Beginners Guide to Injection Moulding

Injection moulding

Having recently joined Automatic Plastics Limited – coming on board due to my experience and knowledge in relationship building, sales and marketing activities rather than industry expertise, I thought a Beginners Guide may be a useful tool for our online marketing.  Just a couple of months into the role I am happy to say that I have climbed a steep learning curve with some way to go. The synergy that works at Automatic Plastics is the profound engineering, quality and technical expertise of the team on site combined with our creative and innovative fresh eyes approach to marketing. So here it is.. my Beginner’s Guide to Injection Moulding….

injection moulding Plastic Injection Moulding: Plastic injection moulding is the manufacturing process which produces plastic parts from small components to completed medical devices. So when the design phase is completed, usually with our advice and value added input, a bespoke steel mould or tool is built (I have quickly come to appreciate that this is a really important stage – a well-built tool/mould will deliver quality parts, skimping on the mould can lead to poor quality components). The mould is then placed into one of our high tech moulding machines – material for the part is fed into a heated barrel, mixed, and forced into a mould cavity where it cools and hardens to the configuration of the cavity. Ta-da!

Injection Moulding Machines: Our 26 machines have a capability of 25 to 485 tonnes of clamping force. In layman’s terms it is simply the level of force that can be applied to the mould as the plastic is being injected. It is hugely important as the calculated tonnage can be used to select the right machine that will prevent part defects, such as excessive flash.  There are different machine types – at Automatic Plastics our machines are either hydraulic or electric. Our electric machines make us highly competitive – as it reduces our operation costs by cutting energy consumption and also addresses some of the environmental concerns surrounding the hydraulic machines. Electric presses have been shown to be quieter, faster, and have a higher accuracy. Good news for our clients and for the environment too!

2 shot machine capability: Having a two shot capability means that we can produce a component with either two colours or two different components – it means we can manufacture injection moulded parts from two different materials in one process – at high speed and competitive cost. Having a 2 shot machine means we can offer tremendous flexibility in the products we help design and ultimately manufacture.

Robots: Our highly sophisticated CNC robots are fully programmable and facilitate downstream automation. This has multiple benefits including increased speed and efficiency, improved accuracy and means zero operator contact with the product.

The Materials: Polypropylene would be the most common material used in injection moulding in Ireland.  Key characteristics are that it is relatively cost effective, highly stable and chemical resistant. The Masterbatch is the additive that gives colour to the end product or is added to provide the end product with an alternative property such as making it fire retardant.

Accreditations: We know our ability and focus on delivering high standards – our external accreditations ISO9000 (pharma focus) and TS 16949 (automotive) for which we go through a rigorous audit process are confirmation of our commitment to excellence, always.  We have started our journey to achieve ISO13485 as we continue to concentrate on the medical sector. Our manufacturing philosophy is also heavily focused on GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) – in layman’s terms tried, tested and robust guidelines on how best to manufacture.  As a marketer with a non-manufacturing background I know that having the confidence to sell is based on the confidence in delivering.

Logistics:  It has become quickly apparent to me that the importance of logistics is on a par with the   importance of the actual manufacture. Our 24/7 production run, combined with our transport fleet for nationwide delivery, and our strategic partners for UK or European delivery means that our clients receive their product when they need it.

Injection moulding Design & Manufacturability:  A key stage in the process of a new product is not only the design, but the manufacturability – consideration of which can massively impact the production cost and end user experience.  The depth of knowledge of injection moulding from the Automatic Plastics team has given me a profound understanding of the key relevance of this from a sales perspective. A design can be beautifully creative and wonderfully ergonomic, however, a pragmatic engineering analysis is often the essential phase to make sure that a robust, user friendly and competitively priced product is designed.

Inventors: The vast majority of our clients are established pharmaceutical, medical devices, automotive or generic plastic product manufacturers. Nevertheless we do of course receive enquiries from the innovative, idea driven, creative thinkers of the world. The first step in a completely new product process is to get a prototype manufactured. We do have companies that we can refer – a prototype is generally produced on a 3D printer and is therefore a 1-off production. It provides the inventor with a one off product to then seek investment or clients.  Once ready to launch to market we can help in the design process and help in select the best company to build the mould – which will then be delivered to us and production can commence.

Industry: One of the key findings since I have joined is the huge importance of the plastics industry within Ireland, in terms of innovation, research and development, employment, export and economic growth. Attendance at some superb events run by Plastics Ireland, of IBEC including the All-Ireland New Technology Forum Society of Plastics Engineers in association with Athlone Institute of Technology, Waterford Institute of Technology, the IDA, Enterprise Ireland, Plastics Ireland and IBEC which took place in March in both Athlone and Waterford are excellent for facilitating networking, increasing industry knowledge, providing support and promoting the plastics industry. The ongoing energy and commitment of the First Polymer Training Skillnet is also fundamental to success in meeting the challenges that industry faces in terms of skills, education and training.

So in brief, the plastics industry faces many challenges and opportunities and I look so very much to continuing the exciting journey with Automatic Plastics. The most important element of any company is of course… the team!

The Automatic Plastics Team for the Plastics Sector
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