Recently we collected a customer’s injection mold tooling that they had made in China quickly and cheaply and were ready to start injection molding their plastic parts. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to start as the tooling was in a poor state and our team had to refurbish it first (which was an unfortunate extra cost for them). This is the problem with injection mold tooling suppliers who promise to do the job cheaper and faster than their competitors…the tooling won’t last before needing rework and refurbishment.

Our customer’s poor results from cheap injection mold tooling suppliers

If you’re dealing with injection mold tooling suppliers who promise you both a price lower than the market rate and to deliver it surprisingly quickly, that’s a major red flag and it’s probably too good to be true.

Here are some images of the tooling our customer had made cheaply. It has some broken elements and didn’t fit properly:

broken injection mold tooling

After refurbishment, we added new springs and lifters to help ejection and ensured that it was within tight tolerances and fitted as expected:

refurbished tooling

But this expensive rework could have been avoided! It’s also another reason why transferring tooling between suppliers in China is seldom easy.


Common problems with quick and cheap tooling

We find that you are likely to suffer from the following problems…

Shorter tooling lifespan

In life, you usually get what you pay for and it’s no different when dealing with injection mold tooling suppliers. How can they offer such a low price? It is not generosity that drives them, so there must be some other reason.

  • Low-grade steel: Oftentimes, a lower grade of steel is used which will be less durable than higher grades, meaning that it wears after fewer shots resulting in poor quality and defects. In some cases, an unscrupulous supplier might even tell you that a better grade was used, charging accordingly for it, while using the cheaper one.
  • Inability to produce with precision: There is also a decent chance that the tooling workshop is not very professional and is chaotic and dirty, with old and poorly-maintained machines, and less-qualified staff. When the workshop simply can’t produce the tooling with very tight tolerances, it has a detrimental effect on how precisely the tooling is fabricated and means that the tooling doesn’t attach as closely as it should resulting in defects and wear-and-tear over time.
  • Poor finishing: If a workshop is poor, they may rush or even skip finishing processes that can result in high quality, such as the surface finish to get the finishes you expect in your parts that can make ejection harder and cause wear on the tooling.
  • Bad design: A lower standard workshop probably also doesn’t have very good design resources. An unskilled or rushing designer may miss adding important features that enable tooling to last longer and handle more usage over time, such as ejectors, lifters, sliders, vents, etc.

You receive tooling that hasn’t been validated properly

There are nightmare scenarios where customers abroad order tooling to be made in China at a low cost thinking they’re getting a great deal. However, they then find out when it arrives with them after crossing the ocean that it has been poorly validated and has to be sent back to China for rework… that could cost tens of thousands of dollars more and take months before it can finally be used.

Again, a ‘cheap’ tooling workshop may have little ability or appetite to test and validate the tooling properly before shipping it, especially if you’ve driven a hard bargain.

You end up with numerous problems with your plastic parts

Some defects are warning signs that all is not well with the mold tooling:

  • Flashing: This is where a thin layer of plastic has escaped from the mold where it presses together or perhaps around the ejection points. It may be able to be trimmed away leaving a usable part, but it does demonstrate that the tooling is out of tolerance as there are gaps.
  • Textures wear away: The injection mold texture added to the mold could be worn away by mishandling or wear and tear on poor materials, resulting in defective parts without the necessary texture.
  • Parts are stuck in the mold: Parts may be stuck and get damaged if the mold or its features such as ejector pins are worn.

You can see more explanations about common injection molding defects to be aware of in this video:

The mold is not maintained properly by the supplier

Good maintenance is also very important, and in many cases, the supplier may have the tooling on-site for some time, especially if they’re also doing the injection molding for you. Can you guarantee that cheap injection mold tooling suppliers take care to store molds in suitable conditions? Ideally, they need to be temperature and humidity controlled in a clean and dry position.

As well as storage, the tooling must be lubricated and covered to help avoid corrosion and elements like sliders sticking, and it is also wise to orient them correctly to avoid parts of the mold being under pressure that could cause them to lose tolerances.


How to avoid this fate

For maximum security, we can fabricate your tooling and injection mold your parts in-house following best practices and reducing risks of defects and tooling issues at our own tooling fabrication and molding workshop.

If you have tooling made elsewhere in China, it is a large investment you want to secure. Risks are especially high when molds are transferred to another company. We can help you manage production of and validate those molds while they are still in the fabrication shop, where adjustments can still be made relatively quickly and inexpensively.

In addition, we can pull out, maintain, and keep your tooling safe between production runs.
You may also like to read…

About Renaud Anjoran

Our founder and CEO, Renaud Anjoran, is a recognised expert in quality, reliability, and supply chain issues. He is also an ASQ-Certified ‘Quality Engineer’, ‘Reliability Engineer’, and ‘Quality Manager’, and a certified ISO 9001, 13485, and 14001 Lead Auditor.

His key experiences are in electronics, textiles, plastic injection, die casting, eyewear, furniture, oil & gas, and paint.

This entry was posted in Injection Molding and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *