As OEMs push engineers to maximize function and minimize size, engineering teams quickly learned micro molding and micron-level tolerances aren’t as simple as “make it smaller.” Yes, you can shrink a design in Solidworks, but manufacturing it? This is where pro designers rely on micro mold design outsourcing. As micro molders, we’ve seen a huge increase in this area.
Plastic behaves in surprising ways when micron tolerances are a top concern. Parting lines and gate placement, often an afterthought, become the focus of design discussions. In the past, expert micro molders like us used to refuse designs that weren’t considered “moldable.” But as designs become more complex to solve challenging problems, we’ve noticed companies turning to us for more than just manufacturability feedback but also for design expertise.
Customer-centric mindset leads to better design
I work every day with scientists, doctors, and PhDs. They’re highly intelligent but not necessarily experts in the molding field. They are experts in customer outcomes. You’d think this breakdown is a disadvantage, and it certainly could be, but they openly recognize their limitations and increasingly turn to their micro molder as a collaborative partner instead of a manufacturing lackey.
In the past year, there have been several OEMs that have been adopting this mindset. They come with general designs and goals, engaging us to help them craft the actual component design alongside their teams. The results have been astounding. In some cases, our teams have completely redesigned their parts, leading to better outcomes. In other cases, our expertise has led to joint patent discussions. Micro mold design outsourcing to well-regarded experts is an often overlooked strategic advantage.
Micro mold design outsourcing
Some of these engineer leads are new to micro molding, but they increasingly have previous experience, which drives the value of micro mold design outsourcing. Micro molding isn’t commodity injection molding. In fact, many commodity and commercial molders defer to our expertise for projects that require micron tolerances or high-precision geometry. The challenges are numerous, but most center on manufacturability. We can hold tolerances tighter than anyone out there, but physics still exists. For example, undercuts can create die-lock conditions, and at times we have to create mechanical features in the mold and/or update part geometry to solve these molding challenges. Tooling engineers typically see these challenges, but design engineers can miss this at first. Design engineers focus on mechanical aspects of design, not necessarily if it’s moldable. Both of these perspectives are necessary. You need the idealistic engineering focus on the customer, patient, or end-user outcomes.
Going beyond outside-of-house micro mold design
We’re not a stand-alone outside-of-house micro molder. We see through any micro mold design outsourcing all the way through production to ensure perfection. When you collaborate with your micro molder, here are a few steps OEM design teams and engineers can anticipate. Come to your micro mold DfMM team with an understanding of your surrounding components and packaging. Come with your design constraints and overall project goals. And don’t hold back. Big ideas lead to big breakthroughs.