Ten Pointers for Better Mold Production

Although the criteria and the technology used to produce molds have changed dramatically in recent years, the basic rules for developing a mold that meets the original design criteria, and functions effectively, have not changed at all.

The following tips are based on more than 30 years experience in the field of mold and die manufacturing. Many of these tips talk about communication. As any moldmaker will tell you, all too often there is incomplete information available at the onset of a program. This is like having only half the map; the chances of getting to the final destination on time are very slim.

1. Design with specified cost and time criteria.

The old rule of “good, fast and cheap” still applies. There always seems to be time for rework or adjustment after meeting that ultra short deadline, but it is better to allow reasonable time in the design stage for review and correction.

2. Make sure your design specifications can be produced using existing technology.

Programs like Solidworks and the availability of rapid prototyping can provide early insight into potential problems that might occur before metal gets cut. Provide the engineering group with full specifications, do not leave anything out. If something is left out here it will cost time and money to fix later in the process.

3. Share your company’s design philosophy with your mold-maker and allow the moldmaker’s design team the opportunity to contribute.

Many companies design new molds and dies based on their current inventory and their operating environment. It may be possible to speed up production with some very simple modifications to a design. Invite your moldmaker to make suggestions that can enhance moldability.

4. Set clear guidelines on required minimum tool life and capacity before manufacturing starts.

A clear definition of the expected performance and service requirements on a mold or die can help to save money upfront. If your product is likely to be modified or replaced in a relatively short period of time the moldmaker’s engineering group can design accordingly.

5. Have the moldmaker establish a production timetable that allows reasonable time for bench testing prior to delivery.

All too often a mold is delivered to meet a production deadline without being fine-tuned in a lab situation. Your moldmaker should have the opportunity to run sample parts at his facility. If there is a problem he can correct it before delivery.

6. Set up a weekly progress report call/e-mail with your sales representative during the manufacturing process.

Sales reps are busy people. It helps to establish a regular contact point to ensure the project is on schedule and on budget. It doesn’t matter what size the project is, it’s worth a weekly call to eliminate assumptions.

7. Ask the moldmaker for clear guidelines on how to maintain the mold once it is installed.

Molds may be operated in less than ideal conditions. Poor storage of materials, mold cleaning on an irregular basis, bad press maintenance and ill-trained operators can all contribute to poor mold performance. Your moldmaker should include a set of instructions for care and maintenance based on the specifications for usage.

8. Have a field sales representative from the mold shop present during initial start-up and try-out.

A buy-off is very important. Many molds and dies have sustained serious damage and require immediate repairs due to poor installation. Having a technical representative on site the first time the mold or die is installed is good insurance.

9. Remember that the design and manufacture of a mold or die is a collaborative effort.

Mold and die making is a combination of science and art. Building a tool that will work 24/7 if required, demands careful planning and checking at every phase of production. Allow the time and expense for your staff to visit the mold shop facility during production.

10. Don’t cut corners!

Giving the job to the lowest bidder might not make sense. There is a reasonable price to pay for a mold or die. If your budget is too low the chances are that you will be rebuilding or repairing the tool within a fairly short period. Trying to squeeze the last dollar out of a moldmaker’s estimate can end up doubling the cost of the project. After all, price is what you pay for a mold. Cost is what you continue to pay for a mold that was not built correctly in the first place.

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