While the Production Part Approval Process (PPAP) is a common method injection molders use to ensure a new part meets expectations, New Berlin Plastics takes additional steps to streamline the entire project launch process.
These extra steps provide efficiencies that often result in parts being approved and moved into production faster, saving time and cost for OEMs.
“We take these exhaustive process verification and validation steps to give OEMs a robust production process that is both in control and capable,” explains Engineering Manager Dan Manning. “We establish the widest process window possible to account for natural variation that can occur within a process, or from outside sources such as lot-to-lot material variations.”
Even before a product design is approved, it’s important to verify that a part can be repeatedly manufactured to the required specifications, using the assigned resin, and in the required timeframe.
New Berlin Plastics employs an exhaustive verification process that is well documented and carefully followed. It includes:
- Tolerance reviews, to verify the part can be manufactured within the expected dimensional tolerances. If not, we may need to engage the customer and explore changing materials or adjust
ing the mold or product designs.
- Print reviews, which include reviewing the part datum structures on the OEM’s print to ensure the part can be measured accurately and repeatably, and that the datums accurately represent the functional surfaces.
- Design for Manufacturing (DFM) analysis, in whichan experienced project engineer reviews the design to ensure that it’s optimized for molding and manufacturing.
- Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE) molding simulations, which carefully analyze data to identify the best gate location to ensure even pack pressure throughout the part. Mold/part temperature, material shrink, and material orientation/fiber orientation, which are critical to product performance, are also simulated so engineers can predict and address potential problems before the mold build begins.
- Mold qualification, detailed below.
- Suppliers involved in the validation process, to ensure that the specified materials and mold components are the right choices and are readily available.
- A catalog of mold design standards that is continually updated and consulted. It contains lessons learned for optimal mold performance.
- Cross-functional internal reviews that bring together engineers from the production, processing, and quality disciplines to review and provide in-depth process input. This gives everyone a voice to incorporate ideas early in development.
- A thorough and rigorous process development process that’s well documented and repeated for every new mold brought on board.
- A fully equipped in-house metrology lab, which can provide fast and accurate measurements in hours instead of days. Learn more about it here.
- Well-trained staff, who are fluent in product design, mold design, material selection, and process development so they can properly manage each project from receipt of a purchase order through production validation.
OEMs generally care less about how a mold is made, instead focusing on whether it produces good parts. But proper mold qualification is an essential part of an efficient project launch. Once the product design and material selection are finalized with the customer, the mold design is verified before steel cutting begins.
“If you wait to qualify the mold after it’s made, you’re not taking advantage of all the tools available to you. You risk wasting a lot of time and money grooming a poorly built tool later,” emphasizes Joseph Mechery, Vice President of Sales. “Our customers benefit from placing a part with us because we have the entire process well mapped out ahead of time.”
Every mold is equipped with sensors that trace cavity pressure so it can be set up to produce consistent parts from run to run. Collecting this data is part of New Berlin Plastics’ scientific injection molding process (learn more here).
To mimic an extended production run, New Berlin Plastics performs a 300-shot PPAP run at rate. This provides an opportunity to test the mold in a production environment, ensuring it performs as expected.
The parts produced during the test run are provided to the customer with full dimensional layouts, capability studies, and light scans that verify the parts are to print.
When an existing mold is transferred to New Berlin Plastics, it is thoroughly inspected, fitted with cavity pressure transducers, and put through a rigorous launch process, including a 300-shot PPAP run at rate to ensure it is production-ready.
Once a mold is qualified, a preventive maintenance schedule is set up to mitigate the risk of tool failure and unplanned downtime for both New Berlin Plastics and the customer.
Although data and technology are employed throughout the project launch process, the experienced engineering staff at New Berlin Plastics knows how to translate the data and what to do about it.
“We use the predictive tools that are available to us, but they don’t replace the experience a skilled project team brings to the process,” Manning adds. “We tap into the experience of our process engineers, specialists in molding simulations, quality engineers, project engineers, and suppliers. Their collective experience enables us to resolve challenges fast and keep the project launch on schedule.”