There are many engineering processes that require specialist equipment to run them and for that reason are usually restricted in terms of the number and density of operators within a certain area. In many cases, the sheer specialist nature of a process such as injection moulding means that it may not be evenly spread around the country and may only exist in heavily industrialised areas. That can make finding a reputable moulder difficult and fraught process, but if you follow a few simple rules, you will be able to find the perfect business partner to make your moulded parts.
Specialists such as injection moulders tend to congregate in industrialised areas for three main reasons;
- That is where they are likely to find the majority of their work.
- These areas have a high concentration of tool makes and materials suppliers who will be able to assist with the making of dies.
- Feedstock suppliers are more likely to be sited in these areas.
Since transport is a major overhead for many companies, it is simply illogical to operate a long way from both suppliers and customers, so when beginning your search for an injection mould operator, you would be best to start looking in cities and other areas where industrial work is carried out rather than rural or less-populated areas. This is not to say that you won’t find such specialised businesses in these areas, but you have a far better chance of locating a moulder in an area where engineering and manufacturing are prevalent.
The cost and availability of suppliers for your injection moulded product will depend heavily on a number of factors, including the number required, the materials that you need, the complexity of the product, any additives required, and the lead-time that you have to supply your customers. Of these, the Production run amount and component complexity are probably the most critical since this will be a deciding factor for many suppliers when they are preparing a quote for you.
The most expensive part of the injection moulding process is the development and manufacture of the actual tool, into which the semi-molten feedstock is forced. Typically, these are designed using a high-end computer-aided design (CAD) program such as Solidworks or AutoCAD, which not only generates a highly detailed and accurate model but can also subject the mould to extensive stress and thermal analysis. Both of these are essential to establish the flow characteristics of the mould, which is necessary when planning thin sections and complex detail.
Most injection moulds are manufactured from high-tensile steel, which may then be surface hardened for extra life. However, it is possible to construct a mould from cheaper and easier to work with materials such as aluminium alloys, which can significantly reduce the cost of manufacture, however aluminium moulds are not as robust as their steel counterparts but are fine to use for lower complexity parts required only in what are regarded as smaller amounts (10 to 100,000 parts).
While many mould companies see the majority of their work going to major customers such as car manufacturers and other industries requiring many hundreds of thousands of components there is plenty of ‘jobbing’ injection moulders who will consider creating smaller amounts. Companies such as this can be located using a simple internet search using keywords such as “injection moulding”, “low run”, and “custom parts”. That will narrow down the suppliers who match your requirements and from that point, you can start to sift them by location, and ease of access to them. A supplier who is fairly close but accessed by a difficult route may not be as desirable as a supplier further away who can be accessed by rail or road, or even air freight if both you and they are close to connecting airports.
Even if you have a low production run, injection moulding can still be a viable process, and as long as you consider certain factors highlighted here, then you should be able to find and contact a moulding professional who is able to meet your needs and still remain cost-effect too.