From Prototype to Production with Injection Molding

Taking an idea from prototype to production requires planning, documentation, and communication. Injection molding, like other manufacturing processes, requires specific types of information. If you don’t know what’s required, you won’t be able to provide what an injection molder needs. Even then, your manufacturing journey doesn’t end there. There are go/no-go decisions to make as you move from prototype to production.

What Your Injection Molder Needs

Some designs for injection molded products start as drawings or sketches. What your injection molder needs, however, are computer-aided design (CAD) files that contain a digital representation of your product. Using sophisticated software, the molder can determine design for manufacturability (DFM) and suggest any changes. You’ll also need to provide the injection molder with a bill of materials (BOM), a minimum order quantity (MOQ), and quality specifications or manufacturing documentation.

Without CAD files, a BOM, and an MOQ, most contract manufacturers can’t provide you with a cost estimate. Some injection molders offer design assistance or help with material selection, but these services may come at a price. Remember to include them in your budget, and don’t forget that higher MOQs typically have a lower unit cost. In other words, you can expect to pay more per unit if you order 10,000 parts instead of 100,000 parts.

Taking an idea from protype to production also requires the purchase of an injection mold. These tools come in a variety of sizes and materials, so ask your molder for assistance in sourcing the most cost-effective solution. As part of that discussion, explore ways to pay for the injection mold. Remember, too, that moving a tool from one factory to another may not be so seamless. Make the right choice the first time because injection molders use different types of equipment and have different levels of expertise.

Why Quality Specifications are Critical

Throughout the prototype to production process, it’s important to stay focused on your quality requirements. Offshore production may seem to cost less but consider your total cost of ownership (TOC). For example, if an overseas molder can’t address concerns about material traceability, non-compliance could result in fines or other regulatory penalties. You may also have difficulty getting a prototype made because of language barriers and time zone differences that can make communications challenging.

Importantly, you’ll need to make go/no-go decisions about your project. In quality control, go indicates that a product conforms to specifications while no-go means that it does not. Your injection molder can’t meet quality specifications you haven’t communicated, so the completeness of your documentation is critical. In addition to evaluating your prototype for form, fit and function then, you’ll need to perform a design verification test (DVT) that compares your working prototype to your quality specifications. If the prototype doesn’t perform as expected, compare it to your written requirements and adjust as needed.

Like other contract manufacturers, injection molders aren’t in the business of making unauthorized changes to customer designs. Rather, they mold products according to the information that’s provided to them. Don’t overlook part failures or other problems, but work with your molder to correct these issues before considering a full-scale production run. In addition to evaluating your prototypes, your injection molder will provide you with First Article samples when the new mold arrives. That’s your best opportunity to work with your injection molder to set quality expectations.

Improve the Prototype to Production Process

Extreme Molding is a full-service plastic injection molding and silicone molding company that can help you succeed in your manufacturing journey. From our Made in the USA manufacturing facility near Albany, New York, we thrive on helping our partners find the best way to make the safety, highest-quality products in industries such as the life sciences and infant care. To learn more or request a quote, contact us.

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