Do You Need Prototype Injection Molding?

You have many options for manufacturing thermoplastic products, including injection molding, extrusion, blow molding, and rotational molding. Of these, injection molding is the primary processing method used by many manufacturers. If you are new to the world of injection molding, understanding what you need can be overwhelming. Below, we will help you to decide if prototype injection molding will work for your project.

What is Prototype Injection Molding?

Most types of molding have specific applications for which they work best. The extrusion process forces melted plastic through a die in a continuous part and is best for long sheets, tubes, and profile shapes. Blow molding and rotational molding are used to create products that need to be hollow. However, blow molding works best for simple geometries, like milk jugs and plastic water bottles, and rotational molding is used for more complex and large parts, like kayaks and storage tanks.

Injection molding’s popularity is due to its versatility. In injection molding, molten plastic is forced into a mold under high pressure. While injection molding is most often used for creating complex solid products, it is possible to develop hollow products by molding them in two parts and connecting them in a secondary process. This method is particularly beneficial for parts that have internal components or need to be opened, such as remote-control housings and other housings.

Prototype injection molding refers to projects with a total part count between 2,500 and  10,000. For fewer than 2,500 parts, consider rapid molding.

When to Use Prototype Injection Molding

Prototype injection molding is a crucial step in product development and manufacturing. This approach is particularly relevant for applications that require bridge manufacturing, which acts as a transitional phase to full-scale, high-volume production. It is an efficient way for companies to:

  • Market Test – Companies can launch their product in a real-world setting before committing to high-volume production costs.
  • Create Iterate Designs –  They can make necessary adjustments based on customer feedback without the significant cost implications of modifying high-volume tooling.
  • Achieve Supply Chain Flexibility – Bridge manufacturing provides a steady flow of products to the market while finalizing high-volume production arrangements.

The tooling from Quickparts uses a proprietary base with an insert system. The inserts can be made from aluminum or pre‐hardened steel and single or multi-cavity. The tooling can be fully automated with slides and lifters, allowing for complex designs.

Thermoplastics For Prototype Molding

The importance of material selection for plastic injection molding can’t be overstated. Improper material choice can lead to components and products with quality issues or those that don’t have the properties critical to the application. The worst-case scenario is a component failure, which can be especially catastrophic in critical components. Considerations for choosing an appropriate thermoplastic include the product or component’s functionality (strength, impact resistance, flexibility requirements, life span), environmental conditions it encounters (heat, moisture/humidity, chemicals, UV, compatibility with other materials), and company needs (cost, lead times if the material isn’t readily available).

While there are hundreds of thermoplastic materials and variations of materials, some commonly used thermoplastics include Polypropylene (PP), polycarbonate (PC), nylon (polyamide, PA), acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), polybutylene terephthalate (PBT), acrylic (PMMA), and polyoxymethylene (POM). In addition, materials can be filled  – glass or other materials are mixed in to improve properties. Because there are so many thermoplastics available, working closely with your injection molder, who has experience with a large number of materials, can ensure you are using a plastic that meets your needs.

Advantages of Prototype Injection Molding

The advantages of prototype injection molding extend beyond cost and time savings, encompassing strategic benefits in market positioning, design quality, and inventory management. This approach offers a balanced pathway for companies to navigate from concept to high-volume production with greater confidence and market insight.

Prototype injection molding requires less expensive tooling, significantly reducing the upfront investment compared to steel molds used in high-volume production. This is particularly true with Quickparts tooling base with an insert system. This cost difference allows companies to allocate resources more efficiently during the critical phases of product development and market introduction, reducing financial risk.

Prototype injection molding with Quickparts allows companies to move quickly from the design phase to having physical products ready for the market. This speed to market is a crucial competitive advantage, especially in industries where trends and consumer preferences can shift rapidly.

Because prototype production allows for iterative design processes, companies can make design changes based on real-world testing and feedback without incurring the significant costs and delays associated with modifying or creating new high-volume production tooling. This agility can lead to a more refined, user-centered product when full-scale production begins.

Producing a moderate quantity of parts enables businesses to conduct thorough market testing and validation exercises. Companies can gather valuable data on market acceptance, user feedback, and product performance without the commitment to large inventory volumes. This data informs product adjustments and marketing strategies, enhancing the product’s success potential upon broader release.

Prototype injection molding also provides greater flexibility in managing inventory levels and responding to demand fluctuations. Companies can maintain lower stock levels while ensuring they can ramp up production quickly if demand increases. This flexibility helps manage storage costs and reduces the risk of excess inventory. In addition, companies can reduce waste associated with overproduction and unused inventory, creating a more sustainable manufacturing process.

Additionally, prototype injection molding is particularly useful for products aimed at niche markets or requiring a degree of customization. It allows companies to produce specialized parts in quantities that wouldn’t be cost-effective in high-volume production settings, opening opportunities in markets that require custom solutions.

Finally, as a bridge manufacturing strategy, prototype injection molding prepares companies for a smoother transition to high-volume production. Lessons learned during this phase, including design optimizations, material selections, and process improvements, can be seamlessly integrated into the high-volume production setup, ensuring a more efficient and effective scale-up.

Make Quickparts Your Injection Molding Partner

Quickparts offers several injection molding solutions to meet your needs, from rapidly manufactured prototypes to production services. With extensive material knowledge and experience with complex product geometries, Quickparts can help you quickly get your products into the hands of your customers. Contact us to discuss your project or for a quote.