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How to reduce risk of failure on a new injection moulding project

In my career as a simulation engineer I’ve helped businesses of all sizes to successfully deliver projects by applying CAE software. In this post I’m going to explore some of the most common issues I see, and how to prevent them.

New product introduction is supposed to go like this:

  1. Design a product
  2. Make a mould tool
  3. Produce parts
  4. Go to market

“If only!” I hear you cry. The process isn’t always as smooth as we’d hope. Hiccups along the way can delay product launch and incur significant unexpected costs. When parts don’t meet specification, it can descend into the dreaded blame game between designers, toolmakers and moulders. Things can get messy quickly, and I’ve seen it happen when all parties are in the same company or spread over all 4 corners of the world.

What defines a successful project?

For me a successful project combines innovative design and the timely delivery of reliable tooling, enabling the cost effective production of quality parts. Venn diagram showing intersection of part design, tooling, and process.

The most successful projects demonstrate effective collaboration between part design, tooling and processing. If we lose focus on any one of these areas there’s a good chance of problems down the line. This is where Autodesk Moldflow comes in, as a unifying thread running through the whole project.

So why isn’t everyone running simulation? I’ve had the privilege of seeing all sides of this discussion – here’s a snap shot.

Part Designer

“…it’s up to the toolmaker and moulder to supply me good parts!”

I hear this all the time, and it’s an understandable point of view. You’re paying for the experience and skill of the Toolmaker so why can’t they get on with it? However, having worked on hundreds of injection moulding projects over the years I would estimate that 80% of quality issues are rooted in the part design. Integrating simulation into the design process can achieve huge improvements in product quality, reduce costs and accelerate product launch.

A common fear for a Designer is of taking ‘too much responsibility’. e.g. You might worry that by specifying a gate position you will be blamed for any moulding problems. This comes down to ensuring a collaborative working relationship. Always listen to your Toolmaker’s recommendations, but make sure they are justified and ideally validated with simulation.

Toolmaker

“…whenever I find problems with the part design its always “too late to change that”!”

What’s the point in running simulation when the end customer doesn’t act on the findings? This frustration is most often a case of the Toolmaker being engaged too late in the project. If Moldflow analysis is viewed as just a ‘tick box exercise’ then something needs to change with the product development and delivery strategy.

As a Toolmaker you have a difficult job; juggling tight tolerances, feed system design, ejection, venting, robustness and cooling design. Make sure you’re up to date with the latest technology and how this can differentiate you as a premium supplier while saving your customers money by, for example, reducing cycle time with conformal cooling.

Process Engineer

“…I’ve got to do my best to make good parts with what I’ve been given!”

Those working on the shop floor are often last to the Moldflow party, if they are invited at all. As a Process Engineer you have valuable insight into the reality of production and should be involved early on. One example of this is gate size. If a tool arrives with too small a gate you may be forced to slow the injection speed to avoid over-shear, which can compromise other hidden aspects of part quality such as residual stress.

Every Process Engineer should have access to Autodesk Moldflow Communicator; it’s free and will allow you to see what’s actually going on inside the mould. Closing the loop between production and simulation is a fundamental but crucial step – and the one most often skipped.

Image of plastic injection molding machine.

Golden Rule

Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. It’s that simple. If you put the framework in place to ensure all voices are heard the rest will take care of itself. If you’re not sure how to start, drop me a message.

Looking forward, the collaborative workflows enabled by Autodesk Fusion 360 will transform new product introduction, so watch this space.

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Louis Barnes

Louis is a Technical Sales Specialist for Autodesk based in Manchester, UK, where he studied Mechanical Engineering. He has spent his career providing simulation services, training and support to engineering professionals across a range of industries. Louis is an Autodesk Moldflow Insight Certified Expert and his mission is to empower customers to improve their products and processes by adopting Autodesk solutions.

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