Overmolding doesn’t just have a future in product manufacturing; it is the future. With the injection-molding market value expected to reach $496.22 billion by 2025, this industry might as well be on a rocket ship headed to Mars; the next several years are nothing short of Sci-Fi-level extraordinary. Autonomous cars, bacteria-resistant medical equipment, printed micro-electrical components—they all require specialized cable assemblies that are as sophisticated as the end product. To raise the bar, manufacturers will need to rethink how technology supports their operations. Check out these three mind-blowing trends that will completely transform the future of product development and manufacturing. Will you be ready?
Manufacturing will become human-less.
Human involvement won’t entirely vanish; machines still need to be told what to do (at least for now). But Industry 4.0 (a term used to describe the advancement of manufacturing facilities) is transforming operations by integrating revolutionary technologies, such as robotics and smart machines, to automate and optimize the way products are manufactured.
Already, manufacturers use collaborative Cartesian robots that work side-by-side with human coworkers to automate specific overmolding tasks, such as insert loading or de-molding parts with complex shapes and ejection angles. In the not-so-distant future, we will see “articulated-arm” robots kick this man-machine relationship up a notch. Articulated-arm robots have incredibly advanced rotary joints that interact with one another to perform complicated tasks, such as part inspections, packaging, welding, degating, etc. These robots will also be easily reprogrammable without the need for tedious coding, making them fast and efficient at re-tasking. Add “smart” machines that leverage the Internet of Things to self-monitor, and we have a manufacturing environment with nearly zero risks of unexpected equipment failures or maintenance issues that can delay production.
Autonomy will make high-and low-volume orders economical and customizable.
As hinted above, technology will continue to evolve, but not just for the purpose of automation. Industry 4.0 will eventually influence the next generation of manufacturing, in which processes will be autonomous. Production systems will think for themselves, self-configure based on the product at hand, and may eventually remove humans from tasks involving physical labor. Among the countless benefits of an autonomous manufacturing environment (greater safety and less human error, to name a couple), this technology will create an ultra-fast, agile production process that can crank out small batches and pivot quickly to prepare for the next order. Furthermore, human technicians will be able to communicate with smart machines during production to adjust or customize product features as the parts are manufactured.
Overmold tooling and processes will rise up to meet the sophistication of advancing technology.
Rapid prototyping will become even more accessible and functional, enabling engineers to test molds and injection processes early in the development process. Product teams will be able to validate or adjust designs within minutes of producing a functional prototype to fast-track development and dramatically reduce the risk of production issues or product recalls.
As technology continues to break down barriers and address limitations, product designers will have far fewer constraints to work around, enabling them to truly innovate. To keep up with the speed of production in this unencumbered environment, advanced hot runner systems and sensors will monitor and adjust controls for the perfect temperature, injection pressure, speed, volume and curing time, and intelligent molds and servo-electric tooling will detect and correct manufacturing issues the moment they occur.
The bottom line is this—if product developers intend to leverage state-of-the-art technology to take their concepts to unimaginable heights, they need a leading-edge manufacturing partner who also adopts technological advancements to decrease cycle times, increase precision, lean down operations, improve safety, reduce time-to-market and generate high-quality products. The quality of this partnership will have everything to do with your market survival.
For more information on customized overmolding for your new product, check out our free overmolding guide, A Comprehensive Look at Overmolding.