Custom molds enable the rapid production of thermoplastic, metal, or elastomer components of all complexities. Through injection molding, compression molding, rotational molding, investment casting, and similar processes, manufacturers can quickly and accurately reproduce all manner of components. However, these molds must themselves be precise and well-made to ensure the quality of the final products. As such, mold prototyping is often a worthwhile first step to verify proof of concept.
Advanced Prototype Molding (APM) specializes in custom mold manufacturing and prototyping for a variety of thermoplastic applications. As part of our services, we will also help identify the molding process best suited to your product.
The exact form of the mold depends on the desired product shape and the molding process being used. For instance, a mold for injection molding must have properly sized and positioned air vents to prevent burn spots. An experienced manufacturer like APM understands the unique constraints of each molding technique and will work with you to ensure the construction matches your needs.
Injection molding is one of the most popular and versatile plastic molding techniques. This technique involves injecting molten material into a custom mold, allowing it to cool into the project's final shape.
Injection molding calls for precise and durable molds that can hold up to repeated use. Since the process uses molten material, the molds must be carefully designed with high-temperature capabilities in mind to ensure they won’t fail or wear over multiple cycles. A properly manufactured injection mold can facilitate highly repeatable production for high-volume runs.
Liquid silicone rubber (LSR) molding is a specific form of injection molding. LSR has an extremely low viscosity, which facilitates easy injection and cures quickly into a malleable, durable elastomer. As such, LSR is especially useful for products with intricate shapes that require precise molding.
Advanced Prototype Molding works with epoxy, aluminum, and steel to create high-performance tooling for injection molding.
Unlike injection molding, compression molding begins with a solid piece of uncured rubber which has been measured to a certain weight and shape. The raw material is placed within a hollow mold, where pressure is applied to yield the finished shape. Before releasing the component, heat is used to cure the rubber through vulcanization.
Compression molding is best suited for less complex parts, so the molds are typically cheaper and less complicated. Compression molding produces less material waste than other molding methods and is compatible with most elastomers. Drawbacks include longer cycle times and limitations in the level of complexity that can be achieved compared to injection molding.
Typically used with urethane, room temperature vulcanization (RTV) molding is an affordable technique for producing diverse rubber and rigid prototypes. We use RTV tooling to create urethane products of all shapes, sizes, and colors, including precise color matching for late-stage prototypes.
RTV molding can be used for generic prototyping, as well as fit-and-function testing or marketing samples. Occasionally, RTV molding and urethane casting may be used for smaller(take out) final production runs. Urethane may be an appropriate option for products requiring thick walls or high levels of chemical resistance.
Regardless of the specific application, APM can incorporate a range of customization options into the RTV molding process, including inserts, shielding, custom paint jobs, and more.
Rotational molding, roto-molding, or roto-casting all describe a cost-effective method of creating hollow plastic components from powdered plastic. The powder is placed into a mold and spun within an oven to allow the plastic to melt. The constant rotation forces the plastic to coat the walls of the mold as the machine rotates, creating a hollow component with consistent surfaces.
Rotational molding is best suited for low-stress, hollow plastic parts, especially in low- to medium-volume production runs. Roto-molding can remain an option at higher volumes as well, especially for products that can't easily be molded using other methods.
Tooling for rotational, injection, and compression molding are typically made from metal or epoxy. Metals, while more expensive, are also vastly more durable, making them the best choice for full production runs. It's easier to justify using a more affordable material during prototyping, since the mold's expected working life is much shorter.
Steel and aluminum are the standard metals used in mold manufacturing. Steel molds tend to be the most wear-resistant and durable, although the exact characteristics depend on the grade of steel. Compared to aluminum, steel is more expensive, but it offers maximum durability for high-volume production runs.
Aluminum molds are cheaper but perform just as well as steel molds in most applications. Besides cost, other benefits of aluminum include its heat dissipation properties, lightweight, and easy workability. Heat dissipation is especially important for injection molding and compression molding, which require high levels of heat to melt or cure the plastics. Better heat dissipation translates to shorter cycle times and, ultimately, more economical production processes.
Considering all of the specifics of the job, including volume and manufacturing technique, APM will help you determine the best material for your molding job.
In all molding processes, mold quality directly determines eventual product quality. The ideal mold generates products that require little secondary processing, if any, before being ready to ship. Prototype molds are the best way to ensure that your proposed mold design fits these characteristics.
We construct affordable prototype molds to quickly produce samples, prototypes, and even low-volume production runs. These molds differ only minimally from permanent versions. The primary difference is that we can use more affordable materials when durability is less of a concern. These types of test molds are appropriate for runs ranging from a few prototype products to several thousand components. For volumes larger than that, or for more intensive manufacturing processes, it's better to begin with a prototyped mold before moving to a more durable option for higher-volume production.
Advanced Prototype Molding offers tooling and production for the following processes:
When you consult with APM about your project, you benefit from our broad experience that allows us to match our extensive capabilities to your individual needs. The initial design consultation is free, and we provide guidance throughout the production process to ensure that you receive exactly the product you've envisioned. We also have extensive experience in additional processes such as CNC machining, and we can steer you toward the optimal process or processes for your project.
Whether you need a rapid mold prototype or a finished production run, APM has the skills and experience to guarantee superior results. We offer specialty tooling, custom casts, and full production runs for all manner of rubber, metal, and plastic products, and we strive to meet the needs of clients across industries. To learn more about whether our capabilities are right for you, contact our team, or request a quote to get started.