and helps companies find and understand the potential competitive advantages in strategic variabilities. Examples include, “the ability to cope with unexpected changes in demand, a large selection of options for customers and offering custom-engineered products,” according to the website. These strategic variabilities can be huge competitive advantages for companies not interested in higher-volume work, while the elimination of dysfunctional variabilities can cut the longer lead times often associated with highly custom work.

Since Nicolet implemented QRM in 2010, business began to increase. “The marketplace is taking notice of our business model and responding positively to our strategy,” Gafvert said. QRM has allowed Nicolet to compete in the manufacturing arena and gain entry to new prospects. The company has seen significant improvements in quality, reductions in lead time and reduction of inventories. It also has increased profitability and brought products to market more rapidly. Specifically, Nicolet reported reduced lead times for QRM business by two weeks while also reducing setup and changeovers by multiple hours.

“Reducing customers’ time to market and launch of new products has been a continued success. When we help a customer reduce their product launch by weeks and months, we are finding that our commitment to QRM is playing a significant part in delivering and exceeding customer expectations,” Gafvert affirmed. “Whether it’s been on the front end with customer service and orders and acknowledgements or in the quick turnaround of quoting in engineering, we found opportunities for efficiencies in reducing the white space in all aspects of business.”

Presently, Nicolet is continuing its focus on reducing white space – the time a job is waiting between steps, when something is not physically being manufactured in the press – and the company is seeing success with the complexity and diversity of its customer base and their products. As Gafvert acknowledged, “The variability that we experience day in and out is strategic for us, and QRM supports that business model.”

Adopting the QRM approach companywide did come with a few obstacles. “It requires a paradigm shift in terms of manufacturing, such as letting go of certain lean principles, as well as a culture change across the board,” Gafvert added.

To be successful, QRM needs to be employed throughout the company, and it takes time to get everyone on board. As the company has expanded over the last five years, its new hires have had to learn the importance of using QRM and how to support Nicolet’s customers with it. Additionally, getting suppliers on board can pose a challenge. The company is working to educate its suppliers on the value of time and to convince them to adopt a QRM mindset. As Gafvert suggested, “We can’t wait days for a supplier to get back to us with pricing or availability on a material or assembly part because it slows down the process.”

As the company looks for ways to remain prominent in the manufacturing arena, it is “incredible” as Gafvert put it, to see where it all started. Nicolet marked its 30-year anniversary over a two-day period this past fall by offering plant tours and celebrating with its customers (current and prospective), suppliers and the surrounding community. “It was a great opportunity to get people from the area into the facility to see what we do, the level of automation and the opportunities that exist in manufacturing,” Gafvert articulated.

Looking ahead, NPI is expecting continued growth at the facility and through expansion of its customer base. The ability to cope with unexpected changes in demand and its success in providing custom-engineered product in low to moderate volumes has been – and will continue to be – the cornerstone for Nicolet’s progress. “Our plan is to spend another 30 years in our community,” Gafvert asserted as he discussed his enthusiasm for developing the next generation of production, master molders, engineers and customer service staff. He concluded, “Nicolet will continue to focus on driving value to customers who see the opportunity in a relationship with us based on overall value and partnership.”

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5 Ways Your Injection Molder Can Help with Tool Maintenance Challenges

Mold2It’s no secret that consistent injection mold maintenance plan can help your mold last longer, run with less interruptions and will ultimately save you time, money and frustration. Mold (or tool) maintenance, refers to the cleaning and repairs that are needed to keep an injection mold in the best working order. Maintenance should be performed routinely over the life of the mold, in addition to if any problems arise. What a lot of manufacturers don’t know is that mold maintenance is crucial because it affects the quality of the plastic component as well as the company’s project budget.

Even though molds and tools are critical assets to your company, many manufacturers overlook mold maintenance as a service when making sourcing decisions. In fact, how your injection molder maintains your molds is a critical aspect of a successful long-term relationship. Here are some important mold maintenance tips to consider:

What problems does mold neglect cause?

A well-designed injection mold is created to withstand natural wear and tear that may occur during use. However, even with a superior mold design, there are many stressors placed on a mold and unpredictable situations arise.

One of the major causes of internal and external stress on a mold is temperature fluctuation. If mold design does not allow for uniform cooling, a mold can expand and contract – causing stress-related weakness and may potentially crack.

Friction is another stressor and cause for a mold to breakdown. If the mold doesn’t open and close smoothly, it may cause too much stress when the two halves meet each other. There may then be issues with ejector pins not functioning properly. Additionally, the added fiction may cause increased heat that will eventually wear away critical parts – creating compromised areas of the mold.

Destruction of the mold itself is not the only concern related to mold neglect. There are also important factors to consider with the material that is injected into the mold. As a mold is used again and again to complete the process of making parts, small amounts of material residue can build up inside the mold cavities. Eventually, this residue can build up and ultimately affect the shape of the cavity (and the finished part).

What does injection mold maintenance include?

The best mold maintenance begins before the mold is made. The first step should be ensuring the mold design follows best practices to allow for uniform cooling and the lowest possible level of stress both internally and externally.

After the mold is created, your injection molder should facilitate regular inspection by checking runners and mold cavities as well as checking for corrosion. It is also important to create a schedule to plan for regular injection mold maintenance and keep a log to track each inspection.

What are the benefits of a mold that is properly maintained?

Regular monitoring of your mold is the key to producing high quality injection molded parts. The likelihood that you will catch an issue early (rather than when you are forced to address them) will be greater and will give you more time to remedy the situation.

An additional benefit is the cost savings that is realized with preventive mold maintenance. With proper implementation, the time investment for maintenance will rarely equal the costs associated with having to repair or replace a mold.

What is the role of your injection molder?

In addition to minimizing cost and risk, working with a knowledgeable and reliable injection molder can help you implement a mold maintenance plan that fits your needs. Your injection molder can also explain the benefits and limitations of your specific mold, while helping provide direction throughout the life of your mold.

What challenges are you facing regarding proper tool maintenance and getting the most life out of your injection mold?

To learn how Nicolet Plastics, Inc. supports our customers and protects your assets with preventative maintenance, please contact Bob Gafvert at bob.gafvert@nicoletplastics.com.

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Benefits of Metal to Plastic Conversion for Agricultural Parts

metaltoplasticMetal to plastic conversion processes have been used for decades; however, many manufacturers have not considered all the benefits that can be applied to improve products. Guided by the ability to reduce weight and improve fuel efficiency, automotive and aerospace companies have been among the most active in converting metal to plastic. Another industry highly impacted by metal to plastic part conversion is agriculture. With advancements in design, engineered plastics can be just as strong and chemical and heat resistant which makes plastic a great option for fluid handling systems and other high-temperature applications. Here are a few other benefits that manufacturers of agricultural products will see with a metal to plastic part conversion.

1. Design Flexibility:

One of the greatest aspects of converting metal agricultural parts to plastic is the design freedom that is created in the process. It is recommended to work closely with an experienced injection molder and design engineer to gain an understanding of the features that should be taken into account to maintain a complex structural design for your part. Specifically, it’s more efficient to create complex parts out of plastic than metal because injection molding easily allows for under-cuts, threads, ports and tight tolerances.

The design flexibility also enables greater strength in plastic parts. With the ability to mold in features for structural strength like ribs, bosses and gussets, strength can be increased without adding additional cost.

2. Weight:

Reducing part weight with a metal to plastic conversion is another big advantage of the process. Reducing part weight by using plastic gives you more parts per pound of material, significantly reduces shipping costs, and oftentimes improves the end-user’s ease of use with the product. Additionally, in some applications reducing part weight can improve gas mileage and boost recycling opportunities.

3. Cost:

In general, agricultural product manufacturers will see an overall cost reduction for metal to plastic part conversion. There are several ways that cost reduction comes into play throughout the design and injection molding process:

• Multiple metal parts can be replaced by one injection-molded part made of durable, engineered plastic – eliminating the need for fasteners and assembly
• Colors can be added to the plastic polymer, eliminating secondary operations for painting or laser marking
• The need to weld, grind, and add dent and scratch resistance and noise dampening is eliminated

4. New and Improved Polymers:

The continuing advancements in polymer development have enticed many product engineers and designers to evaluate the use of traditional materials such as metal. New and improved polymers have allowed part manufacturers and injection molders the ability to produce parts that were once thought of as impossible to create with plastic.

Advanced polymers with specific fillers and reinforcements also allow engineers the ability to add a significant amount of structural integrity to molded parts. With the proper selection and design optimization, plastic parts can be as strong as metal.

Before moving forward with a plastic to metal part conversion, it is important to meet with an injection molder to determine if the transition is suitable for your product. This process requires considerable analysis that keeps the end use, cost, environmental conditions and manufacturability in mind. Analyzing the benefits for conversion and the real-world environmental impact will help you make the best material choice for your agricultural part.

Are you considering a metal to plastic part conversion? Let Nicolet Plastics walk you through an efficient evaluation process.

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Manufacturing in the Northwoods: Q&A with Bob MacIntosh of Nicolet Plastics

screen-shot-2016-12-14-at-10-44-28-amWhen four men set out to start a plastics manufacturing business in the Northwood’s of Oconto County, they didn’t have the money to purchase an injection press. Pooling $300 a piece, they managed to scrape together enough to lease a press and with that, Nicolet Plastics was born in 1986. With minimal knowledge of the industry, Phil Hartman, Bob MacIntosh, Miles Serney and his son Flip, worked collaboratively to grow the business to where it stands today as a global producer of plastic injection molded parts with over 41,000 square feet of manufacturing space.

As Nicolet Plastics celebrates it’s 30th year in business, Bob MacIntosh remains with the organization as one of the original founding partners and the current president of Nicolet Plastics. In this Q&A, Bob reflects on the company’s growth over the past 30 years, and what’s to come in the years ahead.

Q: Over the past 30 years, what has set Nicolet Plastics apart from other plastic injection molders?

A: What has set us apart the most is our focus on lead times and quick response manufacturing. We are committed to educating our customers and getting them involved as early in the design process as possible. This helps to reduce launch times often by as much as 6 months.

Additionally, we’ve leaned on the concepts that Seth Godin share’s in his book, Purple Cow. The book implies that the key to success is to find a way to stand out – to be the purple cow in a field of typical Holsteins. With over 5,000 injection molders out there, we had to find a way to be the purple cow. We try to appeal to a sub-set of customers that typically haven’t gotten the attention we know they deserve. We focus on higher complexity parts with larger material mix and lower volume.

Q: What are the most common questions customers ask?

A: New customers are at a point where they are trying to understand the process as well as looking for price or a quote. They also ask what type of support we can provide from design, engineering, production, communication and lead time. There are many other questions including transfer tool capabilities, range of materials, credibility and security we offer in house and more.

One unique offering that our company provides for our new customers is called Nicolet Plastics University. It’s a full day course taught in our manufacturing facility with corresponding online resources. The class is offered to any customer interested in learning more about the plastic injection molding process. Taught by our lead engineer, the class provides invaluable insight for designers, engineers and anyone involved in the part & product manufacturing process.

Q: What do customers value most in your team?

A: That’s an easy question – definitely our responsiveness and expertise. Our company is nestled in a small community and that representative of our humble and friendly approach with everything we do.

Q: What have customers expressed to be the most important factors when choosing a plastics manufacturing partner?

A: The most important factors to a plastic injection molding customer is being able to handle their expectations, volume, lead time, and budget. Also being able to swiftly handle turnover on a customer’s team to ensure a new contact is up to speed and has the information he or she needs.

Q: What can a client expect during the first meeting? Please walk us through an example.

A: We try to engage engineers early on. If they aren’t involved in the design or technical side, the sooner we become involved, the better.

Our first meetings are usually done by phone, WebEx or GoToMeeting. If at all possible, we love our prospects and customers to visit our facility. Our expert employees, technology and capabilities definitely sell themselves when you walk through our doors.

Q: What are the top 2-3 hot button issues in plastics manufacturing right now?

A: Technology within manufacturing and specifically injection molding, is changing so quickly. Design support, engineering and automation are huge factors in regard to remaining competitive. There are also interesting advancements in the area of additive manufacturing (3-D printing) that we are looking at closely as possible service offerings for some of our clients in the future. Additionally, not many molders get as involved as we do in highly engineered materials.

Many have heard of the “Amazon Effect” and we are definitely feeling it in our industry as well. We are seeing that compression of time is becoming more and more prevalent. Shorter lead-time is an increasing expectation for customers with high demand for getting products to market quicker and within budget.

Q: What are you proud of and what are you most excited about for the years ahead?

A: We were honored to receive Plastics News’ award for Processor of the Year for Customer Service in 2015. It’s an award that honors companies with superior achievement among plastics processors. In the years ahead, we are looking toward expanding operations in regard to geography and overall growth.

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Nicolet Plastics’ 30th Anniversary & Open House

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The history of plastics manufacturing goes back to the 1800’s and we couldn’t be more proud to have brought a part of America’s largest and most dynamic sector to our community. October is designated as Manufacturing Month in the state of Wisconsin and we are thrilled to be recognizing a major company milestone:

As we reflect on the growth of Nicolet Plastics since its inception in 1986, we acknowledge how truly grateful we are for our community’s support. In recognition of the next chapter for Nicolet Plastics, we’d like to invite you please join us for a special celebration.

Friday, October 21 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Nicolet Plastics
16685 State Road 32 Mountain, WI 53149

Event Features:

  • Facility Tours Led By On-Site Engineering & Subject Matter Experts
  • Meet & Greet With Local Dignitaries
  • Much More!

8 Factors in Plastic Part Design for Manufacturability

Plastic Injection Molding DesignDesigning a plastic part for manufacturability involves many important factors that touch on all areas of part design, tooling, material selection and production. First, it is essential to build parts around functional needs by keeping design intent or the end use in mind. Consider weight reductions, the elimination of fabrication and assembly steps, improving structural components, reducing costs and getting products to market quicker. Here are 8 important factors to consider to meet your plastic part design goals for a successful production process.

  1. Material Considerations

Manufacturers often select a familiar grade of plastic from a similar application or rely on recommendations from suppliers. Resins chosen this way may be adequate, but are rarely optimal. Plastic selection is a complex task that involves many considerations, such as:

  • Temperature: Thermal stress that may occur during normal and extreme use conditions, as well as during assembly, finishing and shipping.
  • Chemical resistance: The effects that occur when any solid, liquid or gas come in contact with the part.
  • Agency approvals: Governmental and private standards for properties such as heat resistance, flammability, and electrical and mechanical capabilities.
  • Assembly: The plastic’s cooperation with all assembly steps like bonding, mechanical fasteners and welding.
  • Finish: The material’s ability to produce the desired finish such as gloss, smoothness and other appearance values as it comes from the mold.
  • Cost: Resin pricing as well as the cost calculations for manufacturing, maintenance, assembly and disassembly to reduce labor, tooling, finishing and other costs.
  • Availability: The resin’s availability in regard to amount needed for production.
  1. Radius

Radius should always be a consideration in regard to the part’s thickness – eliminating the likelihood of areas of high stress and possible breakage of the part. A general rule of thumb is that the thickness at a corner should be in the range of 0.9 times the nominal thickness to 1.2 the nominal thickness of the part.

  1. Wall Thickness

Designing your part so that wall thickness is consistent can help avoid many part defects that can occur during the manufacturing process. When plastic melts, it flows to the areas of leas resistance. If your part has inconsistent thicknesses throughout, the melt may flow into the thick areas first (depending on gate locations). When this occurs, the thin areas may not fill properly. Additionally, thicker areas tend to cool more slowly and are at risk for voids or sinking defects. Designing your part with rounded corners will also aid in the proper filling of the part during the molding process.

  1. Gate Location

Gates are critical to ensuring the resin flows properly into the mold. These small components of your design are what directs the flow of resin from the runners to then be distributed through the part. Type of gate and placement has an important impact on the part’s overall quality and viability.

  1. Draft

Draft is the amount of taper on the vertical walls of the plastic part. Without draft, a part may not eject from the mold, or may sustain damage during ejection. Typically, draft angles between 1° and 2° are required, but can vary depending on part restrictions and specifications. 

  1. Inclusion of Ribs

A plastic part that has been designed with a minimal wall thickness will not be as strong as a thicker part – which is why the inclusion of ribs may be needed to help reinforce the part’s strength. Depending on the material used, rib thickness should be between 50 – 70 percent of the relative part thickness to avoid sink marks. To avoid sinking, designers may core out material to reduce defect risk.

  1. Mold Shrinkage

The shrinkage that occurs during the plastic part molding process can be as much as 20 percent by volume. Crystalline and semi-crystalline materials are most prone to thermal shrinkage. Amorphous materials are known to shrink less. Here are a few easy ways to avoid molding shrinkage issues:

  • Adjust the formulation
  • Adjust the mold design to get the dimension you want based on the expected shrinkage that will occur
  • Optimize the processing parameter such as molding temperature, melt temperature, and injection speed/pressure/time, cooling time.
  1. Special Features

Plastic parts should be designed so that mold tools open and eject the part easily. When a part is released, the two sides of an injection mold separate in the opposite direction. When special features like holes, undercuts or shoulders prevent the release from happening, it may be required that side actions be incorporated into the design.

Side actions pull coring in a direction other than the direction of the mold separation. This adds flexibility to the part design and at times, may increase the cost of the mold.

Working with an experienced plastic injection molder and engineering team is a critical component to avoiding many issues that can occur during the design and development process. If you keep these factors in mind during the design process, and align with a knowledgeable plastics engineer, you will be on track to get your product to market quicker and within your budget.

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3 Reasons to Get Your Molder Involved in the Plastic Part Design Process

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When plastic part designers take a collaborative approach to involve mold makers early in the design process, many cost and time to market benefits are realized. Working with an injection molder who can provide expertise and recommendations throughout the design project to ensure your part is developed with the intended use, quality, budget and timeframe in mind will greatly increase the likelihood of a positive outcome.

The most successful parts are created when there is constant communication between a part designer, tool designer and manufacturer. With open consultation and communication, the team can avoid project delays and create efficiencies.

Designing a production-ready part goes beyond aesthetic and function. Here are three important considerations when optimizing a part for manufacturability:

  1. Smart Design & Material Selection

The most important first step in part design and material selection is to consider the environment in which the part will be used. This is called design intent – or the intended use of the completed part. What will the wear and tear be for the part? What temperatures will it be exposed to? Consulting with an experienced molder will help you make informed decisions about the most innovative and widely used materials to ensure your part performs at the highest level. Additionally, specialized tool designers can help you take the following design elements (among many others) into consideration:

  • Part Shape
  • Mold Design
  • Draft
  • Uniform Wall Thickness
  • Radii 
  1. Efficient Mold Design & Fabrication

A part designer and mold maker should work hand in hand to create a mold that will produce a successful part. Molding experts provide invaluable insight not only on how to produce the best part, but also how to get the mold made quickly and cost efficiently. Using design software, designers and engineers can create a mold blueprint and as part design and material selection are tested, can help with making critical adjustments.

A mold needs to be designed around a part and specific factors taken into consideration such as: Where is the gate(s) located and what is the optimal size? How will the part be ejected? Most often, computer simulation techniques such as Mold Flow Analysis are used to provide a predictive analysis and measurement to determine the success or failure of a part. Additionally, the analysis shows how the material will orient with the mold as well as expose potential warp and stress points.

  1. Benefit of Working with a Trusted Partner

Relying on an experienced molder to provide guidance and recommendations during the design and development process can save you significant time and cost for a project. Many service providers do not factor in the costs associated with material testing, radius adjustments, diameters and more. A lack of flexibility or inability to provide what is needed to produce a successful part is another roadblock that manufacturers run in to when trying to take a quick and lowest cost route.

Do your research and have a good understanding of your molder’s expertise and services provided. Working with a partner that will listen to your needs and has the expertise to make cost-saving recommendations throughout the project process, will not only save you money, but time as well.

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