When evaluating cost-reduction projects in injection molding, the discussion typically centers around cycle-time reduction and the cost to implement the change. This article explores the true value of conformally cooled injection mold in a very specific case. That case is when the molder can sell more product than it can make on a 24/7 basis. In this pandemic environment, an illustrative example would be producing home COVID test kits (see photo).
What do you do if you could sell a lot more product than you can make with existing mold technology?
I chose this example because I see many companies struggling to meet the demand for so many healthcare-related plastic products like home test kits and lab testing supplies. I expect that high level of demand to go on for another three to five years. I believe conformal cooling can fill the product pipeline faster than any other technology.
Conformal cooling, for in brief, utilizes cooling channels that curve and coil—in two or three dimensions—to conform as closely as possible to the contours of the part, thereby bringing more efficient heat removal than is possible with conventional gun-drilled straight cooling passages. The two main methods of producing such nonlinear cooling channels are additive manufacturing (3D printing) and vacuum brazing of stacked plates. (Learn more here.)
But despite the pressure to produce, so many companies are reluctant to try new technologies like conformal cooling or pay the approximately 20% upcharge in mold costs. To ease that transition, I developed this analysis to measure the return on investment (ROI) over the life of a conformal mold as a function of the increase in sales and profit that it enables. I’ll try to do this in a somewhat simplified fashion, for the sake of clarity, without getting “too deep into the weeds” of cost accounting.