“Digital Manufacturing” is a term that is still emerging and growing in usage and awareness. It is becoming more familiar, but not yet understood by all, especially those outside the inner circles of manufacturing. So what is digital manufacturing?
Definition of Digital Manufacturing
According to Wikipedia, “Digital Manufacturing is an integrated approach to manufacturing that is centered around a computer system.” That’s a simplistic definition, as it’s hard to imagine modern manufacturing that’s not controlled by computers in some way. A broad understanding encompasses many elements of manufacturing – machines communicate with each other, send maintenance notifications, and relay information up and down the supply chain.
How ICOMold Utilizes Digital Manufacturing
In our case, digital manufacturing is the unbroken chain of digital information that adds value for the customer. It begins with the customer uploading a 3D CAD model of the part to be injection molded to our instant online quotation system. There, it is automatically analyzed by our proprietary database of part sizes, dimensions and features, and produces a price quote, instantly.
Should the customer choose to accept the quote and proceed with the project, the quote system becomes a project management system through which every process is automated. Once the project is launched, the digital manufacturing stream is in motion and progresses through the manufacturing, payment and shipping processes.
That is not to say that human interaction is never needed. There are often discussions around materials, the best process to manufacture a particular part, and Design for Manufacturability (DFM). This is accomplished through a discussion board built into the online system where the customer can communicate directly with the U.S. sales/project engineer about the project, and directly with the injection mold engineer to discuss things like DFM.
Digital Manufacturing for Our Processes
At ICOMold we incorporate on-demand, digital manufacturing into our three production processes: Plastic Injection Molding, CNC Machining and Urethane Casting.
Plastic Injection Molding
Injection molding is the most common method to manufacture plastic parts. It is used to create a variety of parts with different shapes and sizes, and it is ideal for producing high volumes of the same plastic part. Injection molding is widely used for manufacturing a variety of parts, from the smallest medical device component to entire body panels of cars.
Injection molding is most desirable for large production runs where the cost per piece is considerably lower than the other manufacturing methods. Injection molding is also more cost effective if you plan on reordering parts. Since the largest single cost of the injection molding process is the creation of the mold, the upfront tooling cost brings piece price down for subsequent orders when factoring in mold tooling cost. Additionally, because of our lifetime mold guarantee, we will maintain or repair your injection mold for life, as long as you continue to have us run your parts for you
To get started, you will need a CAD file. Once our engineers have reviewed your file for any production issues, you will then be able to open a new project. Once the details are finalized, we will develop mold tooling and send you five sample parts. After the sample parts have been approved, the production of your total parts order will begin.
CNC machining is a subtractive manufacturing process, where a solid block of material is cut away to create a part. This process is best when you don’t need a large production run. Unlike injection molding where the price per part decreases as more parts are manufactured, the CNC machined piece price is the same regardless of how many are produced.
Another benefit of CNC machining is that tight tolerances can be maintained. Additionally, there are a few processes that CNC machining can do that injection molding can’t. For example, a long straight hole can be drilled into a part during CNC machining. Injection molding would require additional consideration to create such a hole (and it may still need to be tapered). If you only need a prototype of low-volume parts, then CNC machining may be the best option for you.
To get started, you will need a CAD file. Once our engineers have reviewed your file for any production issues, you will be able to open a new project. Once the details are finalized, we will start CNC machining your parts.
Urethane casting uses a master part to create a mold. The master part is placed into a container and liquid urethane is then pour around it. Once the urethane is solidified, the master part is removed. Now the mold can be used to create additional parts. One thing to keep in mind is that urethane molds are not as durable as other production methods, so this process is only efficient for low volumes or prototyping.
Overall, the connected digital manufacturing chain greatly improves the customer experience. Our system provides a quick and easy-to-use online quotation system, project management platform with a discussion board, and quick turnaround due to system automation and connectivity.
Injection Molding Production Highlights
> Instant mold and part quote
> Low cost, quick build and quality production
> Online project management
> Trouble-free part modifications
> No size limitations
> Any commercially available material and surface finish
What is the process for injection molding production?
ICOMold’s instant online plastic injection molding quote and mold frame sharing technology enables us to simplify and shorten both the quoting and tooling manufacturing process for custom plastic injection molding.
- Load your 3D CAD file to get an instant mold and part quote
- Upon order confirmation, ICOMold starts the mold and part order process
- Tooling design review by ICOMold engineers
- Upon design approval, ICOMold begins building your injection mold
- Customer examines samples for approval
- Part production begins