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Injection Molding Goes High Volume
12/21/2012

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The award-winning Ford Escape instrument panel design has a complex geometry with changing wall thicknesses, making it difficult to meet required mechanical properties using solid injection molding processes. Creating the panel in the MuCell microcellular foam process reduced weight by more than 1 lb, improved mechanical properties, reduced cycle time, and lowered the part's cost by $3 per car.
The award-winning Ford Escape instrument panel design has a complex geometry with changing wall thicknesses, making it difficult to meet required mechanical properties using solid injection molding processes. Creating the panel in the MuCell microcellular foam process reduced weight by more than 1 lb, improved mechanical properties, reduced cycle time, and lowered the partís cost by $3 per car.

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naperlou
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Blogger
Aluminum or Steel, and a some observations
naperlou   12/21/2012 10:19:02 AM
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Ann, I assume your statement regarding aluminum or steel in the first paragraph is incorrect considering the text of the rest of the article.  It is an interesting one, by the way.  Recently there was an article on this site on Metal Injection Molding (MIM), which had a poor reputaiton, but has seen great improvements. 

One observation is about the statement about increased pressure on manufacturing.  This is a common statement, so my comment is not aimed at your article, particularly.  There would be no increased pressure without advances in science and engineering.  The statemnt seems to imply that these industries are standing still and being pushed by someone else.  In reality US industry is among, if not the most , efficient in the world. 

Another interesting point in your article is about the Scientific Molding process.  I once worked for a company that made simulators, primarily for training.  These included flight, military as well as industrial simulators.  In general, the simulators were very accurate.  They could often be driven faster than real-time.  A secondard market was found for the industrial simulators in plant control.  The simulator could run many scenarios with different feed stocks, etc.  This would allow adjustment to the process before acutally consuming anything. 

Finally, your article points out the need for design for manufacturing.  Before the move toward outsourcing, there was a move toward integration.  If you could design a part to be more easily manufactured, and you did it in the design phase, it was a very inexpensive change.  If this had to be addressed later, it would be very costly.  Perhaps we are moving back. 

I heard an example of this recently.  A manufacturer of space heaters, I think it was, brought their manufacturing back to the US.  By a small redesign, one that eliminated a lot of fasteners, they were able to lower the time to manufacture.  Since their market was mostly here, and since they could make changes to respond to market conditions more quickly, they have improved their competitiveness.  A god example, I think.

William K.
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Platinum
Re: Aluminum or Steel, and a some observations
William K.   12/26/2012 11:55:58 AM
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How else can you design a part to be manufactured without understanding the capabilities and limitations of the manufacturing process? Evidently it has been done, but it doesn't make sense. It seems that others have thought differently over the years, which is probably the basis for the whole "DFM" group of consultants who try to solve problems for those designing hard to manufacture parts. 

Injection molding has been one of those areas where the first step of part design has been to determine the capabilities needed to produce the part features while designing those same features. That would determine which supplier was selected as well as what features of the part could be included. An analogy is deciding what one would ,ake for dinner based on what food was on hand and what was available to cook it with.

Theoption of including secondary operation types of actions while the part is molded is quite interesting, and it would allow a number of additional options for the initial design process.

robatnorcross
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Gold
Re: Aluminum or Steel, and a some observations
robatnorcross   12/26/2012 5:55:44 PM
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NEWS FLASH!!! We had better hope the Chinese don't get wind of this. They'll be flooding us with useless injection molded things for us to play with instead of actually working.

Our land fills will begin filling up with plastic toys, pc keyboards, mice (the electronic ones), cups, dishes, dinnerware, car instrument panels, you get the idea.

William K.
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Platinum
Re: Aluminum or Steel, and a some observations
William K.   12/26/2012 9:52:52 PM
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I don't make any claim of originality about the assertions in my previous posting, nor that the concepts presented are that new. In fact, my intended point was "how else could you do it? The idea of keepingproduction isolated from design and engineering has always been a poor choice. At least, I think that we are all aware that it is a poor choice.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Aluminum or Steel, and a some observations
Ann R. Thryft   12/27/2012 1:34:13 PM
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I agree with William--when I first heard of DFM, my initial reaction was--"as opposed to what? Design Not For Manufacturing? Design Without Manufacturing?" DFT made sense, and later, DFR (R = either reassembly or recycling). OTOH, manufacturing processes, especially on highly automated lines, have gotten highly complex, as have some products, so more tailored DFM makes sense.

Scott Orlosky
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Platinum
Re: Aluminum or Steel, and a some observations
Scott Orlosky   12/30/2012 11:03:11 PM
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As long as injection molding has been around, it's good to hear about advances in this "old" technology to improve its performance.  Sometimes what's needed is an evolution, not a revolution.

jrryan
User Rank
Iron
Re: Aluminum or Steel, and a some observations
jrryan   1/19/2013 9:27:48 AM
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William, I think the analogy you used is apt, and I definitely welcome the prevalence of idea that good design is by definition design for manufacture, but that precludes the fact that there are so many poorly designed products in the marketplace. How many times have you seen an injection moulded product with significant sinking? or another with a level of fabrication that clearly could be vastly simplified with snapfits?

So, to take your analogy a little bit further, if you were making a meal out of the ingredients in your cupboard, and you were intending to create a curry, but only had salt, pepper, tumeric, milk and chicken, you would do the best you could with the ingredients that matched the recipe. But what if you had other ingredients that don't normally feature in a curry, like bicarbonate of soda, or vinegar, or butter? They aren't on the list, so you overlook how they could be used in your best-effort "design". If you had the time and inclination, you could research how these other ingredients could produce much more vibrant flavour combinations and thus produce a better assimilation of the real thing.

But that still isn't really analogous of the DFM issue, To be a proper analogy, not only would the ingredients have to be throughly explored for suitability, the cooking of the dinner would have to be streamlined for bulk output, so you'd figure out your prep times, brebatch certain ingredients, cook everything in one pot instead of four, and steam your rice in a double boiler over the top. These are all simple efficiency tweaks, and it is merely another form of tweak that brings the concern for efficiency into the design process instead of the re-design process where mistakes and time wasted are corrected after the fact or through manufacturing hacks on the production line.

If you are a good designer, are you already implementing DFM? Well most likely yes, but it is possible that you aren't and the DFM takes place at the design checking stage, where people with more experience of manufacturing provide their input, but if you are a bad designer, then you definitely aren't taking any consideration of the manufacturing process (or at least as little as is necessary to develop a product) and that means a lot of wasted time, money, resources and ultimately really poor, crappy products that are nothing more than future landfill.

William K.
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Aluminum or Steel, and a some observations
William K.   1/19/2013 8:03:18 PM
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jrryan , an interesting comparison to cooking. But if I don't have the ingredients for curry, then instead of making a deffective curry I would head in another direction and possibly make some fried chicken or beef stew.

My point is that unless one is intendingg to lead the organization in a new direction, it is a requirement to consider the production capabilities during the design stage, long before checking happens. Not only considering processes available, but also accuracy levels and the cost of those accuracy levels. Ultimately it equates to designing for high yield, hopefully 100%. That can only happen if one keeps production in mind at all times.

As for some of those poorly done injection molded parts with sink marks? YES, I have seen a few of them, and mostly the sink marks are in places where appearance does not matter much. I agree that sink marks are a production flaw, but sometimes they don't affect yield.

Of course, it is not certain that every engineer would also understand the ability of their organizations production department, but it is certain that at least some part of a design team should have a good grasp of how the product would be made. For many years I have asked other engineers, as we were discussing a design, "How would they make that?", and on quite a few occasions the designer had to visit the production people and find out. I have saved companies a few dollars that way, on occasion. It turns out that there are a few things that can be designed but that can not be produced, at least, not economoically. 

jrryan
User Rank
Iron
Re: Aluminum or Steel, and a some observations
jrryan   1/19/2013 11:06:39 PM
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Well william, you are Designing For Manufacture already then. I can tell you, there are designers and even engineers who are not. At least not for efficient manufacture. And as the addage of many ways to skin a cat goes, There are many ways to design a product for the same manufacture process. Just because the manufacture dictates how it is designed, doesn't necessarily follow that that is the most efficient design for manufacture. How long does it take to fabricate for example, does it require as many screw? Does it require screws at all? Do the parts require turning over to fit together on the assembly line? If so can they be designed to reduce the amount of turns? Are there sufficient guides in place to ease fitting parts together? Does the design require a certain finish, if not, can it be sparked for easier.quicker removal from the mould? How many other products can we incorporate parts from one or more common moulds? Etc...

 

As you've already demonstrated with your own experience, this kind of thinking in the design phase is the way forwards for good design engineers, yet not everybody leaving university is leaving with this drummed into their heads.

William K.
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Platinum
Re: Aluminum or Steel, and a some observations
William K.   1/20/2013 5:56:32 PM
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Since most of my working in the more recent past has been for smaller companies, the motivation is much closer to home, since we need to get any product right the very first time, or else we don't make any profit on it. That is some real motivation, as you can imagine.

Tim
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Platinum
Moldng processes
Tim   12/21/2012 10:11:03 PM
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The use of Scientific Molding is a great way to  produce repeatable parts on multiple machines.  Documentation of separation of pack and hold as well as a documented gate seal study helps to produce parts consistently on different machines.

In regards to aluminum tooling, what is the effect of glass filled reins on the aluminum mold?  Often times, it is necessary to use glass filled resins for metal replacement projects.

Greg M. Jung
User Rank
Platinum
Aluminum
Greg M. Jung   12/24/2012 11:22:09 PM
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Interesting point on the improved mold performance using aluminum due to its improved thermal conductivity. Do you know what type of aluminum they used? (QC-7?)

Ann R. Thryft
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Blogger
Re: Aluminum
Ann R. Thryft   1/3/2013 12:07:39 PM
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Greg, no details were given on the specific aluminum grades used for tooling, but both Unique and DRS mention that it varies depending on volume and lifecycle constraints.

jrryan
User Rank
Iron
Re: Aluminum
jrryan   1/19/2013 9:31:44 AM
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P.S. this link contains some interesting further reading on aluminium tooling for injection moulding: http://www.phoenixproto.com/about/aluminum-tooling-information/aluminum-tooling-myths/ as expected 7075 and QC-10 are in there, along with a few other variants.

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