Want to get your new or improved plastic product to market faster? Here are 10 tips for design engineers, material specifiers and manufacturers: Push concurrent engineering to the limit. At the outset of a project, get design, material specification, tool design, and manufacturing involved concurrently. This can cut development time in half.
Case in point: A plastic wheelchair designer specified spin welding to join two parts, although they were not symmetrical. With the use of concurrent engineering, manufacturing spotted the problem early, and suggested adhesive bonding instead. This eliminated a problem that would have slowed full production ramp-up.
Fold one phase of a project into another. For example, you can run mold flow analysis and structural analysis phases concurrently, and cut product development time by several months.
Consider starting the mold before finishing the part design. Sometimes you can start the cavity sinking tools as soon as you have a functional design, and adjust a radius and thicken up a wall later. Also, start material development along with product design. Another hint: Work color-matching and part design in parallel.
Define all project specifications, including physical, mechanical, chemical, thermal and electrical requirements, at the outset.
Pick a material supplier by the size of its database in your application area. The more sophisticated or highly engineered your component, the bigger difference this will make.
For small-volume runs, where application support is needed, go to a small compounder. You'll get faster service, and answers as well as product.
Look for a standard or slightly modified standard material grade. This always saves time, money and guesswork.
Compare vendors for turnaround commitments on support services. You'll find big differences here. Knowing a vendor's exact turnaround times for mold flow analysis, stress analysis, samples, and other support services can reduce development time.
Compare vendor lab support on sophisticated parts. Compare how quickly they can identify product flow characteristics, physical properties, and other requirements. Proper lab support can cut development time.
Invite your material supplier to your molding trials. This step is beneficial, especially during prototyping. In some instances, suppliers can help tweak the process by raising the temperature or changing the injection speed.
Exploit a vendor's connections for parts requiring ancillary operations. This will save time in getting recommendations for processes involving laser marking, electroplating, ultrasonic welding or other applications.
Not all of these tips will apply in every situation. However, these are the simplest and the ones that work most often.
Johnson is senior technical service engineer for Lati USA Inc. in Mount Pleasant, S.C.