Making Stuff: Injection Mold Tooling

What is the right kind of tooling for your product? It’s not easy to answer. Injection mold toolings are vital to successful production, but the type of tooling required varies. The volume of production needed and the kind of materials being molded should drive the choice instead of the price tag of the tooling. In the last few decades, CAD has improved the process of creating valid designs and molds to the point where failures are far less common. Instead of years to create tooling and start production, the process is whittled down to months or even weeks. Let’s take a closer look at the types of metals used in injection mold tooling:

  • Aluminum: Low cost and lightweight, this quick cooling metal is the metal of choice for short, low-volume runs or pilot runs. Higher quality aluminum has as much durability as steel and should be used in place of steel when heat dissipation is a concern.
  • Steel: Post-hardened H13 and stainless steel have the high volume part of the market covered, with high Rockwell Hardness and surface finish capabilities. Tool steel comes in at about 50 percent less on the hardness scale and surface finish, while pre-hardened tool steels such as P-20 and Nak-80 fall in the middle.
  • Beryllium/Copper: Often used to make containers for foods and beverages, these have been controversial because of beryllium’s toxicity, though recent studies show that the presence of beryllium particles in finished containers is far below any toxic level or otherwise undetectable using current measurements.

These molds are then injected with a variety of materials, depending on the product being made. Materials suitable for injection molding include ABS, polycarbonate, PVC, Nylon, acrylic, styrene, and polyether imide. Working with these thermoplastics is a specialty when it comes to designing and engineering a new product, so inventors take note to work with a company experienced in injection mold tooling.

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