Many of the prospective clients we speak with have an incomplete understanding of what exactly is required to produce a product at scale. There’s a lot that goes into an injection molded prototype or final product but the big three are absolutely essential. Here’s the big picture:
An injection mold tool designed to produce the CAD part. Mold tools vary depending on what stage in the production process you are in. Most pre-production tools are made from aluminum while most mass-production tools are made from steel. Oftentimes it is possible to use a Master Unit Die (MUD) mold tool to simplify the process. MUD tools are simply metal inserts used in lieu of a solid block tool.
The actual part production aspect of injection molding is extremely fast (up to 1,000 parts per minute in some cases and 50+ parts in a single mold tool). You can increase cycle efficiency by combining parts to maximize cavities in a single mold tool, by simplifying part geometry, and by utilizing technologies like a hot runner. At maximum operating speeds you can produce millions of plastic parts in a matter of days using injection molding. The time intensive part of the process is always assembly and project coordination (not to mention all of the design and research that goes into getting to the injection mold stage in the first place).
It depends if you’re talking about pre-production prototypes or mass manufactured prototypes. We turn around pre-production prototypes in a matter of 1-3 weeks. Pre-production prototypes usually consist of between 300 and 1000 replica parts made in the final production material. Mass manufactured parts typically take much longer to produce (months instead of weeks) and typically consist of tens of thousands to millions of parts. The largest time sink in mass-manufacturing tends to be assembly. Injection molding produces high volumes of parts but oftentimes human beings still need to manually assemble them. To the extent that it’s possible to design your parts to simplify assembly we highly recommend it. This will save your business a lot of money in the manufacturing process by eliminating unnecessary labor expenses.
Before you invest large amounts of money in a multi-cavity mold and the injection molding process in general, make sure that the design and engineering are sound and that the product has been thoroughly tested in its final production material. We highly recommend going through the pre-production prototype process prior to mass manufacturing parts.