The injection molding industry is always changing as new technology, materials, and techniques are introduced. There are a number of changing trends that experts anticipate will occur in 2018. While some of these trends may not last long due to innovative advances, others may go from trends to standard operating procedure.
Here are a few plastic injection molding industry trends to keep an eye on:
Protecting the environment has gone from an individual goal to a big business mission. Companies that can show they use eco-friendly practices and materials are likely to get business over those that don’t. During 2018, the injection molding industry is expected to move more towards environmental-friendly approaches. For example, new equipment uses as much as 50% less power than devices introduced less than ten years ago. The amount of scrap plastic has been reduced or has been recycled, decreasing the amount of waste.
Another eco-friendly option that is becoming more and more popular is bio-plastics. This type of plastic is created from biodegradable plants such as corn, soybeans, and flax. This decreases the need to use fossil fuels and creates plastics that without taking years to break down.
Metal to Plastic Conversion
More manufacturers are considered changing metal parts and products to plastic, leading to growth in the injection molding industry. While the idea of metal to plastic conversion has been around for quite some time, some companies have never considered it as a viable solution. They often will have the idea that metal is superior to plastic, but that’s not always the case thanks to new materials and mixing processes. Today’s plastic can be stronger, lighter in weight, and more flexible in design.
While some items may always need to be made from metal, the excuse of “it’s always been made this way” is becoming less and less of a reason to put off switching to plastic parts.
Many industries have begun moving towards automation. The ability to bring in a machine that can work around the clock and always perform repeatable actions is invaluable. The injection molding industry is expected to greatly ramp up its deployment of automated systems in 2018 now that the accuracy, speed, and flexibility of these machines have increased. Additionally, automation used to have a hefty price tag but with new advancements, deploying an automation solution is now more affordable than ever.
By allowing human employees to focus on tasks that require creativity or personal touch, automated machines will let companies better allocate their resources. The need for skilled employees is still present; in fact, new employees will likely need to be hired to help program and maintain these automated systems.
Nearshoring is the concept of outsourcing work to within the United States. Outsourcing to companies in Asia is understood to help lower costs in production, materials, and labor, but it can have many hidden costs. It also dramatically impacts the timetable, potentially adding weeks to the schedule. Companies that require fast turnaround simply can’t afford that.
Faster turnaround times also makes it easier to have a tighter reign on production and quality. If a production run contains a defect, the steps needed to fix the mistake are within reach and can be caught early on. Nearshoring reduces the amount of time it takes to receive the product while still letting companies take advantage of lower costs.
Design for Manufacturability
The concept of design for manufacturability is another solution that has been around for some time but is becoming increasingly popular across the industry. Designing parts for manufacturability includes:
- Material consideration
- Gate location
- Material shrinkage
- Part rigidness
- And more…
Utilizing a successful DFM strategy makes it possible to reduce the amount of time needed for testing and the number of overall errors. By working closely with customers during this phase, companies can improve their processing time and their relations with clients as well as engineer out cost and potential failure modes.
Precision molding is the current trend used to address manufacturing challenges. It allows engineers to quickly address production issues using advanced tools that can:
- Simulate mold flow
- Monitor the injection process
- Make changes to the process in real-time
- Send alerts during a malfunction
- Program machines to alarm when operation outside tolerances
- And more…
While some industry trends die off as quickly as they catch on, many anticipate that concepts are here to stay. As outlined earlier, advancements such as automation, nearshoring, and sustainability, aren’t limited to the injection molding industry. They’re growing trends seen in many areas and are expected to continue to grow. Those that are more focused on injection molding, including precision molding, design for manufacturing, and moving from metal to plastic, are less popular pieces of technology and more strong concepts that are likely to become the industry norm.
In need of an injection molding partner that understands trends and is quick to adopt those that have proven themselves? New Berlin Plastics makes use of today’s most effective injection molding trends to provide customers with high quality, affordable plastic parts. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you meet your needs.