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Plastic Injection Molding

Published on Jan 10, 2016


Injection molded components are consistently designed to minimize the design and manufacturing information content of the enterprise system. The resulting designs, however, are extremely complex and frequently exhibit coupling between multiple qualities attributes.

Axiomatic design principles were applied to the injection molding process to add control parameters that enable the spatial and dynamic decoupling of multiple quality attributes in the molded part. There are three major benefits of the process redesign effort. First, closed loop pressure control has enabled tight coupling between the mass and momentum equations.

This tight coupling allows the direct input and controllability of the melt pressure. Second, the use of multiple melt actuators provides for the decoupling of melt pressures between different locations in the mold cavity. Such decoupling can then be used to maintain functional independence of multiple qualities attributes. Third, the heat equation has been decoupled from the mass and momentum equations. This allows the mold to be filled under isothermal conditions. Once the cavities are completely full and attain the desired packing pressure, then the cooling is allowed to progress.

Injection molding is the most commonly used manufacturing process for the fabrication of plastic parts. A wide variety of products are manufactured using injection molding, which vary greatly in their size, complexity, and application. The injection molding process requires the use of an injection molding machine, raw plastic material, and a mold. The plastic is melted in the injection molding machine and then injected into the mold, where it cools and solidifies into the final part. The steps in this process are described in greater detail in the next section.

Injection molding is used to produce thin-walled plastic parts for a wide variety of applications, one of the most common being plastic housings. Plastic housing is a thin-walled enclosure, often requiring many ribs and bosses on the interior. These housings are used in a variety of products including household appliances, consumer electronics, power tools, and as automotive dashboards. Other common thin-walled products include different types of open containers, such as buckets. Injection molding is also used to produce several everyday items such as toothbrushes or small plastic toys. Many medical devices, including valves and syringes, are manufactured using injection molding as well.

Machinery & Equipment:

Injection molding machines consist of a material hopper, an injection ram or screw-type plunger, and a heating unit. They are also known as presses, they hold the molds in which the components are shaped. Presses are rated by tonnage, which expresses the amount of clamping force that the machine can exert. This force keeps the mold closed during the injection process. Tonnage can vary from less than 5 tons to 6000 tons, with the higher figures used in comparatively few manufacturing operations.

The total clamp force needed is determined by the projected area of the part being molded. This projected area is multiplied by a clamp force of from 2 to 8 tons for each square inch of the projected areas. As a rule of thumb, 4 or 5 tons/in 2 can be used for most products. If the plastic material is very stiff, it will require more injection pressure to fill the mold, thus more clamp tonnage to hold the mold closed. The required force can also be determined by the material used and the size of the part, larger parts require higher clamping force.

Plastic Injection Molding

Fig. Injection Molding Machine.

Injection molding machines have many components and are available in different configurations, including a horizontal configuration and a vertical configuration. However, regardless of their design, all injection molding machines utilize a power source, injection unit, mold assembly, and clamping unit to perform the four stages of the process cycle. Injection Unit:

The injection unit is responsible for both heating and injecting the material into the mold. The first part of this unit is the hopper, a large container into which the raw plastic is poured. The hopper has an open bottom, which allows the material to feed into the barrel. The barrel contains the mechanism for heating and injecting the material into the mold. This mechanism is usually a ram injector or a reciprocating screw. A ram injector forces the material forward through a heated section with a ram or plunger that is usually hydraulically powered. Today, the more common technique is the use of a reciprocating screw. A reciprocating screw moves the material forward by both rotating and sliding axially, being powered by either a hydraulic or electric motor.

Plastic Injection Molding

The material enters the grooves of the screw from the hopper and is advanced towards the mold as the screw rotates. While it is advanced, the material is melted by pressure, friction, and additional heaters that surround the reciprocating screw. The molten plastic is then injected very quickly into the mold through the nozzle at the end of the barrel by the buildup of pressure and the forward action of the screw. This increasing pressure allows the material to be packed and forcibly held in the mold. Once the material has solidified inside the mold, the screw can retract and fill with more material for the next shot.

Clamping Unit

Prior to the injection of the molten plastic into the mold, the two halves of the mold must first be securely closed by the clamping unit. When the mold is attached to the injection molding machine, each half is fixed to a large plate, called a platen. The front half of the mold, called the mold cavity, is mounted to a stationary platen and aligns with the nozzle of the injection unit. The rear half of the mold, called the mold core, is mounted to a movable platen, which slides along the tie bars.

The hydraulically powered clamping motor actuates clamping bars that push the moveable platen towards the stationary platen and exert sufficient force to keep the mold securely closed while the material is injected and subsequently cools. After the required cooling time, the mold is then opened by the clamping motor. An ejection system, which is attached to the rear half of the mold, is actuated by the ejector bar and pushes the solidified part out of the open cavity.








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