The secret to a quality plastic injection molded part is a flawless mold – one that produces consistent pieces time and time again. So, what's the key to a flawless mold? In addition to a strong initial design, mold flow analysis is your secret weapon. It's an indispensable component of any plastic injection molding design project. MFA software comes at a cost, but its impact on mold quality, product performance and appearance, and production ROI is undeniable. Read on to learn how this one tool can literally save your mold design.
Photo Source: Jason Bailey of Moldflow Plastics Advisers
What is Mold Flow Analysis?
Mold flow analysis (MFA) software simulates plastic flow, allowing you to enhance mold design and create the highest quality products possible. This analysis provides a virtual sneak peek into how the chosen material will fill a mold's cavities and highlights potential areas of concern. Digitally simulating this process before cutting the tool allows changes to be made early on, ultimately saving money and optimizing results.
When Should Mold Flow Analysis be Used?
Is Analysis Necessary for Every Application?
The short answer: not necessarily. Just because MFA is an available resource doesn't mean it should be utilized for every project. The following factors will help determine whether MFA should be used for a specific application:
Complex geometries are most likely to benefit from analysis since they are more intricate, and flow is less predictable than with a simpler geometric design.
Similar to complex geometry, tight tolerances benefit from pre-tooling analysis to ensure a product will meet spec with the selected materials and tooling design.
This is where cost justification enters the picture. The size and scope of the project should be great enough to warrant the cost and manpower to run proper analyses.
Benefits of Mold Flow Analysis
MFA offers several benefits, including:
- Resolve wall thickness issues
- Optimize gate location
- Fill mold cavities consistently and uniformly
- Uncover weaknesses in design geometry
- Avoid costly tooling errors and rework
- Improve manufacturability
- Reduce time to market
- Improve efficiency and quality
- Discover potential visual defects, including air traps, sink marks and weld lines
- Evaluate different material options pre-production to choose the best material
- Show customer and supplier data to support your design or need for changes
MFA Software Options
Our recommendation is to work with a seasoned contract manufacturer who guides you through the Design for Manufacturing (DFM) process from start to finish. Find a manufacturing partner who has the know-how and experience to handle the flow analysis for you. Should you choose to proceed on your own, here are some existing software options:
A leader in this category, Autodesk developed its Moldflow software back in 1987. The Autodesk website is bursting with useful simulation tutorial videos. Software updates are released consistently, and new versions come out each year.
Per their website: Moldex3D is the world leading CAE product for the plastic injection molding industry. With the best-in-class analysis technology, Moldex3D can help you carry out in-depth simulation of the widest range of injection molding processes and to optimize product designs and manufacturability. In addition, its high compatibility and adaptability have provided users with instant connection to mainstream CAD systems, generating a flexible simulation-driven design platform.
Per their website: VISI Flow is a unique prediction tool, ideal for pre and post production analysis and concurrent engineering of injection molded plastic components. VISI is owned by Vero, a UK-based company with offices across the globe.
While the cost of MFA software can be significant, its undeniable ROI is well worth it. Stop making costly mold design mistakes by investing in MFA software! If you're working with a contract manufacturer, make sure they have sophisticated tools in place to properly analyze mold design and material flow so you end up with the best, highest quality product possible.
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