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Injection Molding and Moldmaking
with Surgical Precision

Injection Molding and Moldmaking
with Surgical Precision

Knowledge of the product and process is important in any business, none more so than injection molding. The business is quite complex and a good sales or customer service person often must be able to guide a customer with little or no knowledge through the intricacies of managing the molding project.

The sales/customer service person should have knowledge not only of the quoting/costing process, but also of design, mold building and production of the molded part. He or she must either be able to answer all of the customer’s questions or know where to obtain the answers.

In addition to technical knowledge, the sales/service person must be patient and understanding, as often a customer, especially one who is under pressure can be very nervous, even “cranky.” Here the sales/service person acts as a counselor and a buffer for not only the customer, but also for the molding company.

The sales/customer service person is a person of many talents and is key for the success of not only the injection molding company but for the customer’s success as well.

Like many thermoplastic resins, nylon has its quirks and accompanying processing considerations. One of nylon’s most notable characteristics is its affinity for water. Nylon is extremely hygroscopic, a veritable sponge, absorbing any humidity in its environment. It is an efficient sponge; quick to suck up water, and slow to give up the moisture.

Moist nylon resin affects the end product, often producing brittle or dimensionally unstable parts. Cosmetics are also affected; splay being one notable cosmetic defect that can be caused by moist resin. If the processed resin is out of moisture specs, it is essentially degraded. This is called hydrolytic degradation, and the effects and symptoms are akin to thermal degradation. Desired characteristics of many nylon parts include toughness and impact resistance. Parts produced with resin that has been sub-optimally dried can lack these traits.

Moist nylon resin can be hard to process. Nylon has a tendency to drool from the nozzle. Good heat control at the nozzle is important for molding nylons successfully and controlling nozzle drool or freeze-off, but wet resin can make this control almost impossible to achieve.

In addition to drying nylon well, it is important to dry nylon consistently. The same nylon resin dried at different moisture levels will exhibit different melt viscosities, even though the moisture levels may be within the manufacturer’s specifications. Water acts as a plasticizer; therefore wet nylon will fill more easily than dry nylon. This is reflected in peak fill (transfer) pressure and can be reflected in fill times, especially visible in a pressure limited process. For good consistent molding results, especially in a product with demanding dimensional specs, the resin moisture level should be consistent from run to run.

If nylon is allowed to stay in the dryer for too long (over the recommended time), the material can start to degrade as well.  Natural nylon may start to turn yellow.  The finished part may also be very brittle.  This is more common on nylons than most materials.

When inspecting nylon parts it is always good to allow the finished part to absorb the moisture in the air before you do your inspections.  Depending on the environment this can take a few hours or more.  Some nylon jobs require a fixed amount of moisture to be put into the poly bag that holds the parts.  This is common in the processing of nylon straps.

At Matrix Tooling/Matrix Plastic Products, we strictly follow manufacturers’ recommendations for drying temperatures and times to ensure dryness, and we have a moisture analyzer to verify the results. We have found that good, consistent drying gives consistent molding results.

Written By:

Brent Borgerson – Senior Process Engineer (Older Molder)

Patrick Collins – Molding Operations Manager

We recently had been asked by a potential customer why a polycarbonate would crack post-molding.  They had been having this issue on a specific part from one of their current suppliers.

Our first step was to ask if we could get a sample of the part and the process sheet.  After looking at the part and reviewing the process sheets we noticed the following:   First, key set points like the dryer settings were not included in the process sheets.  We saw this as a potential red flag.  With polycarbonate it is very important that the material be dried correctly with the proper equipment.  Polycarbonate requires a dryer setting around 240 degrees for four hours (following the material recommendations of course, some may vary around 250 degrees for four hours) but doing this requires a high-heat dryer.   It is always good to verify that the moisture is 0.020% or less prior to molding.

Further looking into the setup sheets we noticed that the injection pressures were all on the high side of the recommended range.  This can be a sign that the gate size or nozzle orifice may be a potential suspect.  Running the incorrect gate size or nozzle size can induce molded-in stress.

We also noticed a lack of process monitoring; the set limits would allow the press to continue to run outside the manufacturer’s recommendations.  If uncontrolled, incorrect barrel temps, pressures or screw cushion can all be reasons for in-molded stress.

In looking at the part, the molded stresses were obvious, particularly when looking through a polarized lens under strong lighting.  The stresses create a rainbow effect in the translucent material.  Our next step was to measure the gate size and we found it to be much smaller than what we would recommend for PC.

So we had plenty to consider from the start, and these are just a few possible reasons for PC cracking.  We’ve also been told by the material manufacturer that some mold release sprays can attack polycarbonate.  They even had a story about an operator whose hand lotion was found to be the culprit for cracking parts.  This is one reason we do not allow silicone mold release in the plant and insure our operators use gloves on polycarbonate jobs.

After ruling out all of the above possibilities, it’s possible that some part designs may require annealing for stress relief.  Annealing of the plastic part is the process of heating the post molded part to just below its softening point, then keeping it at the high temperature for a period of time before cooling it slowly back to room temperature.  This can relieve some molded-in stresses but isn’t a desirable solution in most cases.

Processing polycarbonate at the manufacturer’s recommendations is the key to stress-free and crack-resistant parts.  If, for any reason, you are unable to follow the recommendations you should ask yourself why and correct the problem at its roots.

Written By:

Pat Collins
Molding Operations Manager

 

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