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Injection Molding Design Guidelines Much has been written regarding design guidelines for injection molding.

Yet, the design guidelines can be summed up in just a few design rules. 1 Use uniform wall thicknesses throughout the part. This will minimize sinking, warping, residual stresses, and improve mold fill and cycle times.

Wall Section Considerations Voids and Shrinkage Warpage

2 Use generous radius at all corners. The inside corner radius should be a minimum of one material thickness.

Radius Limitations

3 Use the least thickness compliant with the process, material, or product design requirements. Using the least wall thickness for the process ensures rapid cooling, short cycle times, and minimum shot weight. All these result in the least possible part cost. 4 Design parts to facilitate easy withdrawal from the mold by providing draft (taper) in the direction of mold opening or closing.

Draft and Texture

5 Use ribs or gussets to improve part stiffness in bending. This avoids the use of thick section to achieve the same, thereby saving on part weight, material costs, and cycle time costs.

Rib Design

Common Design Elements

Rib Boss Counter bore/sink Inserts Self-Tapping Screws Snap Latches Living Hinge

Introduction to Injection Molding Injection molding is considered one of the most common plastic part manufacturing processes. It can be used for producing parts from both thermoplastic and thermoset polymers. The process usually begins with taking the polymers in the form of pellets or granules and heating them to the molten state. The melt is then injected/forced into a chamber formed by a split-die mold. The melt remains in the mold and is either chilled down to solidify (thermoplastics) or heated up to cure (thermosets). The mold is then opened and the part is ejected.

A Typical Injection Molding Process In spite of the relatively expensive tooling cost, injection molding remains the most popular manufacturing process for plastic materials in mass production, thanks to its low operational cost, high throughput, and the flexibility to make parts with complex shapes. Polymers commonly used for injection molding include

Polystyrene (PS) Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) Polyamide (PA) Polypropylene (PP) Polyethylene (PE) Polyvinylchloride (PVC) Other short fiber reinforced plastics

Typical Complications of Injection Molding

Incomplete Fillings: not enough resin to fill the mold completely

inadequate injection stroke low injection rate low injection pressure resin viscosity too high exotic geometry Surface Imperfections: moisture or air bubbles in the resin temperature too high causing resin decomposition not enough pressure to fill the mold completely dirty mold Burned Parts: temperature too high polymer trapped and degraded in the nozzle slow chilling cycle Warped Parts uneven mold surface temperature design flaws parts removed from the mold too early

Pros and Cons of Injection Molding Pros

Low costs in mass production High precision Complex parts. Geometries only limited by mold manufacturability.


High initial setup costs

Uniform Walls

Parts should be designed with a minimum wall thickness consistent with part function and mold filling considerations. The thinner the wall the faster the part cools, and the cycle times are short, resulting in the lowest possible part costs. Also, thinner parts weight less, which results in smaller amounts of the plastic used per part which also results in lower part costs.

The wall thicknesses of an injection-molded part generally range from 2 mm to 4 mm (0.080 inch to 0.160 inch). Thin wall injection molding can produce walls as thin as 0.5 mm (0.020 inch).

The need for uniform walls

Thick sections cool slower than thin sections. The thin section first solidifies, and the thick section is still not fully solidified. As the thick section cools, it shrinks and the material for the shrinkage comes only from the unsolidified areas, which are connected, to the already solidified thin section. This builds stresses near the boundary of the thin section to thick section. Since the thin section does not yield because it is solid, the thick section (which is still liquid) must yield. Often this leads to warping or twisting. If this is severe enough, the part could even crack.
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Uniform wall thicknesses reduce/eliminate this problem.

Uniform walled parts are easier to fill in the mold cavity, since the molten plastic does

not face varying restrictions as it fills. What if you cannot have uniform walls, (due to design limitations) ?

When uniform walls are not possible, then the change in section should be as gradual as possible.

Coring can help in making the wall sections uniform, and eliminate the problems associated with non-uniform walls.

Warping problems can be reduced by building supporting features such as gussets.

Voids and Shrinkage

Shrinkage is caused by intersecting walls of non-uniform wall thickness. Examples of these are ribs, bosses, and other projections of the nominal wall. If these projections have greater wall thicknesses, they will solidify slower. The region where they are attached to the nominal wall will shrink along with the projection, resulting in a sink in the nominal wall. Shrink can be minimized by maintaining rib thicknesses to 50 to 60% of the walls they are attached to. Bosses located at corners can result in very thick walls causing sinks. Bosses can be isolated using the techniques illustrated.

Warpage Thick sections cool slower than thin sections. The thin section first solidifies, and the thick section is still not fully solidified. As the thick section cools, it shrinks and the material for the shrinkage comes only from the unsolidified areas, which are connected, to the already solidified thin section.

This builds stresses near the boundary of the thin section to thick section. Since the thin section does not yield because it is solid, the thick section (which is still liquid) must yield. Often this leads to warping or twisting. If this is severe enough, the part could even crack.

Other causes:

Warping can also be caused due to non-uniform mold temperatures or cooling rates. Non-uniform packing or pressure in the mold. Alignment of polymer molecules and fiber reinforcing strands during the mold fill results in preferential properties in the part. Molding process conditions--too high a injection pressure or temperature or improper temperature and cooling of the mold cavity. Generally, it is best to follow the resin manufacturer's guidelines on process conditions and only vary conditions within the limits of the guidelines. It is not good practice to go beyond the pressure and temperature recommendations to compensate for other defects in the mold. If runners need to be sized differently to allow for a proper fill, or gate sizes that need to be changed, then those changes need to happen.

Otherwise the finished parts will have too much built in stresses, could crack in service or warp-leading to more severe problems such as customer returns or field service issues.


Sharp corners greatly increase the stress concentration. This high amount of stress concentration can often lead to failure of plastic parts. Sharp corners can come about in non-obvious places. Examples of this are a boss attached to a surface, or a strengthening rib. These corners need to be radiused just like all other corners. The stress concentration factor varies with radius, for a given thickness.

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As can be seen from the above chart, the stress concentration factor is quite high for R/T values lesss than 0.5. For values of R/T over 0.5 the stress concentration factor gets lower. The stress concentration factor is a multiplier factor, it increases the stress. Actual Stress = Stress Concentration Factor K x Stress Calculated This is why it is recommended that inside radiuses be a minimum of 1 x thickness.

In addition to reducing stresses, fillet radiuses provide streamlined flow paths for the molten plastic resulting in easier fills. Typically, at corners, the inside radius is 0.5 x material thickness and the outside radius is 1.5 x material thickness. A bigger radius should be used if part design will allow it.

The use of ribs

Ribs increase the bending stiffness of a part. Without ribs, the thickness has to be increased to increase the bending stiffness. Adding ribs increases the moment of inertia, which increases the bending stiffness. Bending stiffness = E (Young's Modulus) x I

(Moment of Inertia) The rib thickness should be less than the wall thickness-to keep sinking to a minimum. The thickness ranges from 40 to 60 % of the material thickness. In addition, the rib should be attached to the base with generous radiusing at the corners.

At rib intersections, the resulting thickness will be more than the thickness of each individual rib. Coring or some other means of removing material should be used to thin down the walls to avoid excessive sinking on the opposite side.

The height of the rib should be limited to less than 3 x thickness. It is better to have multiple ribs to increase the bending stiffness than one high rib.

The rib orientation is based on providing maximum bending stiffness. Depending on orientation of the bending load, with respect to the part geometry, ribs oriented one way increase stiffness. If oriented the wrong way there is no increase in stiffness.

Draft angles for ribs should be minimum of 0.25 to 0.5 degree of draft per side. If the surface is textured, additional 1.0 degree draft per 0.025 mm (0.001 inch) depth of texture should be provided.

Inserts Inserts are used in plastic parts, to allow the use of fasteners such as machine screws. The advantage of this is that since these inserts are made out of metal, they are robust. Further, machine threads also allow great many cycles of assembly and disassembly Inserts are installed using one of the following methods: - Ultrasonic insertion. The insert is vibrated using an ultrasonic transducer, called the "horn" mounted in an ultrasonic machine.

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The horn has to be specially designed for each application for optimum performance. The ultrasonic energy is converted to thermal energy due to the vibrating action, which allows the insert to be melted inside the hole. This type of insertion can be done rapidly, with short cycle times, low residual stresses. Good melt flow characteristics for the plastic are necessary for the process to be successful. The ultrasonic equipment is relatively expensive, and also needs a custom horn for optimal production rates.

- Thermal Insertion. The inserts are heated by placing them over the hole and pressing them in with a heated tool. The tool first heats the insert, then the insert is pressed in.

The advantage of this method is that the special tooling necessary is relatively simple, usually a cylindrical tool, which can be easily, fabricated in the machine shop. The cycle times are usually short. However, care has to be taken, not to overheat the insert or the plastic, or it will lead to local plastic degradation. - Press Fitting.The inserts are designed with barbs (straight knurls that are interrupted) and can be press fitted inside the hole in the boss. This process is fast and requires no special tooling. However, high hoop stresses are generated, so the boss design has to be robust. Also, the retention is strictly based on press fitting and the small amount of material that flows inside the barbs. Thus retention is not very high.

- Molded-in Inserts. The inserts are placed in the mold prior to the injection of plastic. The injection of the plastic completely encases the insert on the outer diameter and provides very good retention. In fact retention of such inserts is the best compared to other process (barb/knurl design being the same). This process slows down the operation of the mold, since the inserts have to be manually placed inside the mold. Inserts can be automatically placed in a mold, but this greatly increases the complexity and cost of the mold. This can only be justified if the volume of production is very high to offset the cost savings in shorter cycle times.

Boss Design Bosses are used for the purpose of registration of mating parts or for attaching fasteners such as screws or accepting threaded inserts (molded-in, press-fitted, ultrasonically or thermally inserted). The wall thicknesses should be less than 60 % of nominal wall to minimize sinking. However, if the boss is not in a visible area, then the wall thickness can be increased to allow for increased stresses imposed by self-tapping screws. The base radius should be a minimum of 0.25 x thickness

The boss can be strengthened by gussets at the base, and by attaching it to nearby walls with connecting ribs.

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The maximum insertion (or withdrawl) force Fmaxand the maximum hoop stress, ocurring at the inner diameter of the boss, smax is given by

Failures of a boss are usually attributable to:

High hoop stresses caused because of too much interference of the internal diameter with the insert (or screw). Knit lines -these are cold lines of flow meeting at the boss from opposite sides, causing weak bonds. These can split easily when stress is applied. Knit lines should be relocated away from the boss, if possible. If not possible, then a supporting gusset should be added near the knit line.

Snap Latches Snaps allow an easy method of assembly and disassembly of plastic parts. Snaps consist of a cantilever beam with a bump that deflects and snaps into a groove or a slot in the mating part.

Snaps can have a uniform cross-section or a tapered cross section (with decreasing section height). The tapered cross-section results in a smaller strain compared to the uniform crosssection. Here we consider the general case of a beam tapering in both directions.
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When Rh=1 and Rb=1 , the above formula does not apply, L'Hospital's rule applies and the formula is simplified to the following:

The disassembly force is a function of the coefficient of friction, which ranges from 0.3 to 0.6 for most plastics. The coefficient of friction also varies with the surface roughness. The rougher the surface, the higher the coefficient of friction. There is an angle at which the mating parts cannot be pulled apart. This is known as the selflocking angle. If the angle of the snap is less than this angle, then the assembly can be disassembled by a certain force given by the above formula.

The self-locking angle = tan-1(1/) where is the coefficient of friction which ranges from 0.3 to 0.6 for most plastics. This computes to angles ranging from 73 for low coefficient of friction plastics to 59 for high coefficient of friction plastics. If this angle is exceeded then the snaps will not pull apart unless the snap beam is deflected by some other means such as a release tool. This property can be used to advantage depending on the objective of using the snaps. If the

snaps are to be used in the factory for assembly only (never to be disassembled by the end user), then the ramp angle the self-locking angle should be exceeded. If the user is expected to disassemble (to change batteries in a toy for example), then the angle should not be exceeded. Tooling for snaps is often expensive and long lead time due to - The iterations required achieving the proper fit in terms of over travel. The amount of over travel is a design issue. This will control how easy it is to assemble, and how much the mated parts can rattle in assembly. This rattle can be minimized by reducing the over travel or designing in a preload to use the plastic's elastic properties. However, plastics tend to creep under load, so preloading is to be avoided unless there is no other option.

- Often, side action tooling (cam actuated) is required. This increases the mold costs and lead times.Cam actuated tooling can be avoided if bypass coring can be used that results in an opening in the part to allow the coring to form the step.

Some common problems of using snaps: - Too high a deflection causing plastic deformation (set) of the latch (the moving member). Care has to be taken that the latch does not take a set. Otherwise, the amount of latch engagement could reduce, reducing the force to disassemble. If the set is bad enough the engagement might even fail. - The moving arm could break at the pivot point due to too high a bending stress. This can be avoided by adhering to the design principles and not exceed the yield strength of the material-in fact it should be kept well below the yield strength depending on the safety factor used. - Too much over travel leads to a sloppy fit between mating parts resulting in loose assemblies that can rattle. Good snap design practices - Design the latch taking into account the maximum strain encountered at maximum deflection. - In general, long latches are more forgiving of design errors than short latches for the same amount of deflection, because of the reduced bending strain. - Build mold tooling with "tool safe condition". By this we mean that the deflection or over travel, or length of engagement can be changed easily by machining away mold tooling, rather than add material to mold tooling, which is more expensive and not good mold practice. This "safe" condition allows for a couple of tooling iterations of the latch, until the snap action is

considered acceptable.

Self-Tapping Screws Self-tapping screws are often used to fasten plastic parts together. Self-tapping screws are available both in thread-cutting type as well as thread-forming type. Thread Forming Pros High tensile values High amount of torque to strip threads Large number of cycles of assembly and disassembly Stress relaxation possible possible Suitable for plastics that are non-brittle Not suitable for brittle plastics Cons High hoop stress, boss has to be designed to withstand this stress

Thread Cutting Pros Lower Hoop Stress Lower Tensile Pullout Cons

Suitable for brittle plastics Lower amount of torque to pull the threads

Living Hinge Living hinges are thin sections of plastic that connect two segments of a part to keep them together and allow the part to be opened and closed. Typically these are used in containers that are used in high volume applications such as toolboxes, fish tackle boxes, CD boxes etc.

The materials used to make a living hinge are usually a very flexible plastic such as polypropylene and polyethylene. These can flex more than a million cycles without failure.

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Besides meeting the design guidelines, the hinges have to be processed properly. The molecules have to be oriented along the hinge line for the hinge to have acceptable life. As molded the fibers of the plastic are somewhat random in orientation. In order to orient the

fibers to aid in prolonging the hinge life, some or all of the following practices should be followed:

The gate location should be such as to allow the plastic to flow across the hinge for maximum strength. As the part comes out of the mold, it needs to be flexed a minimum of 2 times while it is still hot, for optimum strength Coining is often done to give the hinge, enhanced properties. The coining process compresses the hinge to a pre-determined thickness. The strain induced is greater than the yield stress of the plastic. This will plastically deform the hinge (i.e. place it outside the elastic range into the plastic range). The amount of coining (compression) should be less than the ultimate stress, to keep the hinge from fracturing.

The finished thickness after coining should be from 0.25 to 0.5 mm (0.010 to 0.020 inch). This keeps the stress in the outer fibers from exceeding the yield strength when being flexed. This process can also be done by heating the hinge or the coining tool to a temperature

below the glass transition tempertature of the plastic. This allows for easier coining and somewhat enhanced properties, as the plastic "flow" easier when being heated.

Counter Bore/Sink

Counter-sinking is often done to accommodate heads of flat head screws. However as can be seen from the figure, there is a sideways component of the thrust which could split the countersink due to the generated hoop stresses Counter-boring is done to accomodate pan-head, fillister-head or round-head screws or other screws with flat-bottomed undersides.

Counter-bored screws exert only force in the axial direction, thus operate mostly under compression, with no sideward component to the applied force vector. Such design is

inherently more robust than counter-sinking.