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Making the Most of the Material: Critical Design Elements for Parts, Tools & Processing

Performance in use is determined by more than just material selection. Part design, tool design and material processing are just as critical.

Part design impacts tool design, which, in turn, impacts material processing, which establishes the final polymer structure which, ultimately, determines part performance.

Decisions made in each step of the process limit options available in the next. If each step is undertaken in isolation, the outcome will be a suboptimal part made in a suboptimal process. One way to avoid such a result is to allow for feedback from processing and tool design before the part design is frozen.

Part Design <> Tool Design <> Materials Processing

Part design can and should be influenced by tool design, which likewise, should be influenced by processing considerations. For complex new part designs in an unfamiliar material, this may require a prototype mold and test runs to optimize the part, tool and process before committing to full-scale commercial tooling.

Troubleshooting a problematic process after the fact on production tooling is frustrating, expensive, and can cause lasting issues. This is especially true if the solution is to adjust the process to accommodate a poorly designed tool or part.

Design issues should be preventable. Following sound part and tool design rules, and considering implications of part design decisions on tooling and process will not eliminate all issues, but will minimize the number faced.

Recommended Software

Successful part and process designs also need the right software to be conceptualized and realized properly. CAD software commonly used by designers and engineers are amongst others Unigraphics NX Series, Catia and Solidworks for part design and Autodesk Moldflow, Moldex3D and Sigmasoft for mold flow analysis.