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Handbook of Molded Part Shrinkage and Warpage

Handbook of Molded Part Shrinkage and Warpage

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Handbook of Molded Part Shrinkage and Warpage

723 pages
Dec 31, 2012


How easy life would be if only moldings were the same size and shape as the mold. But they never are, as molders, toolmakers, designers and end users know only too well. Shrinkage means that the size is always different; warpage often changes the shape too. The effects are worse for some plastics than others. Why is that? What can you do about it? The Handbook of Molded Part Shrinkage and Warpage is the first and only book to deal specifically with this fundamental problem. Jerry Fischer’s Handbook explains in plain terms why moldings shrink and warp, shows how additives and reinforcements change the picture, sets out the effect of molding process conditions, and explains why you never can have a single ‘correct’ shrinkage value. It goes on to demonstrate how to alleviate the problem through careful design of the molded part and the mold, and by proper material selection. It also examines computer-aided methods of forecasting shrinkage and warpage. And most important of all, the Handbook gives you the data you need to work with.


  • Authoritative and rooted in extensive industrial experience, the expert guidance contained in this handbook offers practical understanding to novices, and new insights to readers already skilled in the art of injection molding and mold making.
  • Contains the answers to common problems and detailed advice on how to control mold and post-mold shrinkage and warpage.
  • Case Studies illustrate and enrich the text; Data tables provide the empirical data that is essential for success, but hard to come by.
Dec 31, 2012

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Handbook of Molded Part Shrinkage and Warpage - Jerry Fischer



Introduction to Injection Molding

1.1 Introduction to Plastics

Material characteristics and the injection-molding process interactively affect the quality of the resulting molded part. Fortunately, the overall process is governed by thermodynamic principles, making it possible to manage the characteristics of the final product. In this chapter, the variables that influence final part size are identified and explained in the context of the fundamental notions of interactivity and thermodynamics. Thermodynamics is the physical science that studies the effects of temperature variations and heat transfer on a material, especially as the bodies change state as from solid to liquid and back again, as plastics do during plastic processing and as heat is transferred from the injection-molded plastic part into the cooling system of the mold.

This section of the book is not intended to be a comprehensive discussion of the injection-molding process, but rather an overview of the process.

1.2 Interactivity Basics

Two general types of plastic materials are commonly used in injection molding. These are referred to as thermoset and thermoplastic, reflecting their manufactured part properties.

A thermoset plastic is one in which cross-linking is stopped early in the reaction. The reaction either will not continue, or will continue at a very slow rate, under normal conditions. At temperatures above about 93 °C (200 °F), the material is a viscous fluid that can be forced into a mold. At temperatures of 150–175 °C (300–350 °F), the cross-linking reaction proceeds at a rapid rate until the reaction is complete and essentially all possible cross-links are established. (For thin parts, the reaction is complete in a matter of a few seconds. Thicker wall parts might require several minutes or more). Once the reaction is complete, the material will not again soften to allow molding. This is a onetime process and is irreversible (although some molders grind up sprues, runners, and bad parts and add a small percentage of the resulting particles as filler to the unprocessed raw material for subsequent molding of additional parts). Thermoset materials include many types of rubber (silicone, polyurethane, natural rubber), melamine formaldehyde (dinnerware), phenol formaldehyde (panhandles and many electrical products), the allyl family, which includes diallyl phthalate (mostly electrical parts), and epoxy.

A thermoplastic material also softens to a viscous fluid when heated; however, few, if any, cross-links are established during processing. A thermoplastic hardens to a useful condition when cooled. While soft, the material can be forced into a mold to assume the shape of the mold. This cycle can be repeated many times because the finished part can be ground up and reprocessed. There is no significant chemical reaction during the processing of thermoplastics other than some degradation of the physical properties. Although properly processed, there is little degradation, but if the material requires drying and is not properly dried before processing, or if excessive heat is used during processing, significant degradation will occur. The processing temperatures required for thermoplastics differ according to their melting temperature. Some plastics can be processed at 205 °C (400 °F) or less. Other high-performance thermoplastics might require processing temperatures of 315 °C (600 °F) or more.

Common thermoplastics are encountered in everyday life. Most jars and bottles containing liquids or medicines are thermoplastics such as polyethylene terephthalate, polyethylene, or polystyrene. Furniture, carpets, and floors are usually partially or wholly made of one of several thermoplastic resins, such as vinyl or thermoplastic polyester. Electrical wall outlets can be either an engineering grade of thermoplastic or thermoset. Telephones, computers, television housings, and other electronic devices are molded of one or more thermoplastic resins, most commonly the thermoplastic alloy known as acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene. The foam cushions in chairs and beds are often thermoset polyurethane. Many shoes are thermoplastic, including the soles. Most of the storage containers used in the kitchen are thermoplastic, usually polyethylene. Much of a car’s interior is made of thermoplastic, as are many external surfaces.

Medicine has undergone a revolution by virtue of plastics. Most medical devices are now discarded rather than being (imperfectly) sterilized. Many devices that are being implanted in the human body are made of, or contain some form of, thermoplastic.

There are thermoplastics that act like rubber, others that act like glass, and still others that mimic some metals. Practically all toys are molded of thermoplastics. Milk and soda containers are made of thermoplastic resins. Most tools have housings or handles comprised of thermoplastics. Plastics in general, and thermoplastics in particular, have become so pervasive in our world that it is unlikely that an individual can do anything without direct or indirect contact with plastic.

There are many more molders processing thermoplastics than are processing thermosets. Thermosets seem to be more stable than thermoplastics, and the challenge of controlling shrink and warp is less. Therefore, this book focuses on the injection molding of two main types of thermoplastics: crystalline and amorphous. Crystalline plastics form crystals when they cool, but do not totally crystallize. They form islands of crystals surrounded by amorphous material; see Fig. 1.1.¹ The crystalline areas are true solids; thus they tend to be more rigid than amorphous plastics. Amorphous plastics, on the other hand, never form crystals and really never solidify. Amorphous materials are more subject to creep. (For comparison, consider glass, which is also an amorphous material. Glass that has been in a window for many years is measurably thicker at the bottom than at the top). Crystals lock portions of a molecule relative to other molecules. The amorphous areas around the islands of crystals are the only areas that allow limited creep and only until the molecules between the crystals are fully extended. In general, it can be said that polymers with molecules having very uniform linear shapes can crystallize, while polymers with molecules having irregular shapes, with perhaps many branches, are not likely to crystallize. They form amorphous masses when they cool from the molten condition. It can be argued that although the polymers used in commodity and engineering materials creep they do not creep indefinitely and they gradually recover completely when the stress is removed.² From a theoretical standpoint, this contention may be true for semicrystalline materials; however, it is extremely rare in practice that a stress is removed. More often than not, loaded plastic deforms under excessive stress until other factors reduce the stress to a bearable level or until the application fails. Herein is an essential challenge to part designers and molders working with plastics.

Figure 1.1 A representation of a semicrystalline plastic at room temperature. Area A represents a crystalline area, whereas area B represents an amorphous area. ¹

Courtesy of Quantum Chemical Corporation.

The injection molding of thermoplastics is a form of processing in which highly complex physical processes take place. Each molding compound reacts differently as it is heated to a temperature suitable for molding and as it cools within the mold. The molding compound first has to be melted, and then injected at high pressure into a cold mold. Since the mold is cooler than the compound, the shaped plastic part solidifies rapidly and can then be removed from the mold. Each step of the injecting and cooling process affects the quality of the subsequent molded part, as shown in Fig. 1.2: each of the factors on the left affects filling and/or cooling to varying degrees.

Figure 1.2 The diagram shows the primary variables that affect the final size of a molded part. These variables are the focus of discussion in the chapter sections noted.

Note that the temperature control system of the mold plays a central role in the quality and cost-efficiency of injection-molded parts. It decisively influences quality features such as surface appearance and warpage. Efficient mold-temperature control also helps to save costs, since the cooling time, and hence the cycle time, can be optimized. Cooling, that is too aggressive, can cause postmolding problems, such as excessive size change; these can occur days, weeks, or even months later. Control systems are examined in more detail in Chapters 6 and 8.

The thermodynamic processes that prevail during each step of the injection-molding process are described in the following section.

1.3 Thermal Principles Governing Injection Molding

When thermoplastics are injection-molded in a machine resembling the one depicted in Fig. 1.3,³ granules of plastic are melted inside a heated barrel (tube). In the barrel, a screw conveys the plastic forward along the screw into a holding space while the previously injected part cools. The plastic granules are brought from room temperature to a molten state in a matter of few seconds. The molten material is then stored, which develops a heat history until it leaves the barrel one or more cycles later as previously molded parts are removed from the mold. It may require molding two or more parts before the heated material leaves the barrel.

Figure 1.3 A typical injection-molding machine. The raw material hopper is at the far right end over the heating cylinder and injection unit. ³

Courtesy of Toyo Machinery & Metal Co., Ltd.

1.3.1 Filling

Figure 1.4 shows a schematic diagram of the actions taking place in the injection-molding machine.⁴ Before the material is injected, the mold is closed with pressure adequate to resist opening under the injection pressure. Once the injection signal has been given, the screw moves forward and presses the molten plastic through both the machine nozzle and the runner/gate system into the cavity. At this point, the plastic melt and mold may see pressures in the range of 1360 bar (20,000 psi). The filling process frequently imposes a high level of mechanical and thermal stress on the melt. The chief parameters affecting this stress are the nozzle/runner/gate geometry, wall thickness of the molded part, filling rate, molding compound temperature, and mold-wall temperature.

Figure 1.4 Schematic of a typical injection-molding machine.

Reprinted with permission of Voridian, Division of Eastman Chemical Company.

The pressure acting on the melt as it moves through the system causes internal friction as the material flows through restrictions and around corners. This friction adds heat to the molten mass. Experimental tests have shown that the mean temperature increase of the plastic material due to friction is approximately equal to the energy given up in pressure loss as the plastic flows into the mold.


ΔvM = mean temperature increase in the melt

Δp = pressure differential in a flow section of the distribution system

r = melt density

cp = specific heat capacity

Note that this equation does not allow for the exchange of heat with the cooler mold cavity. It does describe the process independently of the part geometry.

As the plastic flows into the mold, it comes in contact with the walls of the mold and starts to cool immediately. The thickness of the cooled and relatively stable plastic against the wall depends on the rate of flow of the plastic past the wall and the temperature of the wall. The faster the plastic flows and the hotter the wall, the thinner the solidified plastic wall and the more friction heat generated. There can actually be a rise in the plastic temperature next to the stable wall due to frictional heating, so that there is a temperature peak adjacent to the stable solidified wall of plastic that is higher than the core temperature of the flowing plastic. See Fig. 1.5.⁵

Figure 1.5 A typical temperature profile of a flowing plastic melt. The shape and magnitude of the temperature variation will differ depending on material and flow rates.

Another phenomenon taking place during the mold-filling process is that the polymer molecules are partially oriented and stretched in the direction of flow. The molecules try to relax from this stretched condition. (Their natural condition is to be more randomly oriented, like a length of string stuffed in a cup.) This orientation can cause greater shrinkage of unfilled materials in the direction of flow.

Amorphous materials shrink slightly less when cooled rapidly than when cooled more slowly. However, time and exposure to heat will encourage additional shrinkage. Over time, especially at elevated temperatures, the ultimate size change is nearly the same. Amorphous materials behave like a box full of corn chips. Their shape is such that they will not nestle closely together. When shaken violently and suddenly stilled, the apparent volume in the box is greater than if the shaking is gradually diminished, allowing the chips to nestle more closely. Amorphous materials, of course, do not nestle as intimately as crystalline

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