If you’ve ever built a sandcastle as a kid, then you’ve probably had a glimpse of what injection molding technicians do. However, they use molten or liquid plastic material rather than build with sand. And in place of hand molding for the sand, they employ a specially designed high-quality mold made of very strong heat-resistant materials. Cool, isn’t it?
Well, if you expect this article to give you the full round-up of what injection molding technicians do, then you won’t be disappointed.
This guide will expose you to the technical world of injection molding technicians, from their tools to the methods they employ to achieve high-quality plastic products across several industries.
So, strap up, and let’s go.
1. Understanding the Injection Molding Technician’s Role
1.1 Overview of Injection Molding Process
We may need to slow down on the technical jargon in describing the injection molding process using some relatable analogies to break things down a little.
To have a good picture of how injection molding works, you may need to think of it as making dough. The flour mixed with water turns into something pliable, which is like the melted plastic material required for the plastic molding process.
The cooling of this molten material after it’s been poured into the mold turns it into the final product designed by the engineer. The role of the injection molding technician is, therefore, similar to the baker who plans and coordinates the whole process, including the tools and materials.
The major difference in the case of the injection mold technician is just that the tools are more sophisticated than the baker’s chief, which includes the injection molding machine and the mold itself.
1.2 Injection Molding Technician Responsibilities
As an injection molding technician, specific responsibilities are expected to ensure that all goes well with the whole process. As you may have already guessed, injection molding involves many parameters, and the injection molding technician might have to wear many hats to ensure that he successfully captains the injection molding ship.
The first responsibility involves correctly setting up the tools and machinery and ensuring that all parameters, factors, and indicators conform to specifications. Tools like mold require that they are in perfect shape to receive the molten plastic, hold it while cooling, and allow for easy removal of the finished product. For this, the technician ensures parting lines, draft angles, and ejector pins work perfectly and are in sync. However, it all starts with a high-quality mold manufacturing industry producing these molds.
Again, the mold injection technician is responsible for the quality of the final product. Thus, they must implement control measures before, during, and after the injection molding to achieve a high-quality product. However, an occasional glitch may occur, and this also requires that the injection molding technician is skilled in troubleshooting to identify the glitch’s source and can find effective solutions.
The tasks that go into injection molding require attention to detail, quick situational awareness, and snappy decision-making. All these skills are what the injection molding technician must have to successfully carry out its responsibilities.
2. Machine Setup and Calibration
2.1 Mold Setup and Inspection
Critical to setting up the injection molding assembly is the mold setup. Think of the mold as a simple piece of puzzle where all the tiny bits and pieces must align and fit snugly tight together. The consequences of a misaligned mold part are something that experienced injection molding technicians know too well and work tirelessly to avert. These consequences can include product defects like warping, weld lines, and flow lines that may require significant amounts of post-production work, which may also cost a lot of money and a great deal of effort.
To avoid all these molding anomalies, injection molding technicians conduct pre-production inspections to ascertain their suitability for quality production. Also, they conduct post-production maintenance, including proper cleaning and oiling, to keep the molds in top shape for the next injection molding cycle.
This maintenance routine helps them quickly catch any flaw in the mold, including scratches and dents that may lead to defective plastic products. Knowing how to inspect a mold for inconsistencies might just be your saving grace as an injection mold technician, as it will help you achieve a flawless and high-quality injection mold part.
2.2 Machine Calibration and Process Parameters
It’s important to make sure the setup for equipment and tools like molds are done appropriately and accurately. But what about ensuring that these tools are without errors? Calibration is an activity that ensures that measuring tools and devices do not exceed the specified tolerances for errors. Still using the baking analogy, a baker needs to ensure that baking parameters like temperature, volume, and consistency are precise. The same goes for injection molding. Molding technicians must ascertain that the molding parameters, including consistency, pressure, and temperature of the molten materials, are without errors. Again, the measuring devices must have an updated calibration certificate.
Still, with a perfectly calibrated measuring tool, injection molding technicians are responsible for adjusting the parameters in specific situations to achieve a high-quality product. Such situations may occur when the plastic product design is a unique one, and certain parameters need to be adjusted to fit the production realities. Also, the technician might have noticed an inconsistency in one or another parameter and may finetune the other parameters to achieve the desired product quality. Hence, the job of injection molding technicians has been cut out for them and with the ability to coordinate so many details and moving parts.
3. Troubleshooting and Problem Solving
3.1 Identifying and Resolving Common Issues
Just like crossing an abandoned rope bridge in the jungle for the first time, injection molding technicians often must tap into their situational analysis prowess to successfully navigate certain challenges. And believe it or not, these challenges often come unannounced.
Pesky difficulty can come in the form of warping, sink marks, weld lines, short shots, and surface delamination. All of these flaws require that the technician already know how to identify and find solutions to them. And like tangled tree roots in the jungle going through the injection molding process without knowing how to troubleshoot, these challenges will not end well for the product.
Thankfully, experienced injection mold technicians know not only what to do to avoid these pesky problems but also how to identify from a distance and solve them. For instance, warping will require the skills to straighten the product post-production.
And with excess plastics clinging to the product like party crashers in the case of flash, injection molding technicians know well to trim them off. The point is that technicians are not just skilled at identifying defects, but they are also experienced enough to know how to deal with them. But more importantly, they carry out preventive maintenance work to avoid these highlighted flaws. No wonder they are so indispensable for any injection molding activity.
3.2 Maintenance and Preventive Measures
Maintenance has been identified as a golden opportunity to avert unnecessary rework in precision-based manufacturing processes like high-quality CNC Machining and injection molding. These reworks often have significant cost implications cutting deep into the production budget of an organization.
With the critical role of the injection molding machine in the successful production of plastic products, it is only natural that care, and continuous maintenance is given to this equipment. And yes, the injection molding technician is usually saddled with coordinating this task.
Consistent maintenance both ensures the machine continues to work well and also ensures that the technician can promptly identify parts that need repairs or replacements. These periodic and routine maintenance helps to keep the production going smoothly with little or no incidence of loss of production time. More importantly, it helps the manufacturing company to make huge savings.
But that’s not all.
Injection molding technicians act like umbrella holders during a rainstorm, especially for shielding the machines from impending challenges. Heck, they can even predict this ‘rainstorm’ before it happens. So, it is safe to say that they help increase productivity and, consequently, the bottom line for the manufacturers with reduced production downtime.
4. Quality Control and Inspection
4.1 Inspection Techniques and Tools
Apart from production downtime and cost implications, product quality is another important consideration manufacturers don’t joke about. The reason is that bad quality reflects poorly on the manufacturers and reduces the product’s value. Hence, the need for proper quality monitoring and inspection are basic quality control measures.
Nonetheless, carrying out an effective quality inspection will require having certain inspection tools and equipment. Like a coach who requires his players to be at their best performance, likewise, an injection molding technician requires that all parts and parameters work optimally. To achieve this optimal performance, technicians used specialized tools to inspect every corner of injection molding machines and other equipment, including the mold.
The temperature, pressure gauges, and the injection molding machine’s heating chambers must all work precisely to achieve a quality product. Also, the plastic product is examined for critical design specifications including thickness, dimension, and special features like indentations to ensure their quality.
Additionally, these technicians determine the fate of every product and decide if the products need more work or if they are good to go to the next stage of packaging. Furthermore, they ensure that these products meet quality specifications given by industry standards and regulatory bodies.
4.2 Ensuring Consistency and Compliance
In injection molding production and high-quality mold manufacturing, detail is king. But of more importance is conformance to design specifications and adhering to industry standards and requirements. These are major considerations for manufacturers. But guess who helps manufacturers achieve all of this? Yes, it’s the injection molding technician.
These professionals ensure that all products come out with consistent dimensions, especially for complex geometric parts and intricate features that require special mold designs. Furthermore, injection molding technicians inspect products for aesthetic appeal, ensuring that flaws like flash, flow lines, and sink marks are absent.
But that’s not all.
They are also accountable for identifying and selecting the materials with the specified properties suitable for the plastic product.
But beyond all these, injection molding technicians ensure that all parts conform to the rules stipulated by regulatory bodies in the industry. These bodies can also include internal quality departments responsible for the quality assessment and internal audit of quality management systems.
In the end, injection molding technicians play a crucial role in ensuring both internal and external quality compliance to achieve an aesthetically pleasing quality product.
5. Continuous Improvement and Training
5.1 Embracing Innovation and Technology
As with every manufacturing, the future tends towards heavy reliance on technology with innovations like 3D printing technology, which can build prototypes quickly and easily. Functional equipment parts are also becoming smaller and yet increasing in efficiency. It’s only a matter of time before almost all machines become contactless, requiring very little or no human contact. This is why professionals in the manufacturing industry, including injection molding professionals like technicians, need to up their game.
New and improved injection molding technologies are constantly doled out. The operation, maintenance, and parameters for injection molding equipment are also regularly upgraded. However, injection mold technicians with only yesterday’s knowledge risk being left behind. Consequently, the injection molding technician should be responsible for attending or even organizing continuous improvement events.
A technician’s role will be to update the manufacturing company with the latest trends in cutting-edge techniques and machines that can increase productivity and, ultimately, the company’s bottom line. Also, a technician’s objective should be organizing training for lower cadre personnel directly involved in injection molding operations. Furthermore, the goal will be to make it a regular program within the organization so that it becomes a culture within the organization.
The benefits of continuous improvement programs are abundant both for the injection molding technician and the manufacturing company, and both should work together to achieve them.
5.2 Professional Development and Training
While improvement programs seek to upgrade the workforce and the company, personal development training is just that – personal for injection mold technicians. This type of training often increases the market value of the technician, giving them a higher bargaining power in the industry.
However, the most important benefit of the training is usually to give the technician advanced knowledge in the injection molding field. Their exposure to advanced resources often increases their expertise and introduces them to more efficient methods of injection molding production.
Injection molding manufacturers who recognize the value of this training often promote technicians sometimes to managerial positions. Ultimately, personal development training usually does two things. It exposes the technician to more challenges and opens the door to more opportunities. And though it requires sacrifices, they tend to pay back in promotions and better remuneration.
Here is a quick recap. Injection molding technicians are the backbone of injection molding processes. From setting up the equipment to material selection and finally checking the quality of the product, they are just indispensable for the success of the injection molding production process.
Nevertheless, improvement programs and personal development training are two important activities that technicians should never ignore. These events will sharpen their skills and make them invaluable to the industry. They will also increase their value and bargaining power in the market. So, there you have it. If you plan to become an injection molding technician, what is stopping you?