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Injection moulding

Injection moulding (or injection molding in the U.S.) is a manufacturing technique for making parts from plastic material. Molten plastic is injected at high pressure into a mould, which is the inverse of the desired shape. The mould is made by a mouldmaker (moldmaker) from metal, usually either steel or aluminum, and precision-machined to form the features of the desired part. Injection moulding is very widely used for manufacturing a variety of parts, from the smallest component to entire body panels of cars.

Considerable thought is put into the design of moulded parts and their moulds, to ensure that the parts will not be trapped in the mould, that the moulds can be completely filled before the molten resin solidifies, and to minimize imperfections in the parts, which can occur due to peculiarities of the process.

Moulds separate into at least two halves—called the core and the cavity—to permit the part to be extracted; in general the shape of a part must be such that it will not be locked into the mould. For example, sides of objects typically cannot be parallel with the direction of draw—the direction in which the core and cavity separate from each other. They are angled slightly; examination of most household objects made from plastic will show this aspect of design, known as draft. Parts that are "bucket-like" tend to shrink onto the core while cooling and, after the cavity is pulled away, are typically ejected using pins. More complex parts are formed using more complex moulds, which may require moveable sections which are inserted into the mould to form particular features that cannot be formed using only a core and a cavity, but are then withdrawn to allow the part to be released.

The resin, or raw material for injection moulding, is usually in pellet form, and is electrically melted shortly before being injected into the mould. The channels through which the plastic flows toward the chamber will also solidify, forming an attached frame. This frame is composed of the sprue, which is the main channel from the reservoir of molten resin, parallel with the direction of draw, and runners, which are perpendicular to the direction of draw, and are used to convey molten resin to the gate(s), or point(s) of injection. The sprue and runner system can be cut off and recycled. Some moulds are designed such that it is automatically stripped from the part through action of the mould.

The quality of the moulded part depends on the quality of the mould, the care taken during the moulding process, and upon details of the design of the part itself. It is essential that the molten resin be at just the right pressure and temperature, so that it flows easily to all parts of the mould. The parts of the mould must also come together extremely precisely, otherwise small leakages of molten plastic can form, a phenomenon known as flash. When filling a new or unfamiliar mould for the first time, where shot size for that particular mould is unknown, a technician should reduce the nozzle pressure so that the mold fills, but does not flash. Then, using that now-known shot volume, pressure can be raised without fear of damaging the mould.

See also