Injection Molding Prototyping is Invaluable Survey Shows

Injection Molding Prototyping is Invaluable Survey Shows

Engineers have a multitude of reasons for creating physical prototypes. They need to get approval for their idea, ensure their concept meets their customers’ needs, and make sure their concept can sustain its integrity under use. They also need to verify that their concept can, in fact, be manufactured. Injection molding prototypes, 3D printed prototypes, and even cast urethane prototypes all prove valuable in product development.

Over the past year, Xcentric has conducted a number of surveys to get a view of how prototyping is impacting our customers’ product development. Our findings, while in some cases obvious, also revealed some surprises. Read on to see what we learned.

The Obvious

Some of our questions simply validated common knowledge.

In the course of moving a product through prototyping to production:

The uses for prototyping are mostly obvious.
  • 92% of our respondents say they need to provide an initial, low-cost physical prototype for approval from marketing, their Board of Directors, or other approval body
  • 58% say they need a physical prototype for stress testing including drop testing, hot/cold cycling, UV testing, and other testing requirements

While it may be a little surprising that more stress testing wasn’t required, it’s no surprise that nearly everyone requires a physical prototype at some point during product development. The composition of those prototypes has changed over time as technology has advanced. When asked, 95% use 3D printing/additive manufacturing for prototyping and 58% use injection molding prototyping. But only 26% have used cast urethane for prototyping. Our assessment is that cast urethane prototyping is not well known and, therefore, not often considered as a low-cost alternative to injection molding prototyping when 3D printed prototypes just won’t meet the engineer’s needs.

Also, and not surprising, changes to features within design are common. Any engineer who has worked on more than one project knows this to be true. Whether driven by added requirements, market testing, or manufacturability requirements, design changes come with the job. Our survey respondents told us:

  • 76% make frequent changes to features within their design and prototyping helps prove these out
  • 52% leverage prototyping to scale from low volume to high volume over time

The Not-So-Obvious

We also identified practices that make sense when you think about it but are so often missed by companies in product development that they aren’t obvious.

When to use each kind of prototyping isn't always obvious

50% of respondents acknowledge there are limitations and strengths for each prototyping process and they need to be more aware of when to leverage each. 54% say they need to look at immediate, midterm, and long-term requirements when evaluating how and when to use each type of prototyping. However, these acknowledgements happened only after learning use cases which show when and for what purpose different types of prototyping are used. Over 87% polled say they’ve had a project that might be a fit for multiple prototyping processes, leaving them unsure how to proceed.

We’ve all heard about, or even experienced, projects where production tooling has required changes. And, everyone knows about the factor of 10 for cost and timing – changes cost 10x as much and require 10x the time to execute in each successive step in product development. This logarithmic reality is why we try to keep changes early in development. And while everyone in product development knows this, the statistics are still surprising.

  • 83% of respondents say they’ve had to make changes to their tooling after it’s been built
  • 37% say they’ve had to completely scrap their tooling and start over

Both scenarios result in delayed product launch and significant cost increases.

The Head Scratchers

And, then there are the things that should be common sense but aren’t and leave us scratching our head.

  • 58% need a prototype for testing
  • 51% mainly or only do 3D printing for prototyping
  • 35% say their company has attempted to eliminate injection molding prototyping for all projects by using only 3D printing
  • 12% say their company had eliminated injection molding prototyping in favor of 3D printing for a few projects
  • Over 97% acknowledge product changes in pre-production or production resulting in cost and timing increases.
Eliminating certain types of prototyping just to save budget rarely makes sense.

Production delays often begin with strategy about prototyping. 3D Printed prototypes are rarely suitable for validation testing and NEVER provide lessons usable by the production mold maker. We learned that 87% of respondents begin thinking about Design for Manufacturability during CAD development. Yet too often the transition from CAD to Manufacturing omits the injection molding prototyping process where significant learning takes place that can be applied to full-scale manufacturing.

With so much failure to launch, something more needs to be done to ensure parts meet user requirements AND can be manufactured with efficiency and efficacy.

What Do We Make of All This?

Over 82% of our respondents said if they could save 4 to 6 weeks on their development cycle, they would get to market faster with a higher quality product. Yet nearly all respondents said they are unable to get to market on time, let alone shave time from launch, because of changes required in production that were missed earlier in the development process.

Skimping on, or skipping prototyping altogether, is proven costly. The cost and time saved by doing so is minified by the cost and time lost making changes at the production stage.

Understanding your prototyping options at each stage of product development is the first important step to gaining control over costly changes downstream. Each step can require a different level of physical evaluation, thus requiring a different type of prototype. Initial board approval and market tests may require a simple 3D printed part while full-scale testing will require a part that is manufactured with the same process and polymers that will be used in production. And, beyond part testing and evaluation, the lessons learned about the mold and molding process during injection molding prototyping are invaluable to the production team as they design, build, and run your production molds.

We had over 72% of our respondents tell us their molding projects require 50000 parts or fewer annually. Most do not realize that the aluminum tooling used for prototyping can support that annual volume for most polymers if built with the understanding that the mold will be used for both prototyping and production.

Once they understood that prototyping options vary depending on when in the product development process they fall, 32% felt they need to find a manufacturing partner who can better support them throughout the product development process. Xcentric’s technical account managers are trained and skilled at working with our clients from ideation through production. If you have a project you’d like to discuss, click the button below to request a consultation.

Reshoring Accelerated: Choosing Domestic Suppliers

Reshoring Accelerated: Choosing Domestic Suppliers

Reshoring Accelerated: U.S. Manufacturers Choose Domestic Suppliers To Create More Resilient Supply Chains

The coronavirus pandemic shocked the world with chaos and disruption to the global supply chain. As a result, nearly 69% of American manufacturing and industrial companies said in June 2020 that they plan to reshore manufacturing and sourcing to the United States. This is an increase from 54% in February, 2020.1

Traditionally, a global supply chain provides benefits that can make offshoring very attractive—from lower labor wages, to reduced manufacturing costs, to more profitable end products.

But in a post-pandemic world still feeling the impact of supply chain weaknesses with the power to halt the flow of business, the sustainability of offshoring, the process of moving business operations from a company’s home country to a new one, is questionable—at best.

The pandemic, combined with existing global trade tensions, created a world in which the way people and industries operate will forever be changed.

One of the most significant changes across global trade and the domestic supply chain is the shift toward reshoring.

Thomasnet data confirms that companies are seeking out suppliers in North America that will help them grow their supply chain’s resilience.

What’s Driving Reshoring Efforts?

Reshoring is the process of returning domestic product manufacturing and sourcing from a foreign country back to the United States. It gives manufacturers and industrial companies more control over the supply chain and enables them to mitigate the risk of future disruptions.

The COVID-19 pandemic is not the only disruption creating a sense of urgency for manufacturers to establish more localized suppliers.

For example, tariffs or trade restrictions that prevent companies from sourcing raw materials required for manufacturing processes, such as plastic injection molding, were already prompting efforts to optimize their supply chains before the pandemic.

In a recent Gartner survey of industry leaders, 55% said they plan to maximize their supply chain resiliency within 2-3 years. About 33% of those same respondents noted new intentions to move busines out of China and other countries.2

A more stable and resilient supply chain that includes domestic suppliers provides more reliable access to raw materials, real-time visibility to the product development process, and better insight to quickly identify potential threats to the flow of business.

According to March 2020’s Thomas Industrial Survey with 1,073 qualified industrial respondents, COVID-19 supply chain disruptions had resulted in a growing desire for locally sourced materials and services.3

 

Balancing Supplier Consolidation with Supplier Diversification

Watch the webinar to learn how these strategies work together to remove risk from your supply chain while leveraging it to benefit your business.

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“Made In The USA” Impacts Consumer Buying Trends, Drives Reshoring Efforts

Though the concept of reshoring is not new, the pandemic revealed critical weaknesses beyond those of previous global disasters. According to Rosemary Coates, Executive Director of The Reshoring Institute, this is because of the scale and duration of the pandemic.

“[The pandemic] awoke in manufacturers a newfound understanding of supply-chain risk. Cost continues to be a major concern, but companies are now also looking to lessen the chances of supply-chain disruptions caused by events thousands of miles away from their intended markets,” Coates says.

“Companies woke up to the realization that just-in-time stocking strategies, which minimize inventory in the pipeline, can lead to severe shortages of product at crucial times.”4

The Results Are In: Top 3 Consumer Trends That Support Reshoring

The Reshoring Institute recently conducted a survey across the United States to measure the impact “Made In The USA” would have on consumers. For example, nearly 70% of respondents said they would prefer buying American-made products.

Here are three trends reported by the Reshoring Institute’s survey that support consumer trends toward Made In The USA:

  • More than 83% of the same respondents said they would pay up to 20% more for products made domestically
  • Over 46% of respondents believe that products manufactured in America are better quality than those manufactured in other countries
  • Nearly 60% of respondents indicated the country of origin influenced their buying behavior

Download complete survey results: The Reshoring Institute Survey Results

If you are in the process of reshoring or building a domestic supply chain, consider adding Xcentric as an approved partner for rapid manufacturing. Contact one of our account executives to start a conversation.

Xcentric provides rapid manufacturing services including injection molding, rapid prototyping, CNC machining, and 3D printing.

Download Xcentric’s Service Sheets.

 

Working on a project?

Let us help you get that first prototype underway and have that part in your hands in as few as five days. Our engineers help you through the design process. Get your project started now!

Proof-of-Concept Can Reduce Risk | Rapid Prototyping

Proof-of-Concept Can Reduce Risk | Rapid Prototyping

Don’t Skip The Proof-of-Concept! Reduce Risk With Rapid Prototyping

Design is an iterative process that can require multiple rounds of testing and adjustments. Creating a realistic proof-of-concept with rapid prototyping is a fast, safe, and cost-effective solution for advancing parts to production quickly with less risk.  

So why do so many product designers and engineers skip the prototyping stage of the product development cycle?

In our experience, it comes down to misconceptions about saving time and money.

Topics covered in this blog:

  • Overview of rapid prototyping process
  • Common misconceptions about proof-of-concept: time and money
  • How to leverage different processes in prototyping to optimize your design, production process, and minimize risk

What is Rapid Prototyping?

Rapid prototyping is the process of using a manufacturing technique, like injection molding or 3D printing, to create a realistic proof-of-concept of an end product.

In doing so, product designers and engineers can move quickly – and accurately, from CAD to physical part or assembly to testing.

With this quality proof-of-concept they can analyze fit, form, and function in real-world testing and iterate based on its performance. Then, the optimized prototype can move to production with confidence.

Still, of all the steps in the product development process, prototyping is the one most frequently skipped.

For one, many see this as the most logical place to reduce production time and cost. And second, many product designers trust what’s been done in CAD and simulation and assume they can move right to production without validation testing.

But making these assumptions early in the product development process can result in expensive unforeseen delays later.

Proof-of-Concept Prototype

Product development process

Completing each step of the product development process helps to produce high-quality injection-molded parts. The process typically includes specific steps that build on each other to provide information for optimizing the part and process.

Creating a realistic proof-of-concept is one of the most critical steps in this process. Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing) is a great first step to assessing design feasibility. However, too many engineers think 3D Printing is the end of the prototype process.

Unfortunately, for products that require large part runs that will be injection molded, skipping prototype tooling introduces significant risk into the full-scale production of the part. This is because prototype tooling supports the entire product development and launch timeline by providing valuable information for building and optimizing production tooling.

Common Misconceptions

Time and money. These are two of the most common reasons product designers choose not to create a proof-of-concept. Unfortunately, it is a misconception that this will reduce cost or speed time-to-market.

Reduce production costs

Running prototypes in-house is expensive because it requires a big upfront investment in 3D printers and injection molding machines. So, the thought process is that eliminating the prototype eliminates the need to invest. But skipping prototyping introduces risk into the production stage of the process.

Eliminating prototyping is an expensive misconception. Discovering design or process problems during production is exponentially more expensive because prototype and production tooling are not equal.

It is common knowledge that making changes during production is far more expensive and time consuming than in a proof-of-concept.

In fact, as you progress through the product development process, making changes 15x more expensive than the previous step.

Though it may seem like a logical way to save money to wait until production to make changes, it is more cost- and time-effective to make changes earlier. Taking time early to run another validation test or do a fit check will help you move to production tooling with greater confidence.

It will increase time-to-market

One of the most common misconceptions about prototyping is that it is a bottleneck in the product development cycle.

Product designers want to rely on computer simulation or use makeshift proofs-of-concept that will get them to market faster.

In reality, it’s not making the prototype that slows down the process, but rather the changes required as a result of evaluating the prototype. Therefore, it seems reasonable that eliminating the step altogether would save time.

This falsehood has negatively impacted many projects because as mentioned earlier, the further you progress in the process, the more expensive and time-consuming it is to correct issues. Using realistic proofs-of-concept to identify and correct issues early will prove more cost- and time-effective.

The Rapid Prototyping Process - Accelerating Design while Saving Money

Webinar Replay

Makeshift proof-of-concept models can be quick and dirty, but can lead to unforeseen delays down the road. In this webinar Xcentric Account Executive, Craig Johnson, discusses how realistic proofs-of-concept can help mitigate risk when moving parts to production.

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Proof-of-concept options to reduce risk: 3D printing and injection molding

3D printing and injection molding are two of the most widely used manufacturing processes. Each one can be used to create a realistic proof-of-concept to evaluate your design, ensure manufacturability, and optimize the production tooling and process to mitigate risk.

Here are a few suggestions on when and how to use each process. 

3D Printing

  1. Use 3D printing to advance designs and dial in material characteristics or functionality
  2. “Simulate” the manufacturing process past CAD via physical 3D prints
  3. Use 3D printing to bridge Injection Molding for low volumes while tooling is being made

Prototype Injection Molding

  1. Use prototype injection molding to evaluate products that will require injection molding in production
  2. Use prototype injection molding to prove out your design’s manufacturability
  3. Most importantly, prototype injection molding is used to identify any tooling issues early so corrections can be incorporated into your production tooling from the start

What’s next?

Understand your part volume needs and the impact of your part complexity on downstream processes. If you are simply making a minor change to a part that has successfully been in production for a long time, maybe you can skip part of the proof-of-concept prototyping process.

However, when you are designing a new product, or making major changes to an existing project, avoid the temptation to eliminate prototyping. Doing so will only increase the risk of delays, cost increases, and project failure.

If you still have questions, whether about your part design, manufacturability, the need to include both 3D printing and prototype injection molding in the process, or anything else related to prototyping, contact an Xcentric application engineer. We’re always happy to help.

Working on a project?

Let us help you get that first prototype underway and have that part in your hands in as few as five days. Our engineers help you through the design process. Get your project started now!

Prototype Tooling Can Help Reduce Time and Cost

Prototype Tooling Can Help Reduce Time and Cost

prototype tooling

Developing & producing injection-molded products follows a proven process

The process for launching a product that includes injection molded components has been continuously developed for decades, and most commonly includes the distinct phases seen in the graphic below.  Each phase builds on the last, generating additional information necessary to bring a high-quality product to market in commercially relevant volumes and at an acceptable cost.  Prototype tooling plays an important role in this process.

product development & launch timeline

The time, energy, and expense associated with each phase is of course highly dependent on the design and functional parameters of the desired product, but for the sake of our discussion, we can employ the oft-used rule of thumb that the time and cost of making changes to a product is roughly 10X that of the previous step.  While this is clearly a gross oversimplification for any complex product, it does serve to illustrate a few key points that are relevant to product designers, project managers, and business unit executives: 
1) More information earlier in the project reduces risk
2) Earlier identification of design and manufacturability problems reduces overall project cost
3) Changes are much less expensive earlier in the process

Skipping steps must save time and money, no?

Injection molding process cost impactIt may seem logical to think that skipping steps in the process would reduce the time and cost of bringing a product to market.  Certainly there are examples of this, perhaps a simple bottle cap that has only minor changes in lettering or texture from previous versions, where the molder has sufficient experience to go directly from CAD design to production tooling. 

However, for most complex designs, say for an ergonomic consumer product with unique features, past experience, simulation, and rapid prototyping might not provide sufficiently accurate predictions of how the product will appear, what critical dimensions will be held, or how it will function when molded in the production material.

Rectifying problems in production tooling is difficult, expensive, and time consuming

Once a design for a high productivity steel injection mold has been completed and mold production starts, the costs to make changes becomes much more expensive simply due to the time and effort it takes to make even minor, much less major, changes to the tool.  Additional CNC, EDM, benching, and texturing time add up quickly.  The very nature of hardened tool steel, especially if it has been highly polished or textured, makes it difficult to modify.  Compounding this is the time it takes to remove the tool from the press, return to the mold making department (if in house) or transport to an external mold maker for modification.  All of this can easily add up to weeks of delay even with minor modifications, especially if the production tool has been sent to another country for molding operations. 

How does investing in prototype tooling save money? 

Firstly, let’s define prototype tooling, since it means different things to different people.  In the case of Xcentric, it means high quality injection molds produced with state-of-the-art CNC equipment and finished by master mold makers.  The mold material is a premium grade of aluminum developed specifically for injection mold applications.  You can read more about the Xcentric mold making process here.


Xcentric prototype injection molds help our clients save money in the following ways

  1. Reduce the cost of making corrections to injection molded components during validation and pre-production
  2. Reduce the cost of exploring design and material options

As noted above, the costs of making changes to a production tool are many multiples of making changes to prototype tooling.  In the case of a multi-cavity production tool, the costs are similarly multiplied should a change be required in the design of the tool or part.  Secondly, if there are still open questions about the design of the component including material choice, the cost of doing this experimentation in hardened steel is typically prohibitive.

Validating or correcting early in the process is extremely valuable

In the case of Xcentric, we typically turn around injection molded projects in under 13 business days, and upon request for certain products in under five business days.  Even if done sequentially, this is time well spent because this activity is completed so early in the project.  Problems can be identified and corrected weeks or months before the same issues would have been uncovered in production tooling.  While it is fully understood that there is not a 1:1 correlation between the performance of some aspects of prototype tooling versus production tooling, particularly related to high cavitation fill balancing, feedback on dimensional issues, material behavior, shrinkage, warp, sink, splay, and aesthetics can all be gathered in the desired production material in an Xcentric prototype mold.

The graphic below illustrates the standard process versus a process imagined to save time by skipping prototype molding.  Important points to note are: the time to a) recognize and b) correct for problems is weeks earlier, and depending on the severity of the change required, the overall project time can be shorter even including making changes to the prototype tooling.

Reducing product launch risk is even more valuable

By identifying and addressing production issues early in the process, project managers help to de-risk the overall project by giving themselves enough time to react.  Executive management and down-stream customers do not typically respond well to learning just before the originally scheduled product launch that there are delays due to production tooling that may push back launch by several weeks.  It is generally accepted that significant delays in new product introductions in many industries have a huge deleterious effect on the total net present value of the product launch.  Inevitably the questions come like “Why wasn’t this caught earlier?”  One difficult to explain answer is “Budget for prototype tooling was eliminated.” (that would have been a small fraction of the cost of the production tool changes and product introduction delay).  In this light it is fair to say that prototype tooling is a valuable insurance policy to help reduce the risks associated with new product introductions.   

Key takeaways about the money and time saved by prototype tooling

Including the process step to validate designs, identify improvements, and avoid downstream problems using prototype injection molding has been proven on innumerable projects to save both time and money.  Learning and correcting early in the process pays dividends for project risk mitigation.  Ultimately it is all about bringing the best possible product to market as quickly as possible, which happens to be Xcentric’s mission.

When To Choose Injection Molding Manufacturing

When To Choose Injection Molding Manufacturing

injection molding

Injection molding: one of the most important manufacturing processes

It may sound hyperbolic to state that injection molding is one of the most important manufacturing processes, without which the daily lives of people in industrialized countries would be completely different. But the evidence in terms of our common experience with the products in our homes, offices, restaurants, hospitals and more, suggests very strongly that if injection molding were not available, we would have less varied, less functional, and more expensive products around us.

Injection molding is by far the most effective and economical process for high volume complex plastic component production.

In this blog you’ll learn how to determine whether it is the appropriate manufacturing process for your application by examining: 3 factors of the product being produced: 1. material, size, and complexity, 2. manufacturing economics, and 3. prototypes and low-volume production.

Injection Molding Factor 1: Material, size, and complexity.

Material

The most important parameter when considering injection molding is the material requirement: the application must demand a thermoplastic or thermoset material that can be molded in a closed tool.  For the purposes of this blog, we will focus on thermoplastic materials which are much more common than thermosets, except in certain electrical, chemical, and thermal applications.

Today the choice of thermoplastic resins is enormous and encompasses a broad range of mechanical, chemical, physical, aesthetic, and economic characteristics that make them suitable for everything from toothbrushes to car bumpers.

Moldable polymers can be practically the full spectrum of colors, may be flexible or stiff, extremely strong and tough, and may have excellent chemical resistance.  However, it is the incredible combination of these properties that a single polymer can exhibit that makes them the material of choice for so many injection molding applications[1].

Size

The next factor to evaluate when considering injection molding is the size of the component to be produced.

On the small end of the spectrum there are micro-molded components used in medical devices that weigh a few tenths of a gram and easily fit in a 5x5x5mm cube.  On the other end we find components for agricultural equipment weighing more than 100kg with maximum dimensions well over 1500mm.

The majority of injection molded components, measured in billions per year, are caps, closures, disposable / single use products, toys, and personal electronics to name a few applications, which generally weigh in the 1-500g range.

Statistically, the world produces billions of molded plastic components per year, even excluding packaging such as beverage bottles.

-plasticsinsights.com


Complexity

The degree of geometric complexity further influences the choice of manufacturing process.

Injection molding can produce components with thousands of features, complex textures, combinations of materials in different locations in the same component, and molded-in metallic components in the exact same time it would take to mold a completely plain, featureless, single material, similarly sized component.

While there are some geometric limitations based on the physics of a molten liquid polymer filling a metal mold, solidifying, and then cooling pre- and post-ejection from the mold, the geometric possibilities are, for all intents and purposes, limitless.

Injection Molding Factor 2: Manufacturing economics – how to evaluate value

Following material properties, component size, and complexity, the design engineer needs to consider the manufacturing economics of the application.

In its simplest form, manufacturing economics is the exercise of maximizing the rate of value creation versus invested capital (including direct material and labor expenses, as well as tooling and equipment investments).  Or seen another way: minimizing the fully burdened manufacturing cost per component.

For a given capital expenditure, the rate of production of complex polymer components by injection molding can be many multiples of other means of forming the same geometry. This is where injection molding dramatically separates itself from other processes.

Doing a bit of back-of-the-envelope math for our telephone handpiece cover, let’s say we have our hypothetical factory floor with a CNC mill, an industrial 3D printer (as distinct from a desktop 3D printer), and a standard production injection molding machine lined up ready to start production.

An average CNC mill for a component this size new would cost $100-$150k, the industrial 3D printer $50-75k, and the injection molding press including a four-cavity steel mold $175k ($75k of which is the mold).

Ignoring the extra cost of automated fixturing and robotics needed to run production volumes in CNC machining, and eliminating the time required to unload and post-process 3D printed parts, the following table suggests the relative production performance of injection molding:

Manufacturing Process Comparison:
CNC Milling vs. 3D Printing vs. Injection Molding
Example: manufacturing a plastic office telephone handpiece cover.

One could CNC mill an office telephone hand piece cover from a block of the desired ABS, which would take, at best, tens of minutes per part and would not have the required surface texture.

Or, this same hand piece could be 3D Printed in an ABS material with similar, but different, properties and have compromises in surface finish and dimensional accuracy at the rate of a few per hour.

Lastly, a hand piece could be injection-molded every 20-30 seconds with exactly the desired material properties, surface finish, and geometry. For even higher production rates, multi-cavity injection molding tools would be used to increase the effective production rate.

Injection Molding

So, in this very simplified example we can see that the relative economics measured in invested capital relative to production rate (CAPEX / PPD), is substantially better than our hypothetical printer and CNC mill.  If the example component had been the same size but much simpler geometry, then the mill might improve to being only 1/5th as economical (which would still not be viable).  Or if the part were substantially smaller, then the 3D printer might also close to within 2-3X the CAPEX/PPD range of molding.[1]

Injection Molding Factor 3: Injection molding for prototype and low-volume production

The traditional injection molding tool manufacture and molding process is rarely the correct choice for prototype and low volume production expressly due to the cost and lead time as noted in our example telephone hand piece.

However, this is precisely where Xcentric delivers enormous value to our customers by helping them bring their plastic products to market on time, on budget, and with lower risk.

Proprietary Process Engine: From CAD to Production, Faster

Technically, how we do this is to provide the component in the right quality at the right time for the current product development phase of the customer’s project.  So, if the customer needs one or two parts for form-and-fit testing at the beginning of the project and the material does not matter, 3D printing is likely the solution.

If the customer requires the component to be in the polymer that will be used in production and have the same geometry and mechanical properties as the production article for testing or initial launch production, then we select injection molding.

Xcentric, however, has developed a rapid injection molding proprietary process engine that reduces the time to design, manufacture, and try-out injection molding tools down to a few days.  This is orchestrated by our proprietary XMBM expert system supporting our team of experienced mold makers and molders.  Secondly our mold manufacturing process is optimized for high-quality aluminum tooling, which helps us to be extremely efficient.  This allows Xcentric to deliver injection molded components in the customer’s choice of polymer in quantities as low as 25 parts in under 15 business days, and for some components in under five (5) business days [3].

Low volume production, for the sake of argument defined as under 10,000 units per year, can easily be accommodated with the same aluminum tools we use for 25 prototype parts.  When production volume increases, the tools would be designed for automated operation, adding cost and lead time, but still far below traditional hardened steel tooling due to the efficiency of our in-house tool production technology.

Today, Xcentric is often supplying a customer with prototypes and preproduction parts in semi-automated aluminum tooling for testing and early market entry, and then transitioning directly into automated aluminum production tooling producing over 250,000 parts for the same project.  This seamless transition saves time and is economical for the customer, and ultimately allows the customer to get their product to market in volume earlier than with steel tooling.

Injection molding is currently by far the most effective process for high volume complex plastic component production.  The benefits of injection molding for producing complex components from myriad polymers at high rates with low waste make it essentially the only viable manufacturing process choice for most polymer parts used in consumer, medical, automotive, and many industrial applications.

[1] Given the scope of the materials topic, details about thermoplastics will be covered in a separate dedicated article.
[2] This scenario already suggests a production rate that is beyond current 3D printing technologies when post processing and surface finish are factored in.
[3] Some limitations in project type and additional fees apply for expedited projects.