Rapid Molding vs. Traditional | Digital Manufacturing

Rapid Molding vs. Traditional | Digital Manufacturing

The Difference Between Traditional and Rapid Molding

By Leslie Langnau, Design World 

Rapid molding is a key player as the “digitization” of nearly every process to make products continues. The latest industry to experience this shift is molding. Here’s a look at how digitization may affect traditional molding service providers.

Pierre Viaud-Murat | Senior Vice President of Sales

Digital manufacturing offers many benefits across multiple touch points: it can reduce time to market, labor overhead and asset use, plus it helps customers control quality and inventory. These advantages allow users to explore new revenue streams, develop and enhance innovative designs and respond to market demands. The digital age can enhance designers freedom to create and develop through one streamlined methodology.

The traditional manufacturing process
The traditional manufacturing process usually consists of a several-step sequence within the manufacturing flow. Team members monitor and ensure that safeguards are in place throughout the entire part lifecycle. Throughout the process, various testing for form, fit and function are required to discover any part flaws. Each team member should be aware of these critical-path processes, as the traditional method of manufacturing requires more manual than automated production.

traditional manufacturing

The traditional injection molding manufacturing process usually consists of several steps. Throughout the process, various testing for form, fit and function are required to discover any part flaws. Usually, the traditional method of manufacturing requires more manual than automated production.

For example, generating a quote using a DFM analysis and confirming an order manually can take approximately a week, if all of the process steps are accurate and on track the first time through. In the event that any modification is required, the same process steps would be repeated before finalizing the order.

Once an order has been placed, the mold design is reviewed for viability. When that design is finalized, it will go onto the next phase of the traditional manufacturing process. This can be a lengthier portion of the process, ranging from three to eight weeks. Additional delays may also occur if project issues are not identified early in the quoting process, which will result in re-quoting, redesigning or redefining the project. Any of the three can result in significant delays.

With all of the production factors in place, the part will then be molded. After the first shots, a visual and dimensional inspection will be done. If the part passes inspection, it is shipped out to the customer for review and feedback.

Once the customer inspects the part, they have the opportunity to approve or reject the run. In the event of a non-approval, the process would be modified and revisited again with continual iterations until the optimal part is achieved. Any combination of these factors can impact the cost, quality and timing in a traditional manufacturing process.

The digital manufacturing process
Another approach to injection molding involves the digitization of as many injection-molding steps as possible. This approach is referred to as rapid or digital manufacturing, and is a natural progression of traditional manufacturing. The streamlining possible by digitizing many traditional molding steps can reduce total costs.

digital manufacturing

An evolution of traditional injection molding manufacturing is referred to as digitization. It involves digitizing as many injection-molding steps as possible to streamline many traditional molding steps to reduce total costs.

Digital manufacturing begins with the upload of a 3D CAD file to a service provider’s servers. The geometry and part requirements are analyzed, usually with proprietary software. Then the customer receives an interactive quote. Once the customer approves the quote, an order is generated and the mold design finalized and a tool-path created, often within hours.

The initial mold can often be created with modular components, which is another cost savings. Then, the mold is usually machined, a process that takes a couple of days. After benching and finishing, the mold tool is assembled for first production shots and inspection.

This process of rapid mold development can shorten development lead-time to weeks instead of months.

Digital manufacturing can accelerate every step of a part creation process. In traditional manufacturing, the retooling investment could push the break-even manufacturing numbers into the thousands – a cost-prohibitive change for many smaller businesses. Digital manufacturing, however, can implement that small design change for approximately a quarter of the investment in a quarter of the time.

Digital manufacturing is scalable and flexible. Should demand rapidly increase, the digital manufacturing process can move between low-volume to mass production. Thus, designers can react to market behaviors quickly and easily. If demand drops, rapid manufacturing enables adjustments while still achieving the lowest total cost. Thus, regardless of a market’s volatility, digital manufacturing lets users respond accordingly.

The digital manufacturing process allows customers to quickly go through multiple iterations easily. Low-cost tooling makes low-production runs economical enough to test on select markets and use the feedback as a learning curve. Customers can maintain their existing quality controls, while developing good parts that can get to market faster.  Some service providers offer optional services, such as inspection and project management consulting. Digital inspection allows for rapid feedback and tool modifications, if necessary. Service providers usually have experienced tooling experts who can consult during the mold development process to solve any problems that arise.

Mold considerations
Mold service providers strive to ensure a mold tool is available over the lifecycle of a project. Often, the tool is made from a high-grade aluminum base material, like QC-10, which offers an excellent strength-to-weight ratio.

Compared to steel, aluminum is softer and less dense, dissipates heat quickly and efficiently and costs up to 75% less. It’s also a recyclable material, an attractive feature when material waste can be higher than 50% per part. Recyclability and material reuse can help recoup initial material costs.

Although aluminum may not be the right material for every type of mold, it works well for prototyping, bridge tooling and low volume production. Depending on the size and structure of the parts, the heat dissipation within an aluminum mold can be up to 50% higher than steel or other metals, creating faster production turnaround times. Aluminum molds will usually last through production runs of several thousands of parts. DW.

The article above is featured in Design World’s Make Parts Fast.

If you would like additional information on the rapid molding process, contact one of our Technical Specialists today at 586-598-4636 or sales@xcentricmold.com.

What is Digital Manufacturing?

What is Digital Manufacturing?

This content has been updated. Please visit the new post about digital manufacutring.

What is digital manufacturing?

Rapid or digital manufacturing is a natural progression from traditional manufacturing. The capabilities afforded by digitization, automation and data connectivity translate into reduced costs and increased efficiencies.

So how does it work? Each process step is streamlined to accommodate quicker turnaround times with low-cost automated solutions.

digital manufacturing

Digital Manufacturing Process

The process is entirely digitized and starts with the upload of a 3D CAD file onto our servers. Within a very short timeframe, the geometry and requirements are analyzed, thanks to proprietary software, and an interactive quote becomes available online. Upon approval an order is generated and the mold design is finalized within hours – together with the toolpath programming. Using modular construction and standardized components, mold components are then machined, usually within a few days. After benching and mold finishing, the tool is assembled for first shots and inspection.

This process, achieved through rapid molding, will give your part a lead time of weeks instead of months. The average price? A fraction of the cost for traditional molding. The capacity that’s available for you to get your part made? Your lead time is always the priority. It’s made in the USA with as many sourced mold materials and resins that can be procured in the allotted time.

As a result, digital manufacturing naturally accelerates every step of the process and reduces the labor intensity while driving the scale of your project. A great example might be a state-of-the-art syringe. It may consist of three, distinct injection-molded parts. Before new production runs are needed to meet supply and demand, the product manager may have a revision to one of the components, driven by departmental standards. In traditional manufacturing, the retooling investment may push the break- even manufacturing numbers into the thousands – a cost-prohibitive change for many smaller businesses. Digital manufacturing, in comparison, can implement that small design change for approximately a quarter of the investment in a quarter of the time.

That is why our unique ability to accommodate complex designs is our asset. Your designers have fewer roadblocks, freeing them to work on new projects instead of going back to the drawing board to modify their designs so they can be produced. Rapid results let your team respond quickly to market requirements with the best product they can design – a competitive edge that keeps your company on- top. Without design rework or months-long lead times, innovation can boost your company’s results.

The digital manufacturing process at Xcentric Mold & Engineering is a very rapid and seamless process. The key components of this process include cost, quality, automation and speed to market, which allows customers to go through the iteration process once or numerous times, if necessary, at a very quick speed. By following these steps, customers can maintain their existing quality controls, while developing good parts getting them to market faster.

There are two optional services in this process, inspection and project management consulting. After molding the parts, the in-house inspection allows the customer and us to determine the quality of the product and discover errors immediately. Digital inspection allows for rapid feedback and tool modifications, if necessary. Experienced Tooling Engineers interface directly with designers during the entire process, providing expert advice and problem solving at any time, which is critical to ensure successful and fast product manufacturing.

In fact, shorter lead times from concept to development can create new-market discoveries. Previously untapped revenue streams that were potentially out of reach can be viable, thanks to new technologies, transforming how companies like yours do business. Low-cost tooling, development and production have been streamlined so low-production runs are economical enough to test on select markets and use the feedback as an optimized learning curve. Should demand rapidly increase, the rapid manufacturing process can transition between low-volume to mass production. In turn, that allows you to react to market behaviors quickly and easily, reduce your time to market for increased competitiveness and resolve any potential problems before they impact your shipments. In instances where production inadvertently slows, rapid manufacturing allows you to make adjustments while still achieving the lowest total cost. That means regardless of the market’s volatility, rapid manufacturing lets you respond accordingly.

Mold Considerations

There’s more to the process than lower cost and production times, however. The quality of your part is critical, and the tool must be available over the whole lifecycle of your project. This is made possible by the high-grade aluminum base material we use, in particular QC-10, which offers an excellent strength- to-weight ratio. Compared to steel, aluminum is softer and less dense, dissipates heat quickly and efficiently and costs up to 75% less. It’s also an indefinitely recyclable material, a large consideration when utilizing a subtractive manufacturing process, where material waste can be higher than 50% per part. Recyclability and material reuse can help recoup initial material costs.

Although aluminum may not be the right material for every type of mold, it works particularly well for prototyping, bridge tooling and low volume production. Depending on the size and structure of the parts being made, the heat dissipation within an aluminum mold can be up to 50% higher than steel or other metals, creating faster production turnaround times. The primary disadvantage is that, over time, aluminum molds can break down from repeated use: using the same mold for millions of parts may cause its structural integrity to break down and the profile of details to blur; however, running thousands of parts using aluminum molds can provide a tremendous cost savings as well as reduce production times. Xcentric offers a Lifetime Mold Guarantee so mold break-down shouldn’t be a detriment.

As you can see, the capabilities of rapid manufacturing is varied and robust with two major caveats: They take less time and cost less to produce. Digital manufacturing offers a plethora of benefits across multiple touchpoints: reducing your time to market, labor overhead and asset utilization, giving you more opportunities for quality control and inventory management. These advantages allow you to explore new revenue streams, develop and enhance innovative designs and respond to market demands. The digital age can transform your company and give your designers the freedom they need to create, develop and enhance in one streamlined methodology. The future is here. Make it work for you.

 

Do you have any questions regarding the digital manufacturing process? Contact one of our Technical Specialists at 586-598-4636 or sales@xcentricmold.com. We will be happy to review your design and provide you with recommendations.

3 Types of Manufacturers: How To Choose

3 Types of Manufacturers: How To Choose

Here are the Top 3 Types of Manufacturers and Tips for Choosing The Best Option

Choosing a competent vendor to help you produce your part is a critical step for the success of your project.  Let’s examine some of the different types of vendors currently available to source from.

Conventional Manufacturing

Conventional manufacturing is Unless your design is highly niched, extra large in size or requires more than 100,000 parts run at a time, conventional manufacturing, let’s face it, is just too damned slow. You are looking at a 6-12 week lead time, at minimum. And changes to your design or the tool will take even longer. In this faced paced economy where being first to market is the difference between winning and losing, you just can’t afford to go that route.

Overseas Manufacturing

You are probably thinking that China can produce your part faster and cheaper than conventional manufacturing. And you’d be right. But faster than 6-12 weeks isn’t saying much and cheaper goes both ways…pricing and quality.
Here are some more potential problems when working with a manufacturer overseas:

  • Hidden Fees– often times, shipping costs, duty and insurance are not included in a quote and will be added after the fact.
  • Reduced Quality– it’s been reported over the years that, among other problems, many Chinese manufacturers will reduce part quality to increase profit margins. One technique they might employ is to use a substandard material than the one you specified to save on their costs.
  • Delays– due to logistics and the distances for shipping, delivery can be unpredictable.
  • Copyright– the laws are very different abroad. There is little you can do to protect your design from being copycatted.

The bottom line is that you are really going to have to take the extra time to vet your overseas vendor to make sure you are getting what you are paying for. But we know your time is precious.
There is a third option.

Digital, On-Demand, Rapid Manufacturing

There are some companies right here in the US that specialize in true rapid manufacturing. A true rapid manufacturing company will be able to provide a quote very quickly, will have in-house production capabilities to ensure fast turn-around and be readily available for answering questions.
Some companies who claim to be a true rapid manufacturing company are simply brokers. They will take your order within the States and get their Chinese manufacturing partner to produce the mold and parts. No matter what they claim, this sacrifices speed.
Xcentric Mold & Engineering is a true rapid manufacturing company. Because we understand the custom nature of all projects, quotes that come through our 24 hour, online, interactive quote system are thoroughly reviewed by a highly trained engineer to determine the best possible way to manufacture it. The result is a quote that represents the best possible price for your part and delivered within mere hours. Combined with our on-site, state-of-the-art, fully-equipped manufacturing facility and along with our Advanced Mold Making System and Proprietary Process Engine, we are routinely able to produce some of the most complex parts that other suppliers will “no quote” or request design concessions.
We don’t find it acceptable to require that you change your design. After all, the features you put into that part were put there for a reason, right? It doesn’t make sense to us that you remove them. Instead, we’ll do everything possible to think “outside the box” to get the part that you designed manufactured as you designed it.
That is what makes Xcentric Mold & Engineering the best choice for manufacturing your project.
We can produce your prototypes and samples very quickly and accurately, but when production parts are your end game, understand that we’ve perfected the injection molding process to:

  • provide from the lowest to the highest of runs
  • serve the most economical of budgets
  • produce the most complex of designs
  • deliver the most immediate and urgent of projects

lifetime-mold-guaranteeAnd finally, with our Lifetime Mold Guarantee, we will guarantee your mold for life. That means there’s no quantitily limit for the life of your project.
With a onetime, upfront tooling fee, we guarantee that we will supply unlimited part quantities for the life of your project.
Start your project off right with the manufacturer who can produce more parts, faster, cheaper and more consistently than anyone else.

Designing for Manufacturability

Designing for Manufacturability

Designing for Manufacturability

Some things to consider moving forward toward manufacturing is the time and effort put into designing your part for manufacturability. As your project makes its way through the progression of its development, your original model may need to be altered to fit the manufacturing process.
As we have shown, each process has different accuracy and resolution attributes. They also have inherent design limitations.
In other words, designing for one is different than designing for another. Therefore, the design considerations you need to make at the start of your project will impact the costs associated with production.

Additive Manufacturing

When designing a part destined to be additively manufactured, it is important to understand that some design features may need to be altered for production.
Some things to consider for designing for additive manufacturing…

  • Larger parts outside the space limitations of your chosen process can be broken up into smaller pieces and assembled later.
  • Avoiding sharp edges in your AM design can improve accuracy.
  • Be aware of overhang – geometric angles larger than 45 degrees will require supports which could limit the complexity.
  • Thicker walls and hollowed interiors can reduce print time (SLA parts will need drain holes incorporated on all hollowed-out features).

Subtractive Manufacturing

CNC machining is an option for prototypes as well. The benefits include being able to achieve tight tolerances and creating objects out of the exact production material needed, both metal and plastic. However, if production of more than 50 parts is required, it can become costly in both time and money.

  • You have a wide selection of engineered grade materials for more accurate strength, flexibility, chemical resistance or other critical characteristics
  • If outsourcing your CNC project, 5-axis capabilities are capable of producing more complex designs
  • Part features can be as thin as 0.020 in.
  • Internal Threads can be achieved.

Injection Molding

Injection Molding is usually the preferred method for producing production parts. And because injection molding is economical in as few as 50 parts, it could be wise to design directly for the injection molding process if a production run is already in the budget.
With that in mind, we’ve produced a helpful guide to help you learn a little more about what it takes to design a part for the injection molding process.
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