There are times when it is necessary to move tooling from one molder to another. Cost considerations, quality and delivery issues can force your hand to move tooling. Changing molding vendors is always fraught with hidden perils but there ways to mitigate your risks. Successful tooling transfers take careful planning to avoid production delays and unexpected costs.Keeping the tool in Place
Many times you may find that moving a tool only moved a problem to another vendor who has even less experience than your current one with your product. It is not unusual to find that you will have to pay more for the product after moving. If this is the case consider offering that increase to your existing molder. It could be that the parts were underbid by your current molder and your issues could be related to "cost control" measures. Perhaps mold repairs or enhancements are needed. Keeping a tool in place saves time and money and avoids a whole set of unknown issues that could crop up.Get all your Facts Straight
Before soliciting a new vendor make sure you have all the data prepared. Some key factors about the mold you will need to supply:
- Mold size
The physical size of the mold
- Mold Description
Is it multi-plate, prototype or a unit insert? Does it utilize hot runners or sprue bushings and if so what voltage and how many drops? Any special features? Cooling method.
- Mold Damage or Needed Repairs
Has the existing molder suggested repairs or enhancements? Are there blocked or damaged mold cavities?
- Mold Cavities
How many cavities or parts are produced?
- Part and Runner Weight
How much does the part and runner system weigh?
- Press Size
What size press is the tooling running on? Press sizes are typically rated in tons.
- Production Rate
If possible obtain the production rate of the tooling.
- Inserts or Overmolding
- Does the part have inserts or other overmolded components and if so are they molded in place or in a post operation?
- Post Operations
What post operations are required, degating, finishing assembly, etc.?
- Mold Operation
Does the mold run fully automatic or with operators, robots, sprue pickers? Is there specialty equipment required?
- Mold Drawings
Are mold drawings available? (Always when purchasing tooling insist upon having mold drawings.)
In order to give you a firm quote the molder will need all the above information. Without it they can only give you an estimate.
Make sure you supply all the part requirements: dimensions, tolerances, cosmetic requirements, color matching requirements, packaging & shipping, etc. Send 3D CAD models with the request in a generic CAD format. STEP and IGES are always good. STL files are not useful for production situations.Openly Discuss Any Quality Issues
It is imperative you discuss any quality issues with the product. Send your new prospective vendors samples of good parts as well as rejected ones. An experienced molder will learn a good deal by examining the parts. You don't want to just repeat the problems you already have with a new molder who also has the learning curve of running your parts to overcome. Also make sure you document all acceptance and rejection criteria. Again you will waste time and money if your new vendor does not have all the facts.Build Safety Stock
Make sure you have plenty of acceptable parts in house before you transfer a tool.Expect Minor Tooling Adjustments
It is not unusual for a different molder to have different tooling requirements to work with their equipment. Often these costs are nominal and absorbed by the molder.Unexpected Costs After Transfer
If the information you gave your new vendor was incorrect or unavailable there could be unexpected costs. Tooling repairs and modifications can be quite expensive. It is not unusual for quality issues to be related to poor mold design or maintenance. If a tool has ineffective or improper mold cooling it may not be possible to be corrected. Improper cooling will cause quality issues and a much slower molding cycle. Both increase part costs that your new molder will most likely not be willing to absorb. Blocked off or damaged mold cavities will also impact costs and can be expensive to repair.Process Optimization
Factor in extra time in order to allow the new molder to lean the new mold and process. Especially with tight tolerance or cosmetic parts it can take time to find the optimum molding process and integration of secondary operations. Your old molder may have had years to optimize a tricky process. Give your new molder adequate time to get you quality products.Conclusion
Transferring a molding program does not have to be a nightmare. Just do your homework, be open and clearly communicate with your new molder, and give yourself a little extra time (and perhaps budget) to get production back up to speed.