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Zhejiang Huangyan Target Mould Co.,Ltd.

Plastic injection mould manufacture is a highly competitive operation. Today’s products have shorter lifecycles. Reducing the mould design and manufacturing lead-time while maintaining high mould quality is thus a challenge to the plastic injection mould making industry in order to remain competitive.

The above challenge is compounded by the fact that the mould project often involves organisations split across different geographical locations. This is because many mould making companies have shifted their operations to countries with lower labour cost, and hence the mould designers, machinists and other related personnel in these countries may be much less experienced. Many companies also consider the mould making process a company secret. And, many a time when problems arise, the management is often quick to blame the lack of available resources (such as software, hardware and machines, etc.) although the actual cause may lie in managing the enormous mould design data and resources available to-date. 

In this research, led by Associate Professor Lee Kim Seng of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, a new framework called Information Management Integration in Plastic Injection Mould-Making Industries (IMIPIMI) has been developed for efficient management and utilisation of existing data and resources in plastic mould making. 

Figure 1: Completed “Technical Discussion Checklist”.

Figure 2: Completed initial mould design.

The present framework divides the mould project into application modules to cater for the various major stages of the mould design and manufacture. Templates are provided at every major stage to standardise the data collection and process flows. By means of an overall standard template, called the “Technical Discussion Checklist” (Figure 1), useful information of the mould project is first extracted from the product CAD design, and through discussions between the customers and mould makers. This template also creates the initial 3D mould design based on the captured information. Other sub-design templates, including cavity gating and runner layout, etc., are subsequently added to complete the initial design (Figure 2). While the mould design is in progress, new information can be tapped and redistributed into various databases of the mould project for use by various relevant departments such as CAM, QA and customers; At the end of the initial design stage, the designer can call for the visual verification of the designed mould to check its compatibility with the moulding machine (Figure 3). 

Figure 3: Visual verification of designed mould.

Upon successful completion of the initial mould design, one migrates to the sub-design template for detailed mould design in which cooling and ejector systems are incorporated. In addition, a manufacturing template is available which takes care of the process planning for the actual fabrication of the final plastic injection mould. 

In the new framework, the design rules and heuristics are closely followed in the overall standard template and sub-design templates, thus reducing errors in the mould design. Utilising the templates also ensures that the designed mould follows a standard mould assembly structure based on the initial product CAD file, as well as the basic information and requirements from customers. The new framework not only shortens the mould design and manufacturing lead-time, but also produces high quality moulds for the plastic injection industry. 

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