One of the most critical decisions manufacturing managers have to make during the production process is what type of material they should use to produce their products.
It is crucial that you decide on the best material to make the most out of production and not have to switch to a different material that can be costly, especially if you have already started production.
Many factors will influence the material you will need for injection molding. It would help to consider how much shrinkage a material undergoes during production. It would be best to think about how the customer intends to use the product and any post-injection molding processes that the part may need to undergo.
There are two primary materials that manufacturing managers prefer to use during injection molding, aluminum and steel. Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of aluminum and steel molds for plastic injection will help you decide which one to use.
Aluminum for the molding process
Some of the aluminum properties that make it an ideal material for injection molding are its ability to form new shapes quickly and its heat resistance. Aluminum is also a lightweight metal and does not form rust.
What are the advantages of aluminum over steel?
Lower tooling costs- If your primary concern is cost, you may need to consider using aluminum because this material offers more cost savings during the mold-making process.
Ideal for low-volume production- Manufacturing companies may prefer using aluminum to mold a few product parts because this material does not require a higher upfront investment cost.
Faster production: You can mold more product parts in less time because aluminum does not take much time to heat and cool like steel.
Reduced waste: Manufacturers appreciate the superior heat dissipation of aluminum. Consequently, using this material will produce lesser defects because aluminum heats uniformly, thus decreasing the number of rejected pieces.
Easy to make corrections: It is not uncommon for errors to occur during production. If you want an easier time making repairs, you need a soft material. Aluminum is relatively softer than steel, making it easier to manipulate production errors.
Disadvantages of aluminum over steel
- It is not appropriate when producing large volumes of products.
- The material is too soft to make highly detailed features.
- It is not ideal for complex injection molding resins.
Steel for the molding process
Steel is an alloy. The different elements that contribute towards its formation help give its unique properties.
Advantages of steel over aluminum
- Ideal for high-volume production: Steel is stronger than aluminum. For this reason, this material can handle large volume production. All you need is to provide appropriate maintenance to ensure that the mold remains in good shape.
- Perfect for advanced resin formulas: Steel is rigid enough to withstand standard and advanced resin formulas.
- Great for making details: if your product part requires specific details, it would be best to consider using steel over aluminum because it has the right amount of hardness to withstand making precise details.
- Superior durability: If your product requires longer production runs, steel is the perfect material for your molds because this material can last longer than aluminum.
Disadvantages of steel over aluminum
- It will cost you much more to repair production errors: Steel is relatively more rigid than aluminum. Therefore, in cases where there are damaged pieces, you will spend a lot of time and money making adjustments because steel is harder to manipulate.
- Slower production process: Compared to aluminum, steel takes longer to heat and cool, thus making you spend more time making a part.
There is a lot of money that goes into manufacturing. To avoid disappointing investors, manufacturers try to avoid mistakes that may be costly to correct. Although the advantages and disadvantages of steel and aluminum are straightforward, many manufacturers still need additional help deciding which material is best for making injection molds.
If you have problems deciding, it would be best to hire a specialist to analyze your business and expectations and then develop the ideal production plan for you, including which material is perfect. Regardless, ensure you conduct comprehensive research to understand the properties of aluminum and steel and appreciate which material is best for making specific parts.