Injection molding (IM) — the process of injecting plastic material into a mold cavity where it cools and hardens to the configuration of the cavity — is best used to mass-produce highly accurate, and often complex, three dimensional (3D) end-use parts and products. However, the development of molds for this process is often painstaking, highly expensive and time intensive.
Hard-tooling molds are usually made from tool steel with a CNC milling machine or via electrical discharge machining (EDM). When used in mass production, they can last for millions of cycles but cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
What’s more, lead times to produce these molds are often measured in months rather than weeks or days. When tens of thousands of injection molded parts are needed, soft-tooling is an option. Made in aluminum, these molds are less expensive (typically $2,500 - $25,000) and faster to produce (2 - 6 weeks).