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How to Manufacture High Performance Injection Molding Tools

One of our core business areas is “injection molding tools”. This month we show you the faces who have developed and fine-tuned procedures over the years to make sure that you get high performance tools that last and produce excellent parts.

1.0 Introduction: Many companies had mixed experience with buying tools directly from manufacturers in China; some are happy, others tell me “never again” … Before starting to buy tools from China, one of our European customers visited us in 2011 for two reasons: a) Get an understanding of equipment levels, competencies, organization & thinking of Chinese tool makers; b) Evaluate us in terms of people, procedures, knowledge and ability to understand each other, including synergy in thinking, willingness to invest, etc.; After more than 10 years, we do more business together than ever – Why? (1) We are located in China with an operations center in Shanghai and a strong and competent team; (2) We are open, honest and direct with each other; we took ownership and stood by mistakes, fixed them – no argument; (3) We learnt together – we had to bridge language and cultural barriers (in particular thinking and what is expected) – but there was always respect and a motivation to get to the next level; (4) We started with relatively simple tools but progressed to advanced high performance tools for difficult technical parts; (5) We have developed effective procedures, fine-tuned them and consistently use them throughout all phases of a tooling project; (6) We never stop evaluating our suppliers; we have filtered out “non-performers” and continuously look for tool makers that fit our customer’s needs more precisely; I have observed a significant change in the injection molding tool manufacturing industry in China over the past 10-15 years. The reasons for success are: · Manufacturers work with high-end, state of the art machines · Design skills for tools and the pool of talented designers has grown dramatically (as opposed to Europe where the older generation tooling experts have retired and young engineers prefer to do “easier or more fashionable jobs” · Customers are international with automotive and medical industries pushing the bar higher · Speed of project implementation is high (from design to delivery) – often half what it is in the western world · There are hardly any capacity bottlenecks – factories mostly operate 24x7 Let us have a look at the tool manufacturing landscape and critical success factors. 2.0 Tool Manufacturing Landscape in China and Steps for Success: My first projects with Chinese tool manufacturers go back to the 1990’s where we selected ACE Mold (est. 1988, > 3000 people) in Shenzhen. The cooperation worked well and thanks to the knowledge/guidance of our people we got good quality tools at attractive prices. Meanwhile 3 major pockets for tool manufacturing have emerged: · Shenzhen, Dongguan, … (Guangdong Province) · Shanghai and Jiangsu Province (Kunshan, Suzhou, …) · Ningbo (Zhejiang Province) Here are a few examples that give you a visual impression of typical tools that we have built for our customers: Lever Tool: Tool Details:

Tool Weight: 1300kg Tool Size: 546x546x578 Cavities: 4 Material: PA6GF35 Gate Type: Hotrunner (Moldmaster)

Ventilation Grill for Heat Exchanger: Tool Details: Tool Weight: 500kg Tool Size: 396x396x420 Cavity: 1 Material: PA6 Gate Type: Cold Runner

Refrigeration Tray: Tool Details: Tool Weight: 700kg Tool Size: 396x596x520 Cavity : 1 Material: SAN

Header (Water Filtration): Tool Details: Tool Weight: 3200kg Tool Size: 546x996x750 Cavity: 1 Material: ABS Gate Type: Hotrunner (Moldmaster)

What are the learnings? · Make sure that you have clearly defined tool requirements (materials, steel grades, hardness, surface finish, etc.) · Work with approved & reputable suppliers (we have vetted many companies over the years – some no longer make it in our portfolio as our standards were not fulfilled) · Have a local partner in China that has exacting procedures and manages tooling projects throughout all implementation phases:

  • Design for Manufacturing (DFM)

  • Tool Design

  • Schedule Management & Reporting

  • Mold testing (molding parameter optimization, fill studies, etc.)

  • Tool adjustments/modifications

  • Tool inspection and checking

  • Tool Documentation (tool folder)

  • Packaging and Shipping

Let me introduce our tooling team:

(1) Bruce Li (Tool Design & Project Manager) · Joined Vela Eurasia in March 2015 · Comprehensive tool design background (7 years with German company Oechsler) · Successful completion of tool designs for German customers · Experienced project manager (tool testing & parameter optimization)

(2) Lambert Ruan (Tooling Project Manager) Has been with Vela Eurasia for 2 years · Solid tooling project management experience (5 years with USANE) · Started career as tool design engineer · Experienced in tools for medical industries

(3) Dylan Chen (Tooling Project Manager) Has been with Vela Eurasia for 5 years · Stationed in South China were he manages all tooling projects in the region · Prior to joining Vela Eurasia he has been a project leader with TK Mold for 5 years where he served mainly automotive industry customers · Experience with complex 2k molds

3.0 Conclusions: Companies around the globe continue to buy injection molding tools from China. Driven by a huge local demand and manufacturing operations of many global companies in China, new emerging technologies, the sophistication and maturity of tool making in China is high. In order to have consistently good results, it pays to work with a western organization who is experienced and well established in China. Our business model has proven to work and neither a pandemic nor travel restrictions can derail our work. We are not “seagulls” who fly in/out of China a few times a year. We are on the ground, we feel the pulse, we adapt quickly to a changing environment and consistently look for the most appropriate suppliers covering various industry segments. Because we are engineers, we challenge ourselves, we have pride in what we do and strive to find the best solutions. We represent your interests, speak your language whilst knowing how people in the Asian culture think.

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