Plastic Molding Machines
Over-mold plastic molding and two-shot injection molding are two distinctly different molding methods even though both are used to combine multiple polymers into a single part. Because of this similarity, the two are often confused or misapplied by the design engineer. The more finite capabilities of these two molding methods differ as much as their required tooling, machines and often, the resulting part cost. Choosing the right method can be a critical factor usd in achieving targeted features, cost and time-to-market. Both methods can be used to create the soft-touch products popular in today’s marketplace. However, both methods can be applied to other applications where multiple polymers must be combined into a single part. Over-mold injection molding is used for parts that do not require fine detail and can absorb the higher cost of machine time and labor. 2-shot injection molding is reserved for parts requiring fine detail and low part cost.
The 2-shot injection moulding process creates the first plastic component, and the material molded round it, using a single mold and a 2-shot injection molding machine. 2-shot machines have two-barrels (one for each material) and they have the ability to rotate the mold. The machine injects the first shot material into cavities on one side of the mold, rotates the mold 180 degrees, and then injects the second shot material onto the first shot. The first and second shots occur at the same time. When the mold opens, it ejects the completed parts from the second shot cavities and it rotates the mold to position the first shot for the second shot. This is accomplished in a machine running in an automatic cycle. Because the 2-shot injection molding process is fast and highly repeatable, the shrinkage of the first shot is very consistent and two materials can be molded together with virtually no flash. 2-shot molding is the process of choice when molded-in graphics or other fine details are required. The elimination of the shrinkage variable allows 2-shot molding to produce details impossible to achieve with over-mold injection molding.
As with any process, there are advantages and disadvantages associated with plastic injection molding. The advantages outweigh the disadvantages for most companies; they include being able to keep up high levels of production, being able to replicate a high tolerance level in the products being produced, and lower costs for labor as the bulk of the work is done by machine. Plastic injection molding also has the added benefit of lower scrap costs because the mold is so precisely made. However, the disadvantages can be a deal breaker for smaller companies that would like to utilize plastic injection molding as a way to produce parts. These disadvantages are, that they equipment needed is expensive, therefore, increasing operating costs. Thankfully, for these smaller companies, there are businesses that specialize in custom plastic injection molding. They will make a mock up mold to the exact specifications, run it through the complete process and present the completed piece along with an estimate to complete the job to the customer.
Thermoplastic injection molding is the most widely used of all plastic processing methods. The injection molding machine reduces pelletized raw material and colorants into a hot liquid. This “melt” is forced into a cooled mold under tremendous pressure. After the material solidifies, the mold is unclamped and a finished part is ejected. Injection molding offers the lowest piece prices available, but tooling prices are generally the highest. Thermoset injection molding is similar to thermoplastic plastic injection mould except that uncured thermoset resins are mixed, injected, and held in the mold until cured. As with thermoplastic molding, the price per piece can be low, but the tooling prices are generally very high.