Mold flow analysis simulation software is a valuable tool that aids in bringing quality parts to market on time and on budget. Simulation software is an essential tool in the development of complicated 3D part designs and also helps to predict the effects on quality of making existing products lighter and thinner. Although simulation software will not produce results with 100% accuracy it will stop you from making some huge mistakes.
There are a number of benefits in using mold flow analysis software.
Time and cost saver. New part designs can be analysed immediately for manufacturability. In the past there was a risk that flaws in part designs would not be noticed until a mold tool was made. Changes in part and mold design at this stage would be expensive and time consuming.
The software will predict potential quality issues in the part such as flow lines, weld lines, deep under cuts, inadequate draft angles, warpage and sink marks. This means that part design changes can be made immediately to address these issues with little time and cost.
Injection mold designs can also be analysed for potential flaws before mold building. One example of this is with family molds in which the runners can be sized so that balanced filling will be achieved eliminating part quality issues resulting from uneven fill times.
It can be applied to both new and existing part designs. While it is common to use on new 3D part designs with complicated shapes it can also be used on existing simple parts such as round lids to predict the effect on part quality and molding conditions to changes in wall thickness.
The current trend in the injection molding industry is to make products lighter & thinner to save material cost but this makes moulding quality parts more difficult. Knowing these effects before making costly changes to existing part designs, mould designs or machine requirements can save a huge amount of time and stress.
Predicting Molding Machine Requirements. Knowing the machine size in advance allows part costs to be calculated since larger machines cost more than smaller machines to operate. This also helps with machine scheduling and planning.
Troubleshooting. Mold flow analysis software can be used to find solutions to existing parts with quality issues such as warpage.
To get accurate results from a simulation, the information fed into the software must be accurate.
Simulation software packages have the behavioral characteristics of thousands of plastic materials in mathematical form. This information is derived in a laboratory using a number of tests and includes the use of injection molding machinery to make test samples for analysis.
The tests will give data about a particular materials behaviour during the filling and packing stage of the molding process. The tests will also show shrinkage and warpage characteristics.
So the bottom line is use the same material data for the simulation that is to be used in production.
But what do you do if it is not available in the software package?
A sample of the material needs to be sent to the laboratory and tested. This can cost thousands of dollars and take weeks analyze. This is one of the disadvantages of simulation software.
Another issue to consider is the meshing. Meshing is used to break up the 3D computer model of the part into a number of small triangles before the simulation process can be done. The smaller the triangles the more accurate the results but the longer the calculating time and the higher the cost. So a balance must be struck between time and accuracy.
1. Buy & learn the software yourself.
2. Learn the software yourself and get access to the cloud based on a yearly fee.
3. Hire an expert on a case by case basis.
Before deciding which one is right for you it must be noted that in order to use the software properly one needs to have injection molding experience to be able to interpret the results of a simulation correctly.
A basic understanding of injection mold design and part design is also required.
If the simulation software is required just a few times a year then it makes sense to hire an expert. He will be able to give answers quickly and with accuracy.
On the other hand, if more frequent use is required, then learning yourself or training a mold design engineer in the company makes more sense. In house simulations can be done in one of 2 ways. The first is by buying licensed software outright to use on your local PC and the other way is to buy access to the cloud. The cloud has 2 advantages: its cheaper than buying the license outright and it also has the potential to make some complicated simulations faster because the calculations are done on the cloud not on your pc.
Mold flow simulation software has become a lot more accurate and accessible than it used to be. There are many companies that provide this service if you do not want to take the time to learn it.
More importantly, mold flow simulation should be considered a necessity in any new project so that time, cost and quality requirements can be achieved. There is nothing worse than not delivering a product to market on time because someone wanted to save a few dollars.