A detailed comparison of compression molding vs injection molding as two of the best plastics production process can reveal what makes each tick. It can also simplify the reasons why manufacturers and designers choose one over the other in specific projects.
Frankly, both compression molding and injection molding systems remain two of the most popularly deployed techniques in the plastic manufacturing industry.
Nonetheless, the scope of deployment is often reliant on the application, volume, and processes involved in utilizing either method. Compression molding on the one hand can be done manually and is suited for small to medium-volume plastic production. On the flip side of things is injection molding which usually requires less human involvement and is perfect for high-volume plastic production.
Let’s delve deeper into both methods by analyzing the highs and lows including the applications and working principles of both methods. We’re ready when you are.
1. Understanding Compression Molding
1.1 Process Overview
To begin with, compression molding applies heat and pressure in its formation. When implementing the compression molding method, the process is set off by initiating the sequence of material prepping, loading, and heating.
Once prepped, it is then sent to the pre-heated mold chamber. The high pressure and heat-induced allow the material to melt and flow in the mold chambers. Thus, helping it form and take shape. At this point, cooling and solidifying commence before ejecting the final product for further finishing processes are deployed, completing the compression molding process.
Materials such as thermosetting plastics, composite materials, and rubber are materials suitable for this molding method. Some of the advantages and limitations are also explained in this post.
1.2 Advantages and Limitations of Compression Molding
Considering the cost of tooling and setting up of the compression molding process, this molding method offers a great deal of cost reduction. The major tool requirement for its setup is the mold cavity, and that’s the part that forms the molded component.
Furthermore, molded parts made by compression molding are quite adaptable to various industry needs. In essence, where the requirements of the plastic entail heat resistance, strength, and durability, compression molding’s versatility makes it an excellent option.
Additionally, the low cost of getting a compression mold indicates a low entry barrier for manufacturers, entrepreneurs, and investors. It is typically a remarkable method for small-medium volume production of plastic parts.
However, a major drawback you are likely to experience with compression molding includes material wastage. The mold cavity must be excessively filled as a requirement during the molding process. First to eliminate air in the cavity, and second to ensure the material fills up to a certain level to cure the molded part in the cavity.
Its inability to mold complex geometries contributes to its limitations. This is due to the way the material flows in the molding chambers.
In addition, compression molding makes the production line slower as it requires elongated cooling and heating periods. Despite these drawbacks automotive, aerospace, and electrical industries still utilize it for manufacturing the various parts of their products. But before we go into its applications, let’s check out its counterpart the injection molding process.
2. Exploring Injection Molding
2.1 Process Overview
Unlike compression molding, injection molding is more efficient, easy to deploy, and seamless to manage. It was first introduced in the 1800s and it commences by melting plastic granules. Afterward, the molten material is injected into the mold which already has the final product’s shape through high pressure. Then it is time to cool off and allow for solidification before ejecting the part from the mold. Injection molding is accurately monitored at various stages to ensure precise control of the melting, cooling, and solidification of molded parts. What’s more, injection molding can replicate the design at maximum speed and accuracy. Again, it is suited for complex geometries and utilizes materials such as thermoplastic materials for production.
2.2 Advantages and Limitations of Injection Molding
As briefly mentioned previously, injection molding offers significant benefits such as the capacity to replicate part production at rapid speed. Injection molding due to its automatic nature requires little human effort. And can replicate the process time after time without error. On top of that, it can form complex parts with intricate geometries and dimensions. This offers manufacturers creativity with designs and the creation of innovative complex parts.
Another benefit of injection molding is due to the high-volume production capacity; its products tend to be less expensive. A rare bonus for users of such molded parts.
However, a few limitations threaten the merits of this plastic manufacturing method.
One of these limitations includes the cost a manufacturer will incur just setting up the machinery for mold production. And this in turn means that tooling might cost close to an arm or a leg. Over and above that, the process requires high pressure which means the mold must be capable of enduring this pressure. Injection molding designs are typically complex and tasking.
Material restriction is another critical disadvantage as some materials may not possess the required properties to withstand the pressure. In essence, injection molding often requires high-quality mold manufacturing with highly durable materials to withstand the excess pressure.
With all these limitations, off takers of parts made by injection molding including the medical industry, consumer goods, and packaging industry still require its precision and neatness as a critical requirement.
3. Comparing Compression Molding and Injection Molding
3.1 Process Differences and Similarities
It’s no longer a mystery how both methods work, but it is important to point out certain differences and similarities. One such is the process itself.
Compression molding requires heat and pressure to melt the plastic granule into the mold to form its desired shape. Even so, does injection molding. It melts the material before pushing it through to the mold via high pressure, cools, and solidifies it.
A major difference between these two is that compression molding is best utilized for small production runs as it can only handle small-volume productions. Meanwhile, injection molding can handle high-volume production at high speeds of production. This difference offers both methods varying advantages. For compression molding, its simplicity makes it cost-effective in contrast to injection molding, which makes the production process a bit slower.
However, one common similarity both compression molding and injection molding share is the versatility of materials. They both align with the properties of thermosetting materials in manufacturing mold patterns. Thereby creating parts with outstanding qualities, optimal functionality, and clean surface finish.
3.2 Cost Considerations
When it comes to the cost of both methods, you should consider a few factors. Tooling cost puts the compression molding method at an advantage, especially for small-quantity production. The compression molding method is cost-effective for small-volume production. However, when production volume increases, the slower cycle presented by compression molding could however increase the overall cost of production.
Injection molding, on the other hand, has the higher tooling cost of the two methods but also has a faster completion rate of production. So, it makes up for that excessive cost in the long run. While saving the overall cost of production through large volume production runs, quicker completion rate, and less human error.
3.3 Design Flexibility
Looking at both methods with the knowledge you now have of both methods you’ll agree that Injection molding is the most appropriate method for design flexibility. It allows part designers including those in the high-quality mold manufacturing industry to play with complex ideas. And irrespective of how complex it is, it boasts confidently of fashioning an excellent molded part. Compression molding works better for simpler shapes without undercuts, part complexity, and intricate angles.
3.4 Production Efficiency and Cycle Time
Production efficiency and cycle time in Injection molding possess all the needed tools to thrive in stealth and speed. And it does thrive with a shorter cycle time. The pressure of injecting molten plastic into the mold directly gives it the edge over compression molding. The repeatability and its capacity to replicate the production process are key features of injection molding.
What compression molding could not offer in efficiency is often given back in budget-friendliness. It does take longer to complete a cycle in compression molding which makes it time-wasting. Owing to this, compression molding is unable to scale up and ends up producing fewer volumes.
The injection molding is not the same way. Injection molding is accurately able to scale up producing larger volumes of molded plastic parts. Due to its faster cycle times, efficiency is bolstered. Beyond that, manufacturers can evaluate the volumes to be manufactured to effectively select the appropriate method.
3.5 Part Quality and Surface Finish
Part quality and surface finish are as important as the final component’s strength and durability. This makes parts eye-catching and proves to customers the level of professionalism deployed in manufacturing such parts.
The injection method’s accuracy in dimensional attributes is often compared to sophisticated methods like high-quality CNC machining. However, its own precision stems from the intensity of pressure used to inject the molten plastics into the mold. It allows no room for shrinkage or deformity. With this technique, the parts manufactured are high-quality and present a clean and smooth surface finish. Employing the compression molding method may not provide the same surface finish as the injection method.
Owing to the fact that the pressure used in the process can lead to irregular shapes and contours forming on the part. Although an excellent surface finish is possible to achieve also with the compression molding technique, the molded part may have to undergo some fine-tuning process to polish it to an excellent surface finish with the perfect surface treatments while also achieving a quality part without blemish.
Nevertheless, noting these factors alongside the desired design can assist manufacturers in spotting and choosing the best method suited to their project needs.
4. Industries and Applications
4.1 Industries Utilizing Compression Molding
Whatever the limitations of the compression molding technique portray, industry professionals are comfortable with employing them as it is likely to be the exact method necessary for their project needs. A few such industries that utilize compression molding include the automotive industry.
These industry experts work with composite materials. This necessitates the use of compression molding methods to fabricate simple yet long-lasting interior parts, bumpers, and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning) parts. It also saves the cost of production.
The aerospace industry isn’t left out as one of the top beneficiaries of compression molded parts. The interiors of the aircraft and other structural parts that align with the regulations and quality standards of the aerospace industry are made by employing the compression molding method. The need for delicate, strong, and durable aircraft parts is essential while simultaneously saving costs.
The electrical industries likewise utilize the compression molding method. It provides remarkable electric insulators to manufacture plastic parts like electric switch gear, connectors, and circuit breakers. Other vast applications of the compression molding technique are in the manufacturing of components found in sporting equipment. For instance, skateboards are made with compression molding.
4.2 Industries Preferring Injection Molding
The injection molding method is essential to industries that cannot get the required designs from compression molding or using alternative methods like 3D printing technology. Industries that deal with consumer goods, household equipment, and packaging depend on the injection method for their project needs. Intricate designs and complex dimensions are typically associated with such industries. The medical field is another industry that relies on components from injection molds.
Some of the manufacturers of consumer goods and household items deploy injection molding techniques to fabricate toys and a few electrical casings. Furthermore, kitchen wares are made with injection molding. Instruments for everyday use pass through injection molding.
The medical industry relies majorly on injection molded parts for syringes and surgical instruments with standards that are strict on hygiene and well-being. In addition, injection molding is trusted to create parts for surgical implants and IVs.
Packaging instruments are usually manufactured in massive quantities. It is for this reason the packaging industry trusts manufacturers of plastic food and drink containers, including bottle caps to deliver quality plastic component production.
The use of injection molding cuts across numerous industries. Some automotive parts are still manufactured using the injection molding technique. All that is a result of the efficiency, speed, and quality it offers in plastic part production.
Before we pull the curtains on this topic, a quick recap is essential. As explained, compression molding employs heat and pressure to melt the plastic pellets, then allows them to flow into the mold chamber for forming, cooling, and solidification. Meanwhile, the injection molding process entails the melting and high-pressure injection of molten plastic into the mold. Most importantly, for manufacturers thinking about which of the methods to adopt, it’ll be wise to choose based on the volume of production, desired design, and industry requirements as it pertains to specific projects. Cost of tooling, implementation, and part complexity are the other factors to be considered before the selection of a method is done. We hope to have been able to guide you in making an informed decision on whether compression molding or injection molding suits your project needs.