This is particularly true for parts that require expensive purchases throughout the product development cycle, like injection mold tooling for plastic prototypes. It can be tempting to go with cheap prototype tooling because it's "just a prototype mold", not the mold that will end up producing millions of parts. But a prototype is absolutely necessary to ensure your product will be manufactured appropriately without flaws. The purpose is to prevent you from spending tens of thousands of dollars on a production mold and then finding a fault in your design. Plenty of companies go the cheap route before they come to the conclusion that if they had spent just a little more upfront, they wouldn't have wasted thousands of dollars on tooling that they have to repurchase sooner than they otherwise would have.
- How many parts will the mold need to produce?
- How abrasive is the material that is being molded?
- Will the mold be constructed from aluminum or steel?
- What type of mold maintenance does your supplier guarantee?
- Is an initial sample quantity included in the price? How many?
There's no right or wrong answer here, only what makes sense for your project. Those answers, along with proper guidance from a molding professional, can help you determine what type of mold is worth investing in.
Here are some variables that affect the lifespan of an injection mold:
- Tooling Material. Aluminum wears down faster than steel.
- Resin selection. Filled materials, like glass filled nylon, will corrode a mold faster.
- Mold Maintenance. Proper upkeep is imperative for a long lasting mold.
- Supplier Quality. Your mold should be built properly in the first place.