Debunking Molding Myths: 7 Facts About Tooling at Protolabs

Posted On May 25, 2017 By Protolabs
milling an aluminum tool for injection molding
Our prototyping and on-demand manufacturing options give you the ability to choose tooling tailored to your molding needs.

Since injection molding works a little bit differently—mainly faster—at Protolabs, there are several questions we receive from customers about our unconventional approach to molding. Specifically, what are our capabilities when it comes production?

In this post we address the most common misconceptions regarding our injection molding service and shed some light on our latest capabilities that will meet your low-volume production requirements.

MYTH: Your tooling is too simple.

FACT: We can handle many complex molded features with advanced techniques like side-action cams, sliding shut offs, pick-out inserts, as well as electrical discharge machining (EDM). Additionally, our applications engineers can work with you to simplify your geometry if cost is a concern, but if complex features are required for your part to function as intended, our complex molding techniques can be used to accommodate your part’s geometry. Check out this white paper to learn more about advanced molding techniques.

Also note that our overmolding and insert molding processes can combine two materials into a single part or even incorporate preformed metal components.

MYTH: I can’t own my mold.

FACT: If mold ownership is a primary concern, our on-demand manufacturing option will give you the ability to own the mold and ownership of prototyping tooling is available upon request.

MYTH: Aluminum tooling won’t yield many shots.

FACT: For prototyping tooling, we will guarantee a mold’s life for at least 2,000 parts. If your project is expected to exceed 2,000 parts, we recommend on-demand manufacturing tooling, for which we will guarantee an unlimited number of shots over the course of your project. Once your tool wears out we'll simply cut a new one at no additional cost to you.

Also note that we’ll store your mold indefinitely while in use as well as for three years without any activity at no additional cost. It’s like a virtual inventory.

CAD-to-Scan comparison
The digital inspection report's color map makes it easy to verify dimensional compliance.

MYTH: I can't use my own thermoplastic resins and silicone rubber materials.

FACT: In addition to hundreds of stocked thermoplastics and silicone rubber materials, we accept customer-supplied resins. Visit this page to get more information on supplying your own resin and we’ll work with you to meet your material needs.

MYTH: You can only produce 10,000 parts.

FACT: By guaranteeing the life of the mold and performing maintenance to maximize its performance, on-demand manufacturing tools can be suitable for production runs much larger than 10,000 parts. In fact, we have produced molds that have yielded hundreds of thousands of parts without substantial wear.

MYTH: Your piece-part price is too high.

FACT: If piece-part price is a concern, our on-demand manufacturing tooling will be a more cost-effective solution. The tooling cost can be amortized over the life of the project and provide substantial cost savings for low-volume production runs. And, depending on your part design, on-demand manufacturing is also eligible for multi-cavity tooling, which can further reduce your production costs.

MYTH: You offer no inspection reports.

FACT: We’ve recently introduced several inspection reporting options that can meet your FAI and quality requirements:

  • Quality Inspection: Assess up to 4 plane-to-plane OD dimensions. All injection molding and CNC machining orders are eligible and there is no additional charge or lead time.
  • Digital Inspection: Measure up to 12 critical dimensions which can include ID/OD, plane-to-plane, and hole location. You’ll also receive a color map of your part for a direct CAD-to-scan comparison to easily verify dimensional compliance. All on-demand manufacturing orders are eligible and this process typically adds three days to our standard lead time.
  • Conventional Inspection: Analyze an unlimited number of dimensions to conform with your quality requirements. Additional charges apply and lead time can be impacted by up to five days.

This is just a broad overview of our various inspection reports. More details can be found here.