Injection Molding Process
The molding machine uses a vacuum to move the plastic from the dryer to it's initial holding chamber. This chamber is actually a small hopper on the back of the "barrel" of the machine The barrel is where all the real work is done and it's essentially a large screw housed in a heater which moves the plastic closer to the mold. As the screw turns, the plastic traverses the barrel and reaches a molten state. Only when it's molten can it be injected into the mold with a rapid turn of the screw. The tip of the barrel is called the "nozzle" and from this point to the cavity in the mold the material is not heated and is constantly cooling. The "runner" is the cooled/set plastic that extends from the nozzle to the cavity and is process scrap. Actually, the cooled material from the nozzle to the mold is the "sprue" but it's connected to the runner. There are ways around having sprues and runners, but it's beyond the scope of what we're talking about here. Most people have probably seen runners before and not realized it. The most likely place to see them are in model airplane/car kits as the individual components are left attached to the runner system. Typically the runners are ejected into a chute below the mold or else they will be picked out of the mold by a robotic arm and dumped into a regrinder. The regrinder chops the runners into bits and prepares them to be moved back into the dryer. Though, once plastic has been heated, it degrades a bit and some molding processes will not allow for "regrind" to be mixed back in with virgin material as it can cause problems with the final part. In cases like this the regrind is used elsewhere or it is discarded completely. Shrinkage plays a crucial role in molding and most plastic shrinks 20% as it cools. In order to combat this phenomenon in critical plastic pieces (not really toys) it is up the mold designer to build this factor into his design so that the finished parts will meet the original product design specifications. "Ejector pins" are part of the mold itself and are used to push the molded parts from the cavity once the mold is opened. This ejecting process is controlled by the molding machine.

The molding cycle is basically "close - shoot - open - eject". The mold is clamped into the machine with the front half remaining stationary (on the barrel side of the machine) and the back half being the movable half. Also on this movable half are the ejector pins that push the molded parts from the cavity. When all molds open up, the parts are stuck to the back half of the mold so that they can be ejected with the built-in pins.

Description: Chris Georgoulias