The importance of expert analysis in mold flow simulations
Many parts manufacturers think of mold flow analysis as just another box to check in the process of developing a new plastic part. They rely on the software to generate and provide insights, or potentially, confirmation bias. However, without experienced professionals interpreting the data and using it to drive design choices, it has limited value.
Mold flow analysis for a new plastic part is a common way to test multiple aspects of tool and part design such as ensuring proper resin flow (including the effectiveness of gate location), cooling, warp, venting, and how resin behaves as it moves through the mold cavity. This data, combined with the expertise of trained engineers who know how to interpret it, enables New Berlin Plastics to provide its customers with meaningful, actionable insights about proposed changes to their mold and part designs.
Is data missing?
Sometimes, the mold flow data New Berlin Plastics receives from other sources is incomplete or hasn’t been properly interpreted. Engineering manager Dan Manning has seen this first-hand on many occasions.
Recently he worked with a customer that had contracted with a toolmaker to build a tool for a new part. The toolmaker did a mold flow simulation and provided a report to the customer. But when they shared that data with Manning, he discovered that it contained glaring omissions and insufficient data.
“The analysis was incomplete and the customer didn’t even realize it,” Manning says. “If they had moved forward with production using that data, the parts would have failed and required tool modification. That would have delayed their product launch by a month or more.”
Had that customer come to New Berlin Plastics earlier in the part and mold design process, the experience would have been much different. Manning and his team prefer to use mold simulation during the part design process so they can identify and fix design flaws before tool production begins.
Manning and his team perform a mandatory warp analysis to determine how gate location will impact overall part quality. Warp data is often lacking in standard mold flow analyses completed elsewhere.
Even more importantly, the data analysis is reviewed by multiple experts to ensure the part design is optimized in all areas that may have an impact on part quality and manufacturability.
A typical mold flow analysis at New Berlin Plastics looks like this: An experienced project engineer loads the OEM’s tool drawings, part drawings, and the material profile into the software and runs an initial analysis. With his deep expertise, he flags problems and conditions that may prevent the mold from filling fully and uniformly.
Next, the engineer runs additional scenarios with a variety of variables, which helps him to identify the root causes of those problems. That enables him to recommend changes to the part and mold that will provide more consistent, and higher quality, results.
A team approach adds value
Taking that analysis one step further, the simulation data is shared with a cross-functional team of process engineers, product designers, hot manifold suppliers, and material suppliers to ensure every step of the part production process is optimized.
The team draws on a comprehensive database of information from past projects to find solutions efficiently. This rigorous approach enables New Berlin Plastics’ engineering team to anticipate and mitigate potential challenges in mold and part designs faster.
When working on more complex parts, New Berlin Plastics leverages a 10-year partnership with The Madison Group, a plastics engineering specialist with mold flow analysis certification.
“The Madison Group is an extension of our engineering team,” Manning says. “They have experience with a broad range of plastic material types and product designs, and they have an entire department dedicated to failure analysis. They know why parts can fail in the field and they contribute that wisdom to our mold flow analysis simulations.”
For any customers that want a third-party opinion on mold flow simulation data and interpretation, The Madison Group can provide an expert perspective and validation.
“It’s great collaborating with New Berlin Plastics because their experienced team brings a lot of knowledge to the interpretation of mold flow analyses,” says Erik Foltz, Senior Managing Engineer at The Madison Group.
“Anyone can run the simulation software, but it’s our attention to detail and expert analysis that yields the best results. We want to ensure customers aren’t wasting time and money on part failures and reworks. With our collective efforts, they get it right the first time,” he adds.