You might be looking to get a plastic part produced by a third party, or even considering your own in-house manufacturing facility. Either way, several common steps are initially required.
You will need to have a good idea of the product required and be confident that you are not infringing on any existing patents.
You won’t be able to progress past the initial concept unless you have a detailed product design. There is more to consider than how the component will look and function. If the design is complex, you may need assistance from a specialised Product Design & Development Company. They ensure that the product is fit for purpose and will be as simple to manufacture as possible. They will also be able to produce suitable CAD drawings (e.g. to be used to make tooling) and prototype parts.
As part of the design process, you should also consider:
While the look of the product is important, you also have to ensure its design can be readily manufactured.
For instance, during injection moulding, apertures that are not in the plane of post-moulding part removal will have to be formed around moving cores. These cores are mechanically (using cams) or hydraulically moved in and out of the area of the tool where the aperture in the wall of the moulding is needed. This allows components to be ejected off the tool.
‘Draft angles’ are also used, creating a slight taper that allows the product to be ejected once it has cooled and shrunk slightly.
The level of moulding precision needed will depend largely on the final application of a product, e.g. if it is mainly cosmetic in nature, or conversely if it forms part of a complex assembly with tight tolerances. In the latter case, consideration will need to be given to:
Durability and stability
Depending on the application of the product, its stability and durability will be impacted by the environment in which it is used. As well as the polymer grade selection being appropriate, additives can be used to enhance performance.
For example, fillers such as glass fibres can greatly improve load-bearing properties and resistance to abrasive wear. Another example would be the need for a product to be resistant to outdoor UV light, which can cause colours to fade or material to degrade and lose strength. In this case, UV stabilisers can be added.
Product wall thickness and support structures (such as ribs) can also be considered if a product is to be subjected to exterior shock or load.
Making sure the design of a product is correct before it goes into production can save significant amounts of money in the longer term. For example:
Appearance and ergonomics
Consideration should be given to the visibility of a product. For example, should it be cosmetically pleasing to the eye, or is it concealed from view?
If a product is to be handled, thought should be given to surface finish and feel, as grip and tactile properties are also important in this instance.
Consideration should be given to the longer-term life of a product. If tooling can be easily modified if product design is enhanced, then this can save the costs associated with having to completely ‘re-tool’.
Design for assembly
Consideration should be given to how a product will need to interact with others, for example, as part of a more complex assembly. Careful design can help to reduce the number of components within an assembly, reducing both tooling and assembly costs.
The tolerances of other components within the assembly and the materials used to produce them should also be considered. For example, metal components will have different expansion and contraction rates to plastics.
The method of assembly also must be considered. Recyclability at the end-of-life stage is becoming more important, so bonding components by ultrasonically welding them together, or using clips may be preferable to adhesives or fasteners.
Design for long term impact on the environment
As well as specifying assembly methods that don’t require non-plastic items to be incorporated, or even differing plastic grades to be combined, consideration should be given to how readily a particular polymer type can be recycled when it reaches end of life.
There is usually one manufacturing process that best suits your combination of part design and quantities required. Our useful ‘Plastic Guru’ section provides some guidance, but you can also talk to the PlastikCity team using the online chat facility and via Contact Us.
You can read more about tooling in the dedicated section, but unless you are producing just a few components (e.g. by 3D printing or fabricating them from sheet material), there will be tooling costs involved. This cost varies by the process used for manufacture, which is usually determined by the design of the product and the volumes required.
Vacuum forming tools are relatively simple and can be constructed from resin or wood rather than steel. Although they tend to be large, costs are relatively low.
Extrusion tools are made from steel, but in most cases are essentially a ‘profile’ shape machined into a single block.
Rotational moulding and blow moulding tools are more complex, as they consist of two halves that need to be opened and closed each time a part is made.
Injection mould tools are two-part tools that have a core and cavity. Basic tools for low volume production can be produced in aluminium, but will still typically cost a few £1000’s. As tools become larger and more complex, the price can significantly increase.
Once you know the process and tooling required, you have three options:
You may wish to set up your own manufacturing facility to manufacture the components in-house. You can use the PlastikCity site to obtain new or used equipment and find suitable service providers. Here are some useful links:
Click here to get quotes from the best suppliers of primary production equipment.
Click here to get quotes for ancillary items such as material handling and drying equipment, chillers, conveyors, etc.
Click here to view our wide range of service providers in the plastics industry. From pipework installation to training providers, you will find it here.
Click here to view our plastics materials section, including stockholders of popular material grades, as well as specialist compounds and recycled material suppliers.
Other than sufficient space for production equipment and finished product, you will need adequate 3-phase power.