Financial Justification of Conformal Cooling
There has been a lot of talk in the plastics industry about conformal cooling. It is an industry game changer. Simply put, conformal cooling makes use of cooling lines in an injection mold that closely follow the geometry of the part to be produced. There are a variety of methods for manufacturing a conformal-cooled mold, including laser sintering, vacuum brazing, diffusion bonding and others.
If conformal cooling is implemented with little or no engineering analysis, you can expect to get a 10-percent reduction in injection mold cycle time. However, by performing more engineering analysis, such as flow analysis, computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and finite element analysis (FEA), a better-quality mold and more cycle reduction can be achieved.
A typical cycle time reduction range for a properly engineered conformal-cooled mold is 20 to 40 percent. If little or no engineering analysis is done, you risk premature mold failure or lack of performance because of poor design elements or incorrect assumptions that were not identified and corrected before mold manufacture. Below is an example of a large, complex, vacuum-brazed mold built by Contura MTC GmbH. Depending on the application, Contura will guarantee mold life for 1 million cycles.
The income statement chart shown below, which is based on a ratio analysis (Column 1) published by Plante Moran in its 2013 North American Plastics Industry Survey Report, can be used to illustrate the effects of conformal cooling. I have amended the Plante Moran chart with additional columns and data. For example, since most molds are conventional molds (without the use of conformal cooling), Column 2 uses the same ratios as seen in Column 1. Columns 3, 4 and 5 show the estimated effect on profitability with a 20-, 30- and 40-percent cycle reduction from the use of conformal cooling.