What are the benefits of injection molding for automobile applications?
- Material availability
- High precision and surface finish
- Quick prototypes with rapid tooling
The United States has one of the largest automotive markets in the world — in fact, it has the second-largest market for vehicle sales and production, and each year automotive companies invest more in R&D than foreign manufacturers — totaling $22.4 billion in R&D and equipment in 2018 alone.
With so much involved in this industry, the long-term success of any automotive manufacturer party lies in the processes they invest in. Of all the manufacturing methods used, injection molding composes a significant portion of this industry. But what are the benefits of injection molding for automobile applications, and why is this method so widely used in the U.S.?
Read on to learn how the plastic injection molding industry has revolutionized the production of automobiles in the U.S., and what advantages it provides for the cars we use today.
Why is Injection Molding Used for Automotive Applications in the US?
Injection molding is one of the most commonly used production methods for plastic components. While automobiles are traditionally associated with steel and other types of metal, plastic plays an integral role in creating cars, trucks, and other vehicles used daily in the US.
There are several reasons why plastic has become an increasingly popular material for automotive manufacturing. Plastic is sturdier — and in some cases, more durable than some metals. Furthermore, customers have different expectations of their vehicles nowadays, especially when it comes to comfort and fuel efficiency. Injection-molded plastic parts for automotive applications meet these expectations far more effectively than metal parts could.
In the automotive industry, where parts need to meet stringent safety, quality, and metric requirements, injection molding offers essential benefits, such as:
In the automotive industry, repeatability — the ability for manufacturers to consistently make identical plastic parts — is important. This repeatability ensures that every vehicle model that comes off the production line meets design specifications, and performs as advertised.
Repeatability is achieved through injection molding tools. Each mold is made out of robust metal, ensuring each plastic component made with the mold is identical — particularly if the mold has a good design and finishing.
While the injection molding process can be expensive at the start — due to the mold-making process — it remains to be one of the most scalable manufacturing methods available to the automotive industry.
The overall cost of using injection molding decreases as the manufacturer makes more parts with the same mold. The mold, being robust, can create thousands upon thousands of plastic components before needing repair or replacement. Thus, for mass production applications, injection molding is extremely beneficial to the manufacturer.
This is especially true for U.S.-based automotive manufacturers, where volume is a key component to profitability. In 2018 alone, the U.S. exported more than $142 billion worth of vehicles and parts — which shows how cost-effective injection molding can be for automotive manufacturers in this country.
Plastic is highly available in the U.S. — the country accounting for roughly 20% of the world’s plastic production in 2019. This means that raw plastic resins are widely available, which adds to the benefit of using injection molding for automotive production.
The wide range of plastics — such as ABS, Polypropylene, acrylic, nylon, polycarbonate, and much more — are easy to source in the U.S., and injection molding manufacturers can use these different polymers for various applications in carmaking. Being highly available, injection molding services can create more varied, complicated parts while avoiding supply delays or high costs.
High Precision and Surface Finish
Injection molding offers high-quality plastic parts with great surface finish qualities. Manufacturers can choose from a variety of designs — even complicated geometries can be achieved with injection molding. Further, injection molders can create parts with various surface textures — such as glossy, rough, or matte.
The automotive industry in the U.S. is subject to strict safety regulations, which means their components must be precisely designed. Injection molding allows manufacturers to easily meet these regulatory requirements, as their high precision machines ensure they meet exact specifications, as planned.
Quick Prototypes with Rapid Tooling
Injection molding is primarily used by automotive manufacturers for mass production, but it can also be used as a prototyping method. Injection molding manufacturers can create fast, low-cost molds with rapid tooling, which automotive manufacturers can then use to create short runs of prototype molded car components much faster than traditional prototype methods.
Quick prototyping and turnaround are critical to the U.S. automotive industry’s success, which exports one in every five vehicles produced in the country. The shorter time to market, the more competitive American automotive manufacturers are on the global stage.
The many benefits of injection molding for automobile applications make it one of the most commonly used processes in the U.S. industry. It offers a viable, cost-effective solution for the reliable production of high-quality automotive parts. It also makes use of a material that is in abundance in the U.S. — plastic.
In the automotive industry where consistency and quality are of utmost importance, injection molding is a critical manufacturing process. At Richfields, we offer professional injection molding services — from design to prototyping, to large production runs, to secondary processes — that provide our clients with high-quality molded automotive parts that meet their application requirements. Contact us to learn more.