Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Choosing new moulds is now a piece of cake

Injection moulding is a process by which a melted material is fed into a mould and allowed to cool and harden, resulting in a finished product of desired shape and properties, sort of like baking a cake. EU-funded researchers provided a simulation tool that makes it possible to ‘watch’ this process while tweeking various parameters, and promises to revolutionise the way customers and manufacturers do business.
Choosing new moulds is now a piece of cake
Injection moulding in its basic form is used to mould plastics. Powder injection moulding (PIM) is a variation used to create ceramic and metallic parts using the injection moulding technology developed for plastic parts. Fine ceramic or metallic powder (so-called filler) is mixed with polymeric binder materials, producing the feedstock that is heated and fed into the mould. The system is subsequently cooled and the binder removed, leading to the final product after sintering.

The distribution of the filler and the densities of the filler and polymer have important but as yet poorly understood effects on the mixture’s behaviour during processing and on the properties of the final product. The EU-funded ‘New material laws for metal filled injection moulding feedstocks’ (Matlaw) project was undertaken to enhance PIM filling simulation for two demonstrators at small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in order to enable a priori determination of optimal parameters.

The researchers analysed feedstocks consisting of various binders and powders at a variety of concentrations as well as moulding parameters and their effects on the final products. They investigated phase separation and flow behaviour of the feedstocks and modelled mould filling to optimise critical mould areas.

The new simulation software provided a tool that producers can use to demonstrate to their customers the best products for their applications and has been met with great interest. In fact, most customers want a mould simulation before ordering a new mould and all Matlaw partners have expressed an urgent need for such simulation software.

The Matlaw project thus produced an invaluable tool for the injection moulding industry that accurately simulates mould and mixture behaviours based on specific filler and polymer inputs. The result promises to advance the PIM industry dramatically with benefits for raw materials providers, manufacturers and customers. Much as one would never consider building a house anymore without a virtual walk-through based on simulation software, now customers need no longer buy a new mould without accurate information on how it will produce under various conditions.

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