Before we can start the process there has to be an idea of a design or it can be a fully dimensioned designed product complete with a CAD design file.
If you are at the design stage we can provide some initial design advice and if necessary introduce you to design houses and material suppliers who can assist you to bring your design or product to a stage that is feasible to produce.
As part of that development process you might require to have samples or prototypes made prior to production. This might be to prove the design works or fits into other parts. The sample could be to show potential customers or investors what you plan to produce. We have recently invested in a 3D printer to produce samples ourselves and we also have access to other companies who provide these services and we can introduce you to them.
Aluminium Tooling or Steel Tooling
Aluminium tooling is usually quicker to produce and cheaper than steel tooling. Customers can choose this option for several reasons. Limited-life tooling as the products are not required in large numbers or Development tooling to get products into the market but with the expectation that modification may be required. Steel tooling is the option for higher volume production and product confidence from the outset.
We use suppliers both in the UK and the Far East who have this expertise and we would advise the best place for your needs.
Having successfully made it through the above stages there will be an injection mould tool ready for us to use to mould your product. However there are a few more stages to go. We have to attach the mould to one of our moulding machines and connect the mould to water circuits which will pump hot or cold water through the mould dependent on the material choice. (See below) The selected material will be loaded into the machine and we start what is known as the T1 trial. The purpose of the trial is for our technician to produce the first-off mouldings from the mould. This allows us, the mould-maker and the customer to have samples that can be checked to make sure the mould is working as designed, the grade of material selected is working in the mould and the end product is looking and functioning as the customer intended.
It can be that the parts from the T1 trial are suitable to go for production but equally this can be the time when some adjustments are required either to the mould, the material or the part design. From this we would go to the T2 trial which is where the technician goes through the optimisation process of selecting the correct combination of temperatures, pressures and times to produce a production-ready part for customer approval.
The choice of materials is extensive and continually being added to for more specialist applications. Broadly there are two material definitions that we use – but even these can be re-defined!
- Commodity Polymers – these are generally the cheaper materials such as PE (polythene), PP (polypropylene), PS (polystyrene) used in food containers, buckets, closures, medical disposibles etc
- Engineering Polymers – these are the more expensive materials that have a higher performance rating and are often used in more demanding applications with a much longer service life. Examples are PC (polycarbonate), ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene), PMMA (acrylic) and PA (nylon) and so on. These can be used in mobile phones, computers, automotive, medical technology, crash helmets and many more.
Some of our customers will know exactly what material they require through product knowledge and service application.Other customers will have only a vague idea of material requirements and we can help them through the material selection process. In addition we have good relationships with our material suppliers who have technical sales engineers who will work with us and the customer to find a material that meets budget and service expectations.
Recycled plastic materials – this is an area that continues to expand as a cost reduction and with environmental motivation. For many years we have been able to use our own production waste and put it into suitable products to give the material a use other than landfill. Increasingly there are products being designed and manufactured exclusively using material that would have gone to landfill.