Automotive Plastic Injection Molding
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Automotive Plastic Injection Molding

​Injection molding is a process utilized for the mass production of plastic components such as car parts. It is widely used in the automotive industry due to its ability to provide high-quality plastic parts. Due to the importance of quality, consistency, and safety, the use of injection molding is commonly used in the automobile industry.
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Automotive Plastic Injection Molding


Injection molding is a process utilized for the mass production of plastic components such as car parts. It is widely used in the automotive industry due to its ability to provide high-quality plastic parts. Due to the importance of quality, consistency, and safety, the use of injection molding is commonly used in the automobile industry.



Automotive Plastic Injection Molding Applications

This article will discuss various aspects of injection molding, such as its history, advantages, and various alternatives.



History of Automotive Plastic Injection Molding

During the early years of the car industry, most of the cars were made from metal, which meant they were very heavy and cumbersome. After the plastic market started to expand during the 1940s, the industry started experimenting with plastic parts. In the 1970s, car manufacturers started to introduce plastic decorative elements such as mirrors and lights. Later on, they started to introduce functional parts such as bumpers and fenders. In the early 2000s, car manufacturers started introducing plastic structural components that are more lightweight. These components helped improve fuel efficiency and lower production costs. Today, injection molding is now a dominant production method for manufacturing plastic car parts in the automotive industry.



Advantages of Injection Molding for Automotive Applications

Injected plastic materials are injected into a mold cavity, which then hardens and releases the finished product. Although it's a challenging process to design and produce, injection molding is a reliable method of making car parts that are strong and durable. Though it's a challenging process to design and produce, injection molding is a reliable method of making solid plastic car parts that are durable and strong.



Reasons Why Plastic Injection Molding is Beneficial for Automotive


1. Repeatability

The repeatability of plastic parts is very important in the production of car parts. Since metal molds are commonly used for injection molding, the final product is almost identical. Some factors come into play with injection molding, but injection molding is a highly repeatable process if the mold has a good design and finishing.



2. Scale and Cost

The cost of injection molding can be high due to the complexity of the process and the number of parts that are needed. However, it is still a highly scalable process that can accommodate varying production needs. Although it's beneficial for mass production, injection molding's high costs can still limit the efficiency of the process.



3. Material Availability

Aside from plastic parts, injection molding is also used for creating flexible and rigid plastic components. This process can work seamlessly with various polymers such as polypropylene, ABS, and etc.



4. High Precision and Surface Finish

High-quality car parts can be produced through injection molding if they have relatively simple shapes and are equipped with various surface textures. However, different materials can affect the final surface finish.



5. Color Options

Injected car parts can be easily modified to fit the vehicle's color scheme. With injection molding, you don't need to paint or tint the finished product after the process is complete.



6. Fast Prototypes with Rapid Tooling

Although injection molding is commonly used for mass production of car parts, it can also be used as a prototype tool. By creating low-cost aluminum molds using rapid tooling, car mold manufacturers can produce prototype parts much faster.


Production Applications for Automotive Injection Molding

In the automotive industry, injection molding is the main method used to form car parts. Although it's difficult to list all the plastic components in a car that were produced using injection molding, we will discuss some of them.



1. Components under-the-hood

Over the years, many car component manufacturers have started using plastic instead of metal for their under-the-hood components. Since metal parts are more costly and time-consuming, many car manufacturers have started using injection molding for their cylinder head covers and oil pans.



2. Exterior Components

Aside from the under-the-hood components, injection molding is also used for creating various exterior car parts such as bumper guards, door panels, and etc. In addition, the molded components are often made from a variety of durable and flexible materials to protect the vehicle from road debris.



3. Interior Components

Injecting plastic into the interior components is also a process that involves the production of various car parts such as instrument panels, door handles, and air vents.



Alternatives to Injection Molding for Low-cost Automotive Prototypes

In many cases, molded plastic components are replacing the metals used to make them. Injecting plastic into car parts has become the preferred method of production for many industries. Sometimes, plastic parts can be replaced with 3D-printed car parts. Since there's less need for a smooth and durable surface finish, these components can be used as prototype parts instead of molded ones. Aside from being used for making car parts, many plastics can also be used as additive materials for printing high-strength components.



Automotive 3D-printed plastic prototypes

Non-mechanical parts can also be produced through 3D printing. Due to the low cost of production, 3D printing is often preferred over injection molding. Some car manufacturers may also use 3D printing to make parts that are not injection molded. These include components for fluid handling systems and windbreaks. Currently, 3D printing is being used for the production of body panels and doors. In the future, manufacturers may also use additive manufacturing to produce other types of car parts.



Injection Molding Materials for Automotive Parts

Since plastic components are required to meet various safety standards in order to be considered roadworthy, it is important that the manufacturers use the right material for their injection molded car parts. The following is a non-exhaustive list of common automotive IM plastics, along with the parts they serve as raw materials for:



1. Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS)

ABS is a commonly used plastic for injection molding. In cars, it can be used to make various car parts such as dashboards and covers.



2. Polyamide (PA)/ Nylon

Although not as resilient to liquids as ABS, nylons can be molded into various components such as bushes and components.



3. Poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA)

Due to its transparency, acrylic is an excellent choice for creating car parts that are shatterproof and durable.



4. Polypropylene (PP)

For high-intensity applications, PP is often used. This material is more durable and can withstand UV light and water.



5. Polyurethane (PU)

Although PU is commonly used in the form of foam seats, it can also be used for other applications such as insulation panels and suspension components.



6. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)

Due to its chemical resistance, PVC is used in the production of various molded parts such as connectors and interior panels.



7. Reinforced composites

At TEAM MFG, we offer injection molding services that are ideal for mass-producing plastic car parts. Aside from injection molding, we also offer mold making and over-molding services. In the latter, our experts can also produce high-quality prototypes. Aside from conventional materials, such as ABS, we also work with a variety of plastic injection materials such as flexible and fast-curing thermoplastics. Our team of experienced and skilled injection molders can help clients create high-quality automobile parts that meet their individual requirements.



FAQ

What is the best material for injection molding automotive parts?

Different parts require different materials, so it's important that the manufacturer uses the appropriate material for their needs.



Should I use injection molding for automotive prototypes?

Depending on the complexity of the project and the number of parts needed, it may be better to use a specialist prototyping method instead of injection molding.



What about metal parts?

Although injection molding is commonly used for the production of car parts, it is not compatible with metals. Usually, the process of metal casting is used to produce components such as transmission housings and cylinders.



For more information, contact us today!


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