Gary’s injection mold troubleshooting guide is a basic primer to help with the mold making process, which is so complex that it is often difficult to pinpoint exactly what is causing the molding defects. Also, because deadlines are always short and most companies operate with a JIT philosophy, there is a tendency to look for simple answers to complex problems.
Having said that, the injection mold making troubleshooting process should begin with simple causes and proceed to more complicated ones. Sometimes the obvious is overlooked in the attempt to find something more involved or technical.
From a mold makers viewpoint and experience, a lack of proper venting is the most common cause for injection molding defects. The short shots, unfilled corners, burned areas, sink marks, flow marks, jetting, weld lines, flash, and warping all have distinct characteristics and unique causes, but often it is venting that is lacking.
A little knowledge about the molding material can help determine the vent depth; surprisingly, this is frequently ignored.
Injection mold troubleshooting guidelines for vents
Most plastic injection mold makers are very tentative about venting, for fear of flash. Also, many designers fail to properly determine the correct vent location and depth, leaving it up to the mold maker. He may or may not have access to the material being used in the plastic part, so he probably guesses at the location and depth. Plus, because of the fear of flash, he will always stay on the conservative side and make it shallow.
Runners are also commonly overlooked as a venting area. When you think about it, the gas buildup and air found in the runners has to go someplace, and it ends up in the molding area. Properly vented runners alleviate many problems that seem to be difficult to solve. The plastic molding process is already complicated, why not take care of the simple things?
Gates and radii
Improper gate placement and size is also a huge factor in molding defects. Without proper sizing and location, the part is subject to all kinds of problems that simply will not go away until the remedy is applied. Engineered plastics are very finicky in their molding demands and the designer must find out the proper characteristics in order to produce a quality product. Guessing is a thing of the past and is costly in time, labor and material.
Adding adequate radii to runners, gates and sprues will also minimize defects. The turbulence caused by sharp corners will result in a defective part. This is easily remedied by simply taking the time to add a radius where needed. It is surprising how many molds are made with these corners dead sharp.
There is a reason for all those flakes on the parting line, why not take the time to fix the problem?
A tunnel gate, for example, needs a radius at the parting line in order to avoid flaking when the gate is ejected. You often see molds with massive amounts of plastic flaking on the parting lines, causing more damage to the molding shut-offs and surface finish.
This is so easy to fix, yet the mold just keeps running because the order must be filled, now! Such problems lead to other problems and soon there is significant damage to the tool steel.
A plastic injection mold is a precision piece tool, made by very skilled toolmakers, CNC machinists, Sinker EDM operators, designers, polishers, WEDM operators, surface grinders and a host of suppliers for the various mold components. Omitting details such as vents and radii just don’t do justice to the level of workmanship that has gone into the project.
Overlooking these simple details is foolish in the long run and taking care of the easy things is much less expensive than putting it off until later.