Build the “Same Old Same Mold”
Steps for evaluating the latest mold innovations
in order to move along the evolution process.
Years ago, in the days of drafting boards and electric
erasers, there was a mold design department where a veteran
lead designer welcomed a young new member to the design staff.
An engineering grad with sufficient years of mold design
experience, the new designer was surprised when on his first
mold assignment, he was handed not only the new part print but
also prints from a similar job from years back. Instructions
were to trace the old tool for the new project ahead. To this
the new designer replied, “I thought I joined an engineering
department, not a tracing department.”
we no longer have to deal with pencil smears and eraser
shavings, with CAD there may now be a greater temptation to
utilize a past design rather than look at a project with fresh
eyes. That tendency is understandable with libraries built up
and ever-reducing leadtimes.
However, if that tendency were followed infinitely,
competitors’ mold quotes will show standards utilized to
deliver performance advantages and make serviceability easier
Most designers are now aware that a large number of standards
have been introduced in the last dozen years. There was a
paradigm shift from “Why would I want to buy it if I can make
it?” to “Why would I want to make it if I can buy it?”
Rather than the only notification about these standards being
a field salesperson and trade shows, now press releases, ads
and Web sites scream out various new gadgets—every product
vying to be included in your next tools.
One doesn’t have a lot of R&D time when the stopwatch starts
running on a new mold design. So perhaps when there is a
breather between hot projects, one can take stock of the type
of industries being served and review some of the mold
innovations that address that segment, and then pick a couple
need to go it alone. If a company has scheduled engineering
meetings, it can be announced that “Unless someone thinks it’s
off base, I’m going to do a little digging to see if a few new
methods would be an upgrade.”
How many of us see an item in an ad and then immediately
change standards and buy it? Not many. But rather than being
intrigued and leaving it as an “FYI”, certain steps can be
taken to evaluate an item in order to move along the evolution
A quick assessment of risk versus reward can determine if a
product is a candidate for evaluation. There’s no need for
change solely for the sake of change, so we must ask how some
time and money can be saved at the mold build. How can
performance be improved for the molder? A quick check on that
and some research can follow.
Begin by contacting the supplier with some pointed questions:
- “Is it tested?”
When a mold designer works up a custom widget to solve a
particular problem, that item is designed one-up, built
one-up and installed one-up. Testing is not involved.
However, if a supplier did not properly test an item,
there could be huge ramifications in the field due to
different interpretations of the product’s application
along with varying levels of installation and maintenance
A first question of a supplier would be “How was this
product tested?” Optimally, the item was lab tested and
exposed to harsher than real world experiences. For
example, it is a telling test when a product that cycles
every eight seconds for one million shots is cycled at
eight times per second for ten million strokes!
However, lab tests alone are not enough. One must ask,
“How was this tested in the field?” Sometimes it isn’t
until a product is in the field that we learn of some
unimagined use, or misuse. Field testing helps a product
developer gain insight to creativity that might occur in
- “Who is using it?”
References are good to check, and a supplier should be
able to give a reference or two of someone successfully
using the product. However, much like personal references
during the recruitment process, expect positives!
To dig a little deeper, ask, “When there has been a
failure in the field, what has it been? What should I be
careful to avoid, or educate my molder about?”
Molds have become more mobile, and with tools traveling
throughout the world, how is support going to be? Can
faraway mold builders buy it within their region? Is there
technical support in their language? Can a molder call
someone within the region with technical questions or for
access to replacement parts?
A supplier can splash country names into its ads or
website, but it is fair game to ask for the name of the
technical employee for the country where a tool may be
built or run.
If it looks like a potential innovation is beneficial and
passes the criteria above, now comes the next step: selling
Perhaps, in the old days, one could make a
unilateral change. Today it behooves one to involve other
designers, one’s supervisor and one’s customer.
The confidence that was gained with a
product during the research stage will be contagious—if some
materials accompany the pitch. Look to the supplier for more
than just catalog pages, but also for assistance with your
presentation meeting: sell sheets, a PowerPoint presentation,
CAD geometry, animations, and more should be employed. Also, a
sample of the product should be arranged for the meeting so
that people can hold the item in their hands, and review
in-box installation instructions.
Trust Then Verify
After a careful but expedient research phase, at some
point the time should be right to get the new innovation
within a mold.
Learn the mold designer’s opinion as to how
it integrated into the design. Ask the moldmaker how assembly
was. And a heads-up to molding may be warranted depending on
Yes it is something different, but keeping
one’s eyes on the prize is how things advance.
Visit a dozen mold
builders and molders and ask if they have Tooling
Specifications, and at first the response will be somewhat
positive. “Yes, we have a spec book” is occasionally the
answer, but more often there is just a general understanding
of preferences, while documentation of those preferences may
not be current.
Perhaps in the past the need for hard specs
was less. For example, a custom molder worked with a handful
of local moldmakers, and everyone got to know one another’s
likes and dislikes. But now moldmakers seek out niche work far
and wide, as do molders in order to identify specialists for
their tooling type. Calling out the ground rules is required,
now more than ever.
initiating a specs book, and then by considering everything
that can be specified, it can grow to become a beast of a
document to launch and maintain.
mold builder or molder—keep it very simple with a two-page
document that says, “Unless otherwise specified, our molds
consist of the following…” and list out the preferences for
eyebolt locations, water fittings, default standard components
and preferred mechanisms. Better than nothing!
Click here to download
Make It the Spec
With no red flags after the first tool, and none after a few
more, it’s time to call it the spec. For a product that was
responsibly introduced to the market by a supplier, it is
unlikely that some flaw will rear its head once the tool is
well into production. Instead, the downside ramifications of a
spec change are often earlier, where the item is vulnerable to
an installation or maintenance misinterpretation.
Without a doubt, it is an extra effort to
lead a change of spec within one’s organization, as it is
easier and safer to plop in geometry from yesteryear. However,
those that update their specs methodically advance their
company’s position and bottom line, as well as their own value
to the organization.
Download Your Mold Spec Guidlines Here
(Microsoft word document).
Article reprinted courtesy of
Moldmaking Technology Magazine, February 2007 Issue.