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Connector Insights from iCONN

How the Overmolding Process Helps Balance Cost and Quality

Posted by Bob LeGere on Mon , June 4, 2018

When done strategically and professionally, the overmolding process is a great way to extend the lifespan of your product’s electrical components and enhance performance and versatility. Over extended periods of time, you can really start to see large returns on the investment of overmolding your products through streamlined production, increased quality, and longevity of the product itself. However, to truly tap into the value of overmolding, development teams must know how to balance cost and quality during the product development process.

Several factors can throw cost or quality of the overmolding process off-kilter. They include unreliable material suppliers, cut-rate materials, and poor tooling design that either waste materials or make assembly a painstaking chore. To help you strike the perfect balance, we have some sage advice:

1. Build Your Supplier Partnership ASAP

Between domestic and international suppliers, your options are limitless. But keep in mind, it’s not unheard of to receive terrible overmolding guidance, or worse—resins that are contaminated or have foreign ingredients that affect melting point, adhesion, performance, etc. The right partner can guarantee high-quality sourcing. For this reason, you’ll want to start scouting a trusted supplier as soon as possible. Early vetting allows your purchasing team to assess all the options available to them and carefully analyze the capabilities of each prospective supplier.

Ideally, your supplier is a proven expert in overmolding materials and supply chain optimization. They should also have the network and reach to connect your product designers and manufacturing teams with virtually any type of overmolding material you need.

Pro Tip: Aim for a single provider with robust inventory and services. This will directly impact your bottom line through decreased delivery charges, inventory maintenance, processing, etc.

2. Select The Right Manufacturer

The right electrical connector and cable assembly manufacturer will take a value-added approach to your overmolding process and maximize your material investments. Many materials have similar strengths and utilities, but that doesn’t mean they perform the same during the plastic injection molding process. Material selection is a single part of the overmolding process, but it’s a critical one. This is why experience is such an important asset to look for in a manufacturing partner. An expert will help you select the right materials for overmolding based on your application specifications and how well the material will perform during the overmolding process.

GIVE MOLDING DESIGN YOUR FULL ATTENTION

A poor mold design or low-grade tooling can ruin your overmolding process. It can result in material waste, parts errors, difficult assembly, or the inability to fulfill order volumes. Once again, your manufacturing partner should have the foresight to design and analyze your mold design for manufacturability. Likewise, they should look for ways to optimize tooling performance and control costs. Such considerations include:

  1. Eliminating undercuts and unnecessary tooling features that can complicate molding designs, jeopardize parts quality, and compromise cost efficiency.
  2. Selecting the right tooling material, such as aluminum tooling for low-volume production and simple mold designs, or steel tooling for high-volume production and complex mold designs.
  3. Choosing the right cavity number and placement, which will ensure that quality parts are produced on the first run, and the optimal number of cavities are used to meet price-per-piece and other monetary goals.
  • Implementing technologies like rapid prototyping and MoldFlow software to create and test how tooling designs and overmolding materials will interact with one another. These technologies will uncover flaws before mass production begins and validate critical configurations. For example, testing may reveal opportunities to change input parameters and enhance the performance of the injection molding process. You can improve your part before it hits the assembly line.

3. Connect Design, Supplier and Manufacturing Teams

Your supplier and manufacturing partner should work closely with your design team to ensure that the materials purchased align with the mold design, manufacturing process and expectations for the finished product. Bringing these three parties together early in the development lifecycle will help them understand your application and overarching goals, make recommendations that align with those specifications and goals, and provide accurate cost estimates to help you plan your budget.

A FINAL PIECE OF ADVICE ON THE OVERMOLDING PROCESS…

Don’t cut corners. Easy and cheap doesn’t typically translate into lasting quality. It’s important that your product team understands and recognizes the tipping point at which cost savings impact quality.
Once again, a trusted partnership with a reputable manufacturer and supplier will help guide you in this endeavor. It’s also important to keep your eye on the big picture instead of the upfront cost. By following these pieces of advice, you can dramatically reduce your risk for errors that will squander your material investments and warrant product recalls or last-minute changes—all of which will drive up hidden costs or jeopardize your product’s reputation for performance, quality and reliability.
Overmolding Guide