K 2013: Virtual molding trials possible with new simulation software

The start-up production of new parts in injection molding is normally accompanied by extensive mold trials and iterations. Now, a Virtual Molding software package allows this to be accomplished in the digital realm, reportedly offering an economic and time-effective alternative to conduct virtual injection molding trials and part try-outs totally independent of machine time and operator availability.

Tool temperature simulation is a critical component of accurate simulation of multiple injection molding cycles.

Supplied by Sigma Engineering GmbH (Aachen, Germany), the software was debuted at the K 2013. It reportedly enables injection molders to effectively bring their know-how early into the development process. Virtual Molding simulates the complete injection molding process in detail and thereby opens up machine time for actual production, saves on consumption of raw materials, and reduces energy consumption, among other benefits.

"Virtual Molding is not only a completely new technology", explains Marco Thornagel, Executive Director at Sigma: "Above all, Virtual Molding is a whole new method. The injection molder gets from us a tool to communicate his know-how through the complete development process in a comprehensive way. He gains certainty in his planning, improves his confidence to engage on deadlines and the quality towards his customers, and strengthens therefore his position as a value-added partner."

When a new plastic part is developed, each link in the development chain takes responsibility for its own field. The designer takes care of the article geometry and the mechanical part properties, often involving the use of injection molding simulation. The mold designer takes care of the mold mechanics, steel selection, and centering, among other tasks, and the injection molder has at the end the responsibility to produce plastic parts with the mold already developed, up to the required quality standards. Oft enough, according to Sigma, mistakes made over the development process appear only at the injection molding stage, where the time and cost pressure is imminent and the position of the processor towards his customers gets compromised. For the processor it is therefore absolutely necessary to bring his know-how early enough into the development process according to Sigma. "Precisely these are cases where Virtual Molding adds value, it says.

"You can imagine Virtual Molding as a virtual injection molding machine," explains Thornagel. "It clearly demonstrates the effects of the injection molding process related to part and mold quality. Up to now, the only way to get good parts was to stay in front of the machine and to vary parameters with the mold already built until the parts fulfilled the quality requirements. With virtual Molding this optimization takes place long before the steel is cut. How much real iteration can you afford nowadays? The planning and optimization of the injection molding process in parallel to the geometry design and the mold development makes troubleshooting at the end superfluous. Processing problems can be identified and resolved, before they even appear. Herewith we offer a new possibility to reduce development time and to minimize risks. For our customers this is an appealing offer, particularly considering global competition."

A further important advantage: with the demonstration of all process parameters and their consequences in the injection molding process on the screen, at any time and any location from mold and part, the process becomes far clearer. Many effects which in practice do not find any explanation, will find their real causes based on the physical information about the flowing and cooling effects of the plastic material. "After our first installations in the industry we have realized that the communication within a company now flows in a different way: the processing engineer can show the mold maker where the exact cause for a tempering problem originates and which solutions are realistic from the production point of view. Or the designer can understand at an early stage why a part concept is not viable due to production reasons," claims Dr. Thornagel. "It is not an overstatement to say that Virtual Molding can change the way a company does business."

At K 2013, Sigma also reiterated the importance of taking into account temperature distribution throughout the tool in order to achieve accurate simulations. "Our flow simulation software incorporates 3D modeling of the tool and its temperature distribution into the equation because it has major influences on weld lines and warpage, for example," said Goetz Hartmann, Managing Director at Sigma, in an interview with PlasticsToday at the K Show. "Tool temperature also varies from cycle to cycle, and this is taken into account in Virtual Molding."


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