In the early 2000s, automotive manufacturers unveiled the first plastic structural components for cars, which had the advantage of being more lightweight than their metal counterparts, unlocking improved fuel efficiency and cheaper production. Today, injection molding is now a dominant production method for manufacturing plastic car parts in the automotive industry.
Injection molding is an established production process in which automotive mould manufacturers inject molten plastic materials into a mold cavity. The melted plastic then cools and hardens, and the manufacturers extract the finished part. Though the mold design process is critical and challenging (a poorly designed mold can result in defects), injection molding itself is a reliable method for producing solid plastic parts with a high-quality finish.
Here are a few reasons why the process is beneficial for automotive plastic parts production:
In the automotive industry, repeatability—or the ability to consistently produce identical parts—is crucial. Because automotive plastic injection molding typically relies on robust metal molds, the final molded automotive parts produced using the mold are practically identical. Some factors come into play with injection molding, but injection molding is a highly repeatable process if the mold has a good design and finishing.
2. Scale and Cost
The injection mold-making process can be an expensive process due to the cost of the mold. However, it remains a highly scalable process whose overall cost decreases as the manufacturer makes more parts. For mass production applications, injection molding is thus beneficial to the manufacturer. For anything less than mass production, however, injection molding tooling costs may curb the cost efficiency of the process.
3. Material Availability
A significant benefit of using injection molding for automotive production is the wide range of rigid, flexible, and rubber plastics the process is compatible with. Manufacturers use a wide range of different polymers for various applications in the automotive industry, including ABS, polypropylene, acrylic, acetal, nylon, polycarbonate, and more.
4. High Precision and Surface Finish
Injection molding is ideal for producing plastic parts with relatively simple geometries and results in high surface finish quality. Manufacturers have many finish options when producing parts, including various surface textures—such as glossy, rough, or matte—which they apply directly to the automotive exterior mould rather than the molded part. However, different plastic materials also influence the final surface finish.
5. Color Options
In automotive plastic injection molding, it is easy to modify the colors of molded automotive parts to fit the vehicle’s color scheme. Unlike other processes, injection molding allows you to mix dyes with the raw material pellets before manufacturing begins. This produces solid, consistent coloration without the need for painting or tinting after the molding is complete.