Low cost mold manufacturers in Asia have been very popular with western plastic injection molding companies during the past 20 years.
This behaviour has been primarily driven by the opportunity for OEM’s and injection molders to save up to 70% of mold price compared with locally made molds.
As an injection molding company there are 3 ways to approach it:
In order to stay in business many western mold making companies have some form of cooperation with Chinese mold manufacturers. This has allowed them to offer lower mould prices to their local injection molding customers.
Although the prices may not be as cheap as going directly to china, there are plenty of other advantages to using your local manufacturer.
Your local mould maker takes all the risk and does all of the travelling. There is no requirement for you to spend time establishing a new relationship with people in a foreign country.
That’s time you can spend running your business.
Most importantly, you have the security to know that your local mold maker will repair the mold if anything goes wrong.
Another way to source molds from China is to go and meet the Chinese manufacturers. If you make the effort to travel thousands of kilometres just to spend time with them in their factory and have dinner and do karaoke then this goes a long way in demonstrating to them that you are serious about business.
Chinese like to become friends first before doing business. A genuine friendship will give you the highest possible chance of getting your mould project contractual requirements satisfied.
The down side of this approach is that it requires a lot of travelling by one person in your company in order to maintain the relationship and to keep an eye on quality.
Because you are dealing with a foreign company, it might be difficult to communicate all of your quality requirements at first, so you will need to keep talking to them to keep them on track. This is most effectively done face to face until you have done several projects together and you understand each other.
This is the quickest and easiest way.
Do a Google search on mold manufacturers and you will find many Chinese sites. The sites will allow you to upload your plastic part cad drawings so they can provide you with a quote. You can get a dozen quotes from a dozen different mold manufacturers with very little effort on your part with the option of choosing the lowest price. In a matter of weeks, a mold will be on your factory floor ready to go.
Sounds good doesn’t it?
This approach is highly risky however.
The most obvious is quality control.
How do you know the correct grade of steel has been used? After all, most steels look the same from the outside. The wrong grade of steel can quickly crack through water channels causing part rejects.
To make matters worse you try fixing the crack by welding. At best, this method has a 50/50 chance of stopping the leak even if the welder uses the same steel as the mold steel. If he welds with different steel then the chance of sealing the crack and stopping the leak are extremely low.
In fact, it will probably make the crack worse and now you have a mold that can only be used as a boat anchor.
Getting the wrong grade of steel is the worst thing that can happen because it cannot be fixed.
Now you know the consequences of buying the cheapest mold.
Which approach is best? It depends upon your requirements. If plastic part quantity and quality is low then it makes sense to buy a cheap mould.
However, if part quality and quantity requirement is high then you need a mould that will produce quality parts around the clock without any unscheduled down time.
What ever you do, don’t let price be the driving force because you will pay for it one way or another.