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How To Choose The Right Injection Mold

Sep 6, 2019

Golf-Club-MoldIn last week's blog post, we discussed the difference between purchasing injection mold tooling based on price vs. long-term value. In that article, we pointed out the variables that determine the longevity of an injection mold. This week, we're breaking down each injection mold style to help you figure out exactly which one will be most valuable for your project. 

When requesting quotes from prototyping companies, always find out what type of metal they use to construct their molds. Knowing this will give you a perspective as to why some companies are priced a bit higher than others as well as the quality they provide. Depending on your desired quality, part quantities, material, features and lead time, you can then determine how much to invest in tooling. Don't forget to download our Injection Mold Classification Guide for more help choosing the right injection mold for your project. 

Aluminum Prototype Mold

Aluminum is the most common metal used to make prototype molds as it is the least expensive option. That's because aluminum is cheaper, lighter and easier to cut than other metals. In terms of sampling, parts made in an aluminum mold can be heated and cooled quickly allowing fast turnaround rates. These advantages are great for an initial, basic prototype but be aware that an aluminum mold is not going to produce a complex, functional plastic part. You will likely have to concede certain design features and choose a "like" material (one that isn't abrasive). This is what you can expect from an aluminum mold:

Quantity: 1-1,000 parts

Quality: Non-cosmetic 

Lead Time: 1-2 weeks

Raw Material: Commodity grade, engineering grade

Cost: Low

Steel Prototype Mold*

Steel prototype molds are the best option for molding functional, complex plastic prototypes. The quality of a prototype molded in steel is going to be significantly greater than one molded in aluminum and gives you the option to prototype with your desired material (even abrasive, glass-filled resin). 

Prototype molds made from steel can range in pricing depending how much of the tooling you have to purchase. At the Engineering Resource Center, we own the mold bases so the inserts the customers purchase are as cost effective as an aluminum mold. Here's what you can expect from a steel prototype mold:

Quantity: < 10,000 parts

Quality: Cosmetic 

Lead Time: 2-4 weeks

Raw Material: Commodity grade, engineering grade, and filled materials

Cost: Moderate

* Engineering Resource Center's steel prototype tooling is built with production in mind, so there is little to no differentiation between our prototype and bridge molds. 

Steel Bridge Mold*

Bridge tooling is ideal for the stage in which parts are approved for production but when quantities are too low to offset the high cost of production tooling. This makes it a great option for initial production runs and parts that will never require high volume manufacturing (like specialty or service parts). Bridge molds are built for automatic runs, mid-level production, and for part production with a medium life span. 

Quantity: 10,000-100,000 parts

Quality: Cosmetic

Lead Time: 4-6 weeks

Raw Material: Commodity grades, engineering grade, and filled materials

Cost: Moderate-High

Production Mold

Production molds are multi-cavity molds built with hardened steel for high-volume, recurring annual orders. They possess a long life span and are good for 100,000+ parts per year. Essentially, this is the most important injection mold you're going to buy so it's not the time to go with the cheapest quote. A very cheap production mold is going to be cheap for a reason, whether it's low quality steel or poor craftsmanship. 

Quantity: 100,000+ parts

Quality: Cosmetic

Lead Time: 8+ weeks

Raw Material: Commodity grades, engineering grade, and filled materials

Cost: High

We hope this gives a good baseline for making an informed decision when purchasing an injection mold. If you have questions, feel free to contact our engineers using this form. And if you're ready for a quote, use our rapid quote form to get pricing on prototypes or low volume production.


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