By Shell Polymers on Jul 09, 2020
Many injection molding companies have unlocked bottom-line value through using simulations in their part design process. They’ve benefited from reduced costs, fewer iterations and faster time to market for new products – and all the competitive advantages that go with that. Meanwhile, others don’t capture significant value this way. What gives?
The difference could be that the industry leaders in this space have built simulation into the life force of their design process; others tend to see it as a checkbox exercise to be completed before they can revert to a more classical approach. Consequently, they don’t leverage fully the information that simulation work provides.
“Industry leaders in this space have built simulation into the life force of their design process”
For example, most plastics engineers will conduct a first-pass simulation on a part design. This identifies many of the issues that could occur as the polymer flows through their mold, such as warpage or shrinkage, and then they adjust the design according to what they gleaned from the simulation.
Next, they take their part to a mold builder, in house, or externally, who recommends the best way to build a mold to make that part. The mold builder draws on their experience to recommend where the gates should be, what size the flow channels should be, how the part might be ejected, and other, highly specified, aspects of the mold design.
What the engineer does next may play a large role in how much value they capture.
Some will proceed to build the tool.
The industry leaders, however, typically undertake further simulation work, this time also incorporating the mold builder’s input, to optimize the design further. By continuing to turn this crank, they can develop a highly effective representation of how the molding process will unfold, well before they’ve cut steel. This oft-forgotten step can be the one that provides the most value.
Accelerating the Mold Development Cycle
There can be a tendency to perceive simulation as an extra cost in the part design process, especially for those that don’t have simulation resources in-house. And everybody is very mindful of their spending right now.
But there’s cost and there’s value, and one should always remember the payoff. Simulation can help to cut the number of iterations it takes to arrive at a robust part design, it can reduce the number of times you have to recut tools, and it enables you to get new products to market faster. But you won’t capture all that value if you don’t utilize it fully.
Related Reading: How to Enhance Your Plastic Injection Molding Operation in 3 Steps
Using Fully-Characterized Resins
Another important factor that can make or break the success of your simulation is the resin. Building your simulation with a resin that is not representative of the resin that you will process in your shop can greatly reduce the value of the simulation.
To get more value out of simulation models, using resins that have been fully characterized, in accordance with the protocols set up by the software designers and their industry partners, may be a very effective approach to consider.
Leveraging these techniques, and then actually running these resins in your shop, will provide the best chance of alignment between the flow articulated in the simulation, and what is actually seen at the press.
That’s why, to make life easier for our customers, Shell Polymers will work to process all of our injection molding grades through key characterization tests. So, when you want to simulate a new part design, we’ll be able to provide a simulation file that enables you to understand exactly how the resin is going to behave.