How to Utilize Prototype Injection Molding in the Development of Custom Plastic Products

Plastic injection molding is an exceptionally apt manufacturing method for tackling custom prototyping projects. This is largely due to the injection molding process’ numerous advantages in speed and efficiency.

Compared to other molding methods, the softer metals of prototype injection molds are easier to machine, modify, polish, and finish. Manufacturers are therefore able to build the prototype tooling for your project more quickly, and/or produce a limited run of prototype parts with rapid turnaround.

At Elite Mold and Engineering, we specialize in manufacturing limited-run prototype injection molded parts, as well as custom prototyping molds. Our company is uniquely set up to accommodate both new design concepts and design modifications to legacy parts for existing programs that require updated tooling.

Rapid Injection Molding (RIM) for Quick-Turnaround Prototype Molds

Technically, the rapid injection molding process is identical to conventional plastic injection molding. What distinguishes rapid injection molding is the speed in which the molds – and thus the prototype products – are produced.

The primary difference is found in the materials typically used for RIM molds. In most production molding applications, the molds are strategically designed to be as durable as possible. Typically, production molds are machined from high-strength hardened steels – a laborious, costly, and time-consuming task. However, the extreme durability of the mold ensures that it stands up to the stresses of producing thousands, or even tens of thousands of injection molded parts while still maintaining precision accuracy and repeatability.

In contrast, injection molds for prototyping projects are not tasked with producing nearly as many components. Because of the shorter service life, softer metals can be used – such as aluminum alloys or P20 mold steel. While prototype molds degrade faster than typical production molds, the flipside is that the softer alloys are much easier to CNC machine and polish. As a result, RIM molds are generally much quicker, easier, and cheaper to manufacture.

Rapid Injection Molding Streamlines the Prototype Redesign Process

Obviously since RIM molds can be produced much faster, the actual prototype products themselves can be manufactured faster as well. Rapid turnaround is crucial for complex prototyping projects which may require numerous design iterations. Prototype redesign, testing, and optimization are all much easier processes when you slash the required production time for each iteration of the product.

Prototyping injection molding projects

The Advantages of Plastic Injection Molding for Prototyping Projects

Elite’s custom injection molding services are the ideal manufacturing solution for high-speed, high-precision plastic prototyping projects. Some of the advantages include:

A Cost-Effective Prototype Molding Solution

Injection molding is an exceptionally cost-effective process for prototyping complex plastic products. We are able to produce custom molds and/or limited runs of parts in practically record time. The molds used in injection molding are typically made of easily machinable P20 steel or aluminum, which are durable while being much easier to manufacture than typical hardened mold steels. This means that the cost of producing the initial run of parts is relatively low.

High Precision and Design Complexity

Injection molding is a highly precise process, and it can produce parts with a high level of accuracy and consistency. The molds used in injection molding are 3D designed to the exact specifications of each product – meaning the final product will be the same every time. This makes injection molding an ideal option in terms of repeatability, especially for prototypes with intricate geometries or complex designs.

Material Flexibility

Injection molding can use a wide range of materials, including thermoplastics, thermosets, and elastomers. Our designers and engineers have numerous material options to choose from to ensure the best results for each unique product. Plus, as one of the general advantages of plastic injection molding, the properties of most plastics can be engineered to meet specific requirements for your project, such as strength, flexibility, or heat resistance.

Less Material Waste

Injection molding generates a relatively low amount of waste when compared to many other industrial manufacturing processes. This is because the process is highly automated and precise – custom molds are designed to use only the exact amount of plastic needed to manufacture each part. Furthermore, most excess plastic material is recycled rather than scrapped, which further reduces the amount of waste and makes injection molding a more sustainable process.

Rapid Turnaround Times

Perhaps the main benefit of injection molding is the fast turnaround time This is because the molds used in injection molding can be produced relatively quickly and easily – including further design modifications for additional iterations of your prototypes. Our designers and engineers can quickly test and refine their custom mold designs, which is crucial in the early stages of prototype development.

Your Prototype Injection Molding Specialist

Elite Mold and Engineering is a contract tool and die shop specializing in plastic injection molding services for prototyping and production projects. Located in Shelby Township, Michigan, our company is an ISO 9001:2015 registered American manufacturer and is ITAR registered to serve a wider range of domestic manufacturing projects.

Published: May 4, 2023
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