Over the course of the last 30 years I have only met a handful of people outside the manufacturing community who know anything at all about injection mold making. I still find this disappointing; why should something as essential to our modern way of life be so unknown?
Some of the comments I have heard when I tell people that I have an injection mold making career are downright comical. Usually the funniest are from people with graduate degrees; I suppose they have been in school so long they never had time for practical things!
Funny ideas about injection mold making
A few years ago I lived in a university town and my children attended the local schools, so I had a lot of interaction with doctors and professors. Usually I didn’t even try to explain what I did for a living, I would just tell them something about engineering and industry and they would nod their head.
Why don’t people know about this stuff?
So, here are 10 things that most people don’t know about the fascinating world of plastic injection mold making. There could, of course, be dozens of topics to choose from, but this should be a start.
Take a look at your cell phone
A typical injection mold might take well over 1,000 hours to manufacture. This always draws a frown, how could it take so long? Many jobs run well over 2,000 hours. All this for a cell phone or medical device that is just taken for granted!
1. A mold might cost anywhere from $20,000 to $500,00! It’s a wonder things don’t cost more than they do! It also helps to explain why the wages do not really reflect the skill level of the worker.
2. The individual components of the mold all fit together extremely accurately: typically all the pieces are within a tolerance of .0002 in/.005 mm. This doesn’t mean much, until it is put into perspective. Just imagine taking a cigarette paper and splitting it along the thickness. Now split it again and you have a thickness of .0002 in. That is small!
3. Injection mold making requires a very wide range of skill and experience. Trigonometry, geometry, metallurgy, computer skills, hydraulics, electronics, hand working skills, and an almost endless amount of machining skills. It literally takes years to acquire the knowledge to master the many facets of the mold making process.
4. Many mold makers have completed 2 years of technical school, after high school. This is just to get hired as an apprentice. The normal apprenticeship lasts at least 3 more years. This is a rather intense learning period, after which he is becomes a journeyman. This means he is supposed to know most everything, but really, it is just enough to get into a lot of trouble!
5. It takes a tremendous amount of concentrated effort to truly master plastic injection mold making.
Some of the smartest people you will ever meet work as mold makers. Some of these guys do things like build airplanes in their spare time. The nature of the trade is to be inventive, so, if they ever have any spare time, you can be sure that most guys are busy making electrical generators powered by the sun or a river, building race car engines, or building a timber-frame house by hand.
7. Injection mold making is incredibly global. It is normal to use tools and components from the USA, Europe, and Japan. It is truly remarkable that you can use a machine made in Switzerland, use tooling made in Sweden, cutters made in Japan or Korea, steel made in the US, and it all works, very well.
8. Injection mold making has never been successfully unionized. This is highly unlikely in the future either. Most mold makers are highly independent and not the least bit interested in a union. This is a good thing for the consumer, otherwise things made of plastic would be much more expensive! I did work in a union shop once, but it was in name only; mostly to get work from an aerospace company.
9. Mold makers are the type of person that would stop to help you, if you had a flat tire on the highway. Not only that, but if you had no jack, they would give you their own! Next time you use something made of plastic, thank an injection mold maker!