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Three-dimensional (3D) printing has been generating excitement in the medical field for a while, and rightly so. While traditionally some have thought of 3D printing and injection molding for plastic parts and products to be competing technology, in reality, both have their place in the medical field.
A surprising number of projects are completed without using a prototype mold—the general idea being that a prototype mold is just an extra step that slows down overall development and production adding unncessary cost. Actually, just the opposite is true—without a prototype mold, a lot of adjustments are usually required on the production tool, driving up cost which in turn causes delays in production.
The practice and purpose of debugging a mold is at the very core of scientific molding. This critical step ensures consistent and repeatable production of flawless molded parts by having engineers push the mold relentlessly under realistic conditions (and sometimes beyond); their goal is to identify and correct weaknesses before the mold is called into action.
Here’s a look at the basic process of debugging, including an infographic that visually summarizes each step:
Some injection molders claim to provide custom services, but the industry lacks a clear definition of what “custom” really means — resulting in some manufacturers contracting with molders that are woefully unqualified to accurately produce highly specialized designs. Just because a molder can facilitate development of an original tool doesn’t constitute a truly custom service. Many of these molders are limited to producing simplistic designs and lack the ability to engineer complex critical-use products with precise specifications and tight tolerances.
Injection molders typically rely on outside mold builders to custom-build molds for their clients. Molds rarely arrive with perfect dimensions; typically, after the mold is received, checked out, and tested, adjustments need to be made to the mold to assure all design specifications are met. For most injection molders, this requires sending the mold out for those final adjustments, which burns up a lot of valuable time. Kaysun, however, has the ability make these adjustments in-house and “fine tune” molds after initial sampling to modify the mold core/cavity geometry and achieve the desired dimensions.
Injection-molded plastic components and devices have long been the choice of medical manufacturers for projects requiring tight tolerances, complex product geometries and lightweight versatility. This level of confidence is credited to things like trusted designs, past performance and partnerships with experienced injection molders, but one key contributor to production consistency that is often overlooked is moldflow analysis.
Customers count on their injection molders for expert advice. “Tight tolerance” is a term that is often tossed around loosely in the industry—however, if it’s not done right, parts and products will underperform or possibly fail, resulting in a tooling and/or process overhaul. Therefore tight tolerance is serious business, especially for complex, mission-critical parts.
The quality of plastic components is, in part, determined by the injection molding partner you choose. Properly vetting new, different or specialized vendors involves qualifying a pool of potential molders based on your project needs — i.e. ISO and other certifications, design capabilities, clean room specifications, and value-added services like assembly and overmolding. However, taking the vetting process one step further by conducting on-site quality audits will reveal which has the right level of expertise, facilities, and quality procedures in place to deliver to specific project requirements.
Surface finish on plastic composites can vary a great deal, depending on the physical and chemical properties of the polymer blend, as well as the parameters of the injection molding process.
The first objective is working with the client to determine how important the surface finish is for the appearance and/or performance of the final product. For example, does the product need to be eye-catching or simply functional? Depending on the answer, the material selected and the desired finish will determine the settings for the injection molding process, as well as any secondary finishing operations that might be required.