From advancements that have helped the industry for over 40 years to the latest cutting-edge innovations, there are a number of interesting plastic injection technologies out there that could be used to bring your prototype into production.
Below are six technologies that are helping today's injection moulding companies produce parts more rapidly and with higher quality. The more you know, the more prepared you'll be to request such a technology when it comes time to select your injection moulding partner!
Thin wall moulding is an injection moulding technology that achieves a plastic part with a very thin wall. It is often used in test apparatuses, electronics, vessels, tubes, and other enclosures. Plastic injection moulders who do thin wall moulding have to consider every aspect of the part design, mould design, and processing in detail to ensure that the thin wall geometry will hold up without quality issues.
The trouble with any thick plastic injection-moulded part is that it runs the risk of distortion as it cools. Gas-assisted injection moulding helps solve this issue by shooting gas into a plastic material-filled injection mould. This allows the plastic on the outside of the mould to maintain a smooth and finished appearance while the inside stays porous or hollow. This not only keeps the part from deforming during the cooling stage, but also lessens the cost of the part (as you're using less material).
Plastic isn't the only thing that can be injection moulded—metal can as well. This new technology is substantially more expensive than plastic injection moulding and usually serves a niche market. The cell phone market, for example, sometimes uses metal injection moulding to shield the cellular electronics from radio or microwaves.
The majority of plastic injection moulding is thermoset, meaning cold material is injected into an extremely hot mould to create a part. This process cures the part so it can never be melted again. But if you need a part to withstand very high temperatures or chemical agents—as you might with certain medical devices or car parts—you may need thermoplastic injection moulding, which frequently uses liquid silicone.
3D printing is a notable injection moulding technology because of the role it plays in prototyping an injection moulded part. This allows us to discuss potential improvements in more depth than we could while reviewing an online rendering, for example. It's also worth noting that 3D printing can be used to print actual injection moulds using plastic or metal. Currently, the available 3D printing technology does not enable us to print with the narrow part tolerances required in an injection mould—but we imagine it may in the future.
While this isn't a plastic injection “technology” in the traditional sense, the use of unique material formulations does advance moulding capabilities. Injection moulding companies may, for example, use a carbon or mineral filler, a blowing agent, and a lubricity additive to add certain properties to a part. The temperature of the mould and the plastic material are both important when adding a filler, additive, and blowing agent, so we are constantly refining our process to achieve the best advantage for these unique materials.