Prediction of problems in injection moulded plastic products with computer aided mould design software : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Masters of Technology in Manufacturing and Industrial Technology at Massey University
Several new technologies to assist plastic injection moulding companies have been developed in the last twenty years. A number of computer software programs are now available which could revolutionise mould design. The most exciting aspect of the Computer Aided Mould Design (CAMD) software is the effect it has on reducing the lead time required to produce a working mould from a product concept. The application of the new technology for designing moulds, however, has been slow in New Zealand. One of the main reasons for the slow progress is the perceived value of the software or consulting services. Many injection moulding companies who design and manufacture moulds do not realise the great potential of CAMD software to save many hours of mould changes and volume of polymer material, even when the program is used after the mould has been made. However, the true benefits are only seen when the mould is designed using CAMD before the mould has been manufactured. Moulds manufactured correctly the first time save a great deal of time, energy and money. The value of the software is not completely understood by injection moulding manufacturers. They perceive the immediate benefits, however, the ongoing benefits are not recognised. A project was carried out to demonstrate the potential of CAMD software in determining moulding problems in existing injection moulded products. Four products, two of which were supplied by an injection moulding company, that had moulding problems, were simulated using Moldflow, a CAMD software package. The results of the simulation were compared with the actual moulding problems. It was found that the Moldflow simulation results described the problems occurring in the moulds accurately. Moulding problems included warpage, air traps and weld lines in poor positions and flow marks. Warpage is a major problem in injection moulded products. Even simple products can warp if not designed correctly. The only problems Moldflow did not identify, and does not claim to, were the flow marks caused by jetting and splashing of plastic as it entered the cavity. The designer must be aware of the problems caused by jetting and design gates to avoid it. Moldflow, and other CAMD software, are beneficial tools for the mould designer. The advantages of CAMD include short mould development time, shorter lead times from concept to production, reduction in the amount of material used, fewer changes to machine settings and predictable, repeatable quality. These benefits are not only savings in the mould design and manufacture, they also continue on into the processing of the product since less material is used in the product and machine down time caused by moulding problems is greatly reduced.