Important Factors in Injection Mold Care and Molder Responsibility

Mold3Manufacturers can spend as much on a mold that you may spend on a high performance car. The difference is that YOU get to drive the car, while your molder gets to “drive” your mold. How do you know that your molder is taking good care of your tooling investment and not using it like Burt Reynolds used his Trans-Am in Bandit? Or like the Dukes of Hazzard used General Lee?

In a plastic manufacturing environment, consistent quality parts start with a quality, well-made and maintained mold. The process should include a solid mold design and a high-quality tool build. Once the mold is in place and ready for use with your molder, what expectations should you have for the care of your investment?

Understanding Mold Maintenance Basics:

It’s important for a manufacturer to have a basic understanding of the cleaning and repair required for proper tool maintenance. To keep a tool in the best working order, maintenance is essential not only when issues arise, but also routinely over time.

Overall, the condition of your injection mold affects the quality of the plastic components produced. Molds and tools are critical assets to your company, yet many manufacturers overlook maintenance needs when making a decision about selecting an injection molder. How your supplier maintains your mold can be a critical element of the success and longevity of your relationship.

Like any maintenance program, there are certain checks and procedures that should be performed regularly. For example, mold cavities and gating should be inspected for wear or damage. The ejection system should be inspected and lubricated and all surfaces cleaned with a non-toxic solvent to remove dirt and sprayed with a rust preventative. Additionally, all water lines should be flushed and drained to remove excess moisture.

Molds should also get a proper maintenance review prior to storage including:

  1. All plates separated and cleaned
  2. The ejector system should be cleaned and lubricated
  3. Replace and / or repair parts including ejector pins and springs, worn bushings or leader pins

When these preservation tactics are completed, molds are able to be put back into service quickly and easily.

Understanding Problems with Mold Neglect:

What happens when your injection molder neglects your mold? Over time, the molding process can cause significant wear and tear. Without a proper preventive maintenance program in place, material may build up on your molds surface which can eventually cause tool denting, flash and other part defects.

The unfortunate reality is that some molders wait to do maintenance until part quality problems arise or the tool becomes damaged. Waiting until this point to make repairs can result in added expense, supply / stock issues and a longer time to market. However, when molders have a clear maintenance procedure in place, production times and overall costs can actually decrease.

Molds are a significant investment for all manufacturers and extending the life of your tool takes collaboration, communication and a maintenance plan that has been agreed upon by both parties. Now that you understand the expectations that should be put into place, below is a checklist of questions to help evaluate your supplier with regard to the care and maintenance of your asset:

  1. How do you schedule preventative maintenance?
  2. What does the molder maintain prior to the warranty expiration?
  3. What are the preventative maintenance steps you take?
  4. How do you track the number of cycles on the tool?
  5. What do you consider regular mold maintenance, and why is this valuable to me?
  6. How do you maintain part quality with the mold maintenance?
  7. What components are you using, and why?
  8. How do you maintain water line integrity?
  9. How do you minimize the amount of required up-keep?
  10. How are maintenance findings reported?

Are you looking for an injection molder who can provide expert guidance from concept, development to production? Contact Nicolet Plastics to learn about our formula to develop exceptional products in a timely and cost-effective manner.

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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