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CAEDSMouldDesign

HotRunnerSystems
SchoolofTechnologyandManagement,PolytechnicInstituteofLeiria

Therunnersystemaccommodatesthemoltenplasticmaterialcomingfromthebarrel Introduction
andguidesitintothemouldcavity.Itsconfiguration,dimensionsandconnectionwith
themouldedpartaffectthemouldfillingprocessand,therefore,largelythequalityof
theproduct.Inotherwords,therunnersystemdictatespartqualityandproductivity.
Runnersystemsinconventionalmouldshavethesametemperaturelevelastherestof
the mould because they are in the same mould block. The ideal injection moulding
system delivers moulded parts of uniform density, and free from all runners, flash,
and gate stubs. To achieve this, a hot runner system, in contrast to a cold runner
system,isemployed.Thematerialinthehotrunnersismaintainedinamoltenstate
and is not ejected with the moulded part. Unlike an ordinary cold runner, the hot
runnersareheated,sotheplasticmeltinthehotrunnersneverfreeze.
Hot runners usually make the mould more expensive to manufacture and run, but
allowsavingsbyreducingtheplasticwasteandsometimesbyreducingthecycletime
(do not have to wait until the runners would freeze). An excellent runner system
designwillgivethemouldoptimalperformanceduringthepartproduction:

Achievementintheoptimalnumberofcavities
Optimizeddeliveryofmelttothecavities
Balancedfillingofmultiplecavities
Balancedfillingofmultigatecavities
Minimizedscrap
Easyejection
Maximizedefficiencyinenergyconsumption
Andgoodcontrolofthefilling/packing/cycletimes

Theheatingisbasicallyperformedelectricallybycartridgeheaters,heatingrods,band
heaters, heating pipes and coils, etc. To ensure uniform flow and distribution of the
melt,usuallyarelativelyelaboratecontrolsystemcomprisingseveralheatingcircuits
andanappropriatenumberofsensorsisneeded.Theoperatingvoltageisusually220
to240V,butsmallnozzlesfrequentlyhavealowvoltageof5V,andalso15Vand24
Voperatingvoltage.
Hotrunnersarereasonablycomplicateddevices,sotheyareusuallyassembledfrom
thepremanufacturedunits.Hotrunnersmaybeviewedasextendedinjectionnozzles
in the form of a block. Heat barriers isolate it form the cold mould. It contains the
runner system consisting of central sprue bush, runners and gates or nozzles. The
temperatureofthisblockliesinthemeltingrangeofthethermoplasticmelts.

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CAEDSMouldDesign
Hotrunnersofferthefollowingadvantages:

Nolossofmeltandthuslessenergyandworkinput.
Easierfullyautomaticoperation.
Longerholdingpressure,whichleadstolessshrinkage.
Shortercycles;coolingtimenolongerdeterminedbytheslowlysolidifyingrun
ners;nonozzleretractionrequired.
Machinescanbesmallerbecausetheshotvolume,aroundtherunners,isreduced,
andtheclampingforcesaresmallerbecausetherunnersdonotgeneratereactive
forcessincetheblocksandthemanifoldblockareclosed.
Superiorqualitybecausemeltcanbetransferredintothecavityattheoptimum
sites.
Gatesatthebestposition;thankstouniform,preciselycontrolledcoolingofthe
gatesystem,longflowpathsarepossible.
Pressurelossesminimized,sincethediameteroftherunnersisnotrestricted.
Artificialbalancingofthegatesystemcanbeperformedduringrunningproduc
tionbymeansoftemperaturecontroloraspecialmechanicalsystem(e.g.
adjustmentofthegapinaringshapeddieoruseofplatesinlowchannel).

Advantagesand
disadvantages

Thedisadvantagesare:

Considerablyhighercostsinvolved.
Muchmorecomplextoworkwith.
Moreworkinvolvedwiththestartupoftheproductioncycle.
Thermalisolationfromthehotrunnermanifoldblockisproblematic.
Theriskofdecompositionandproductionstoppagesinthecaseofmaterialswith
lowthermalresistance.
Moresusceptibletobreakdowns,highermaintenancecosts(leakage,failureof
heatingelements,andwearcausedbyfilledmaterials).
Riskofthermaldamagetosensitivematerialsbecauseoflongflowpathsand
dwelltimes,especiallyonlongcycles.
Moreefficienttemperaturecontrolrequired,becauseanonuniformtemperature
cyclewillcausedifferentmelttemperaturesandthusnonuniformfilling.

Hot runners may be classified according to how they are heated. There two main
typesofhotrunnersystems,insulatedrunnersandheatedrunners.Withintheheated
runners,therearetwocategories,theexternallyheatedandinternallyheated.

Insulatedrunners
Insulated runner moulds have oversized passages formed in the mould plate. The
passagesareofsufficientsizethat,underconditionsofoperation,theinsulatedeffect
of the plastic (frozen on the runner wall) combined with the heat applied with each
shotmaintainsanopen,moltenflowpath.

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CAEDSMouldDesign
Types of Hot Run
nerSystems
Heatedrunners
For heated runner systems, there are two designs: internally heated and externally
heated.Thefirstischaracterizedbyinternallyheated,annulusflowpassages,withthe
heat being furnished by a probe and torpedo located in the passages. This system
takesadvantageoftheinsulatingeffectoftheplasticmelttoreduceheattransfer(loss)
to the rest of the mould. The second consists of a cartridgeheated manifold with
interior flow passages. The manifold is designed with various insulating features to
separateitfromtherestofthemould,thusreducingheattransfer(loss).

Table1. Advantagesanddisadvantagesofhotrunnersystems.

Externally
Heated

Internally
Heated

Insulated

Hot
runner
type

Advantages

Disadvantages

Lesscomplicateddesign.
Lesscostlytobuild.

Undesiredfreezeupatthegate.
Requiresfastcycletomaintain
meltstate.
Longstartupperiodstostabilize
melttemperature.
Problemsinuniformmould
filling.

Improveddistributionof
heat.
Lowerheatingpower.
Meltvolumeissmallso
thedwelltimesofthe
followingmeltareshorter.

Highercostandcomplicated
design.
Requirescarefulbalancingand
sophisticatedheatcontrol.
Shouldtakeintoaccountthermal
expansionofvariousmould
components.
Riskofdamagingthematerial
duetohigherflowrates.

Improveddistributionof
heat.
Bettertemperaturecontrol
duetothelowflowrate
fromthelargechannels.

Highercostandcomplicated
design.
Insulationfromthemouldblock
isrequired.
Shouldtakeintoaccountthe
thermalexpansionofthehot
runnersystemforitsfixingtothe
mould.
Higherheatingpowerrequired.

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CAEDSMouldDesign
Figure 1 shows a schematic illustration of the three types of hot runner systems re
gardingtheinjectionnozzle.

Figure1:Hotrunnersystemtypes:(a)theinsulatedhotrunner,(b)theinternallyheatedhot
runnersystem,and(c)theexternallyheatedhotrunnersystem.

Regardingthemanifold,thetwopossibilities,externalandinternalheating,areshown
schematicallyinfigure2,whilefigure3showstheflowconditionsandtheresultant
temperaturedistributionsinthemeltforbothtypesofheating.

HeatingElement

a)

Polymer

Polymer

b)

HeatingElement

Figure2:Crosssectionsoftheflowchannelinthemanifold.a)Internalb)External.

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CAEDSMouldDesign
Thereareseveralcombinationsofmanifoldsandnozzlesinhotrunnersystems,each
withadvantagesanddisadvantagesaccordingtothespecificapplications.

Manifold

Nozzle

Externally

Externally

Internally

Internally

Insulated

Insulated

Externallyand
InternallyHeated
Systems

Figure3:Possiblecombinationsbetweenmanifoldsandnozzles.

Themajoradvantagesanddisadvantagesofthetwosystemsareimmediatelyappar
entinthefollowingfigure.

Figure3:Hotrunnersystems.Comparisonofinternallyandexternallyheatedsystems.

Severalaretheapplicationsandpossibilitiesofhotrunnersystemsininjectionmould
ing,illustratedinfigure4.

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CAEDSMouldDesign

Figure4:Methodsofmelttransportationwithininjectionmoulds.

Externallyheatedsystemshavetheabilitytoprovidethelowestpressuredropcom Externallyheated
paredtoothersystems,exceptpossiblyforinsulatedhotrunners.Theflowchannels systems
arecylindricalincrosssectionandgenerallyhavealargerdiameterthanacoldrunner
system. The cylindrical flow channel is the most efficient shape for melt flow. As
cooling of the runner and regrind are not issues in the case of hot runners, a larger
diameterispermissible.Boththelargerdiameterandthefactthatthereisnogrowing
frozen layer in the runner system, contribute to the relatively low pressure drop of
thesesystems.

Of the various hot runner systems, externally heated manifolds and nozzles are rec
ommended for thermally sensitive and highviscosity materials owing to their free
flowingopenchannel.Thistypeofsystemmayalsoprovidethemosthomogeneous
melttemperatureofallhotrunnersystems.Ameltinjectedatatemperatureof260C
canbesurroundedbyaflowchannelthatisheatedat260C.Thereforethetempera
ture gradient across the flow channel can be reduced, in contrast to an internally
heatedsystem,whichissurroundedbyacoldwall.Inaddition,astheheatingofthe
manifoldandnozzleisexternal,afrozenlayerofplasticalongtheouterchanneldoes
notdevelopaswithinternallyheatedorinsulatedsystems.Withoutthisfrozenlayer,
alargerflowchannelwillbeavailableandathoroughcolourchangecanbeachieved
moreeasilythanwithaninternallyheatedhotrunnersystems.

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CAEDSMouldDesign
Disadvantagesofanexternallyheatedrunnersystemincludethepotentialforleaking
ofmoltenplasticandtheamountandlocationoftherequiredheatfromtheheaters.
Improperdesignoroperationcanresultinplasticleakingbetweenthenozzleandthe
manifold. This leaking plastic can engulf the manifold, entombing it and destroying
heaters, wires, and thermocouples. In addition, the external heat source is in direct
conflictwiththecoolingofthemould.Thehotnozzlesoftenmustbesurroundedby
an airspace, which helps insulate them from the cavity. This airspace will require
additional space in the mould. Proximity of nozzles approaching a cavity not only
introduces localized hot spots but also limits positioning of cooling lines. Externally
heateddropsalsohavemorelimitedcontrolofthecriticalgatetipofthenozzle.Heat
conducting gate tips are often used, which when properly designed can minimize
theseproblems.Thetipconductsheatfromtheheatedouterbodyofthedrop.How
ever, it should be realized that the gate tip temperature is being controlled by the
same heaters controlling the outer body temperature of the drop. This restricts the
controlandmayresultinacompromiseoftemperaturesforeachofthesetworegions
ofthedrop.

Figure5:Externallyheatedmanifoldandnozzle.

Internallyheatedsystemseliminatesmostleakingproblems,providesgoodisolation
of the heater from the surrounding mould and provides good gate tip control. As
heaters are internal, there is no need for a separate manifold block, which must be
heated and insulated from the surrounding mould with an air space. Plastic around
the perimeter of the flow channel freezes against the colder mould, solidifies, and
providesathermallyinsulatingboundaryofplastic.Thisreducesthechallengewith
externally heated hot runner systems of insulating the heat from the partforming
cavity where you are trying to freeze the plastic. In addition, without the air gap
surroundingthemanifoldinanexternallyheatedsystem,leakageconcernsarevirtu
allyeliminated.

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CAEDSMouldDesign
Internallyheated
systems

Someoftheproblemsregardingthissystemarecomplicatedduetotheincreasedof
use of internal heaters and the required crossing arrangement of these heaters. This
crossing arrangement of internal heaters significantly increases the opportunity for
stagnantflowregionstodevelopwherematerialcanhangupanddegrade.Therefore,
these systems are not recommended for use with thermally sensitive materials. In
addition,thepressuredropduringmouldfillingwillbethehighestofanyofthehot
runner molds per amount of material in the runner. The flow cross section can be
increased to reduce the pressure but will result in increased residence time for the
molten material. The development of the frozen layer around the perimeter of the
flowchannelcontinuestocreateachallengewithregardtocolorchanges.

Figure5:Internallyheatedmanifoldandnozzle.

In this type of runner, no heat is introduced other than that from the plastic melt Insulated
flowing through it. For this reason, the insulated system must be run with fast and systems
regularcyclestoensurethatthemeltinthemanifoldandnozzledoesnotsolidify.A
verylargediameterflowchannelisgenerallyused[often>30mm(1.2in)].Thefirst
plasticinjectedintothemouldfillstherunnersystem.Theplasticmaterialalongthe
perimeter of the cooler flow channel freezes, acting as a thermal insulator. As the
mould cycle continues, new material passes between these frozen outer insulating
layers. Keeping this flow channel open depends on material moving through the
runner fast enough so that the molten material in the center is continually replaced
anddoesnothaveachancetocompletelyfreeze.

heated

Themainadvantagesoftheinsulatedsystemsovertheheatedsystemsisthelowcost,
theabilitytohavethoroughcolorchanges,lowpressurelossduetothelargediameter
runners,andthatitintroduceslessheattothepartformingcavities.

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CAEDSMouldDesign
The moulds are designed such that a parting line is located along the melts flow
channel.Thispartinglinecaneasilybeopenedwhilethemouldisstillinthemould
ing machine. Once the melt has frozen, this parting plane can be opened and the
runnercompletelyremoved.Thistechniqueprovidesforverythoroughcolorchanges
aswellasforservicingthemouldiftherunnerinadvertentlyfreezesoff.
Thistypeofhotrunnerisrarelyusedowingtothemanydrawbacksrelatedtoitslack
oftemperaturecontrol.Anyinterruptionorvariationinthecyclecancausesignificant
variationsinflowandmeltconditionsaswellasthepotentialfortherunnertofreeze
offcompletely.Inaddition,thereisaninherentvariationinmelttemperatureacross
the flow channel, which can cause unacceptable results with most materials. If this
system is used, it is normally limited to low tolerance parts and commodity plastics
such as polyethylenes, polypropylenes, and polystyrenes. Often internally heated
nozzles are used in conjunction with an insulated manifold to increase temperature
control of the gate tips. Insulated runner systems are not sold by companies that
specializeindesigningandbuildinghotrunners.Thedesigns,anduse,ofthesesys
temsaremoreofanartdevelopedbyahandfulofcompanies.

Figure5:Internallyheatedmanifoldandnozzle.

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CAEDSMouldDesign
HowtoMakeInjectionMolds;3rdedition;G.Menges,W.MichaeliandP.Mohren; Bibliography
HanserPublishers

Successful Injection Moulding Process, Design and Simulation; J.P. Beaumont, R.


NagelandR,Sherman;HanserPublishers

PlasticsMaterials andProcessing;3rd edition; A. Brent Strong; Pearson Prentice


Hall

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