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Plastic Injection Molds

Fundamental Manufacturing Processes Series Study Guide - 1 -


Training Objective

After watching the program and reviewing this printed material, the viewer will
become familiar with the variety, design, and productive use of plastic
injection molds.

Mold components are identified and explained
The various mold types are featured
Aspects of mold maintenance and storage are detailed


The Injection Molding Process

Injection molding is the most widely used method of producing parts out of
thermoplastic material. The molten thermoplastic material is injected into the
mold at high pressure. Once this material cools and solidifies, the mold opens
and the part is ejected. During the injection molding cycle, the mold serves
several purposes, including:

Determining the finished shape of the part
Venting trapped air or gas during injection
Acting as a heat exchanger to draw heat from the part to aid in
solidification
Providing a means of ejecting the part from the mold


Mold Components

All molds contain a number of common design features. These features include:

Mold base
Mold cavity
Mold core
Sprue bushing
Runner system
Gates
Vents
Cooling system
Ejector system, plus other components

The mold base is an arrangement of steel blocks manufactured to specific
dimensions. Mold bases may be purchased from commercial mold base manufacturers
or produced in-house by moldmakers.

The basic mold base consists of two halves. The 'A' half, which is also referred
to as the stationary half, or the injection half, and the 'B' half, which is
also referred to as the moving half, or the ejector half. The mold cavity which
creates the outer image or surface of the part is usually mounted on the 'A'
half of the mold, while the mold core which reproduces the inner image of the
part is typically mounted on the 'B' half of the mold. Collectively the cavity
and core halves are known as the 'cavity set'.

Mold bases, cavity and cores are commonly made from special mold steels or from
other materials such as beryllium copper, stainless steel, aluminum, brass,
Plastic Injection Molds

Fundamental Manufacturing Processes Series Study Guide - 2 -
kirksite, and epoxy. The softer mold materials are generally used for prototype
molds and limited production runs.

All plastics have their own shrink factor, meaning they shrink at a certain rate
as they cool and solidify. Depending on the type of material to be injection
molded, moldmakers must take it's shrink factor into consideration when
producing the cavity set. For example, if a material shrinkage is calculated to
be one-hundredth of an inch for a part six inches in length, a total of six-
hundredths of an inch must be added to the mold design to compensate for
shrinkage.

Additionally, draft angles or tapers are machined into the side walls of the
cavity set to facilitate part removal from the mold. These tapers typically
range from 1 to 2 per side. Once completed, cavity sets may be heat treated to
protect them from the harsh injection molding environment. Molds may also be
coated or plated with wear resistant surfacing material, such as nickel and hard
chrome.

The interfacing plane between mold halves is called the parting line. Depending
on the complexity of the part, there may be several such parting lines. Proper
alignment of the mold halves is accomplished by using leader pins and bushings.

The mold halves are mounted on platens which are components of the injection
machine. Most injection machines have three platens:

The stationary platen, which holds the 'A' half of the mold.
The movable platen, which holds the 'B' half of the mold and moves back
and forth on the injection machines four tie bars.
The rear stationary platen, which holds the other end of the tie bars,
thus anchoring the entire system.

A locating ring on the mold centers to a hole on the stationary platen. This
then allows the nozzle of the heating cylinder to seat firmly against the sprue
bushing on the 'A' half of the mold. The sprue bushing directs the molten
material from the heating cylinder nozzle into the mold's runner system.

A mold's runner system is the channel or network of channels through which the
material flows to reach the cavity set. Surface runners are the most common
runner design, and are half-round channels machined into the surfaces of each of
the mold halves.

Once the molten thermoplastic flows through the runner system it reaches the
cavity set through an interface called the gate. The mold gate restricts and
controls the flow of plastic into the mold. Passage through the gate causes a
frictional rise in material temperature, extending the materials flow into the
mold. Common types of gates include:

The edge gate, which is usually located on the parting line, and is the
most common gate type.
The submarine gate, which brings material under the parting line to fill
the cavity from below.
The tab gate, which redirects material flow into the mold.
The ring gate, which is used in molding round or cylindrical parts.
The fan gate, which is used to spread material quickly over a large area.

Plastic Injection Molds

Fundamental Manufacturing Processes Series Study Guide - 3 -
To remove trapped air and process gases during injection, a mold venting system
is needed. The number and size of the vents are determined by part geometry,
material type, viscosity, and the rate of injection. These vents are ground on
the parting line of the mold.

The hot thermoplastic remains in the mold under pressure until it cools. This
cooling is usually achieved by water circulating in channels machined into the
mold. Proper cooling contributes to controlled part shrinkage, part strength and
quality. Overall, the speed of the injection molding cycle is controlled by the
efficiency of the cooling system.

Once the parts are sufficiently cooled and solidified, the mold opens and an
ejector system, usually in the form of knockout pins, is used to aid in part
ejection. Ejector systems are mounted on the ejection side of the mold and are
typically activated by pneumatic or hydraulic cylinders. In addition to knockout
pins, other ejector methods include stripper plates, stripper rings, and air
pressure ejection. Sometimes a sprue puller is used to remove molded plastic
from the sprue bushing as the part is ejected.


Injection Mold Types

Typical injection molds designed to meet specific production requirements
include:
The cold-runner two-plate mold, which consists of two plates with the
cavity and core mounted in them. The sprue, runners, and gates, along with
the part are molded simultaneously, and then separated after ejection.
The cold-runner three-plate mold, which includes a stripper plate that
automatically separates the sprue, runners and gates from the parts during
ejection.
The hot-runner mold, which uses an electrically heated manifold that
maintains material temperature in the runners at the same level of the
material in the injection cylinder. The runner system is contained in a
plate of its own and does not open during ejection of the part. This is
also known as 'runnerless' molding and can decrease cycle time by 25
percent or more.
The insulated-runner mold, which uses large diameter runners and no
heaters. During injection the outer layers of plastic in the runner
solidify and insulate the inner material, keeping it at molding
temperatures.


Mold Maintenance and Storage

Over time and repetitive use, mold components and surfaces will degrade. The use
of inserts and laminated construction for mold surfaces subjected to high wear
is recommended. Rust is also a major factor. Cleaning and lubrication are
critical measures between manufacturing cycles and for short-term and long-term
storage.
Plastic Injection Molds

Fundamental Manufacturing Processes Series Study Guide - 4 -
Review Questions

1. Injection mold bases, cavities, and cores are most commonly made from:
a. special aluminums
b. epoxies
c. beryllium copper
d. special mold steels

2. The usual range of mold draft angles is:
a. 5 to 10 per side
b. 1 to 4 per side
c. 1 to 2 per side
d. 0.5 to 1 per side

3. The sprue bushing is located on the:
a. 'A' half of the mold
b. 'B' half of the mold
c. movable platen
d. rear stationary platen

4. The purpose of a fan gate is to:
a. speed solidification
b. control injection speed
c. spread material over a large area
d. redirect the flow of material

5. Edge gates are usually located on:
a. the 'A' half of the mold
b. the sprue
c. the parting line
d. below the parting line

6. Mold vents are found:
a. around the whole cavity set
b. on the parting line
c. near the gates
d. within the 'B' half of the mold

7. The major factor in injection cycle speed is:
a. the type of thermoplastic
b. the temperature of the plastic
c. injection speed and pressure
d. efficiency of the cooling system

8. A cold-runner three-plate mold has:
a. no sprue bushing
b. a stripper plate
c. integrated sprue pickers
d. a larger gate system

9. The mold design known as 'runnerless' is the:
a. the hot-runner mold
b. the two-plate cold-runner mold
c. the insulated-runner mold
d. none of the above


Plastic Injection Molds

Fundamental Manufacturing Processes Series Study Guide - 5 -
Answer Key

1. d
2. c
3. a
4. c
5. c
6. b
7. d
8. b
9. a