The Life Cycle of a Plastic Injection Mold

If you’re a molder, your injection molds are one of the most important pieces of equipment you use. Because your molds are so vital to you, it goes without saying that you want them to last as long as possible. Molds are expensive to replace, so knowing more about the life expectancy of your molds can help you plan ahead financially for when a mold will need replacement. Getting a new mold made to replace one that’s at the end of its life, but still in use, can help you keep production going. That way production can keep going, and a mold that breaks down doesn’t have to slow you down.

Plastic Injection Mold Lifetime

Truth be told, determining the lifetime of a plastic injection mold is easier said than done, as many factors contribute to the life expectancy of a plastic injection mold. Plastic injection molds operate under harsh conditions, and while a good mold should be built to last under the conditions it will be operating in, even the best mold will take some wear and tear.

Generally though, the lifetime of your mold will depend on a number of factors. Molds that have a faster turnaround can finish more cycles in a day than molds with slower cycle times. Because the life expectancy of plastic injection molds is measured in cycles – as opposed to measuring mold life expectancy by considering the time a mold has been operating – molds that can complete more cycles in a shorter amount of time will generally have a somewhat shorter life expectancy.

While a shorter life expectancy might seem like a bad thing, the difference between a mold with a fast turnaround and one that’s slow isn’t necessarily that big. If both molds can complete approximately 250,000 cycles before breaking down, both are equally good. What mold owners should understand is that the lifetime of a mold is measured in cycles rather than the time a mold was operational. This makes more sense, because knowing how many parts a mold can produce in its lifetime helps molders determine whether or not a mold will be able to cover its own costs.

How Many Cycles Can a Mold Complete?

It’s impossible to know exactly how many cycles a mold will be able to complete in its lifetime. As with anything in life, there’s no way to look into the future to foresee any and all things that could possibly go wrong. Just as no one knows when a car will break down, no one can tell you what the exact life expectancy of your plastic injection molds will be.

But for the purpose of keeping better track of your molds, you’ll need an estimate. The estimation of a mold’s lifetime will help you determine whether or not a mold lived up to its estimated performance. If the estimated life expectancy of a mold was 250,000 cycles and the mold only completed 180,000 before breaking down, your mold clearly didn’t come close to its estimated 250,000 cycles. The reason for this under performance could vary. It might be that the conditions the mold was operated in led to faster wear and tear, but the problem might also be the mold itself.

To ensure that your molds complete roughly the same amount of cycles you’d expect them to, the most important thing you have to do has nothing to do with how you take care of the mold. More importantly, you should see to it that you buy your molds from an injection mold maker that can deliver quality molds. Your plastic injection mold maker isn’t just a company you buy molds from. As a molder, your mold supplier should be your trusted business partner. A good mold making company will be able to tell you exactly how to take care of your molds to keep them running for longer. Your mold making company should also be able to tell you roughly how many cycles you can expect from a mold.

The estimated amount of cycles a mold can complete will vary depending on the molds you use, as well as the quality of those molds. Generally, a plastic injection mold could complete anywhere between a 100,00 to 1 million (or sometimes somewhat more than a million) cycles in its lifetime, so it’s important to learn about the life expectancy of a mold before buying it.

Maintaining Your Molds

If you want to get the most out of every mold, you should stick to a mold maintenance plan. Without proper maintenance, even the best mold won’t complete nearly as many cycles as you’d expect it to. The company you bought your molds from should be able to help you set up a mold maintenance schedule. This helps prevent downtime, where a mold breaks down unexpectedly and all the production you were expecting from it comes to a halt.

Mold maintenance schedules will usually be determined based on the amount of cycles a mold can safely run before needing to be sent off for cleaning and other maintenance. As a molder, you might sometimes end up overworking a mold to complete orders in time, unfortunately that’s almost sure to happen at some time or another.

To avoid damaging an overworked mold you should, however, get a good estimate from your mold supplier about how much will be too much. Overworking a mold a bit before finally sending it off for maintenance might not do much harm, but overworking it too much will almost surely lead to a breakdown. Most mold suppliers will tell you not to overwork your molds at all, as they can’t really accept responsibility for damage to molds that were overdue for maintenance, but asking them how many cycles similar molds typically run before breaking down could help you get a better idea of the risks levels of overworking your molds.

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