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Subject: Injection Moulding: Mould Cost rss

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Tiarnan Murphy
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Hey there, thanks for stopping by.
I've been working on a boardgame involving a variety of minis. Playtesting has so far been done with hand made cardboard standees. But I had planned for the final product to use injection moulded plastic minis.
I have been talking to a few manufacturers and got a quote back from one of them of around $1000 per mould not including any plastic used to make the minis.
I was just wondering if anyone had much experience with this. Is this a normal price? Is it to high and I'm getting ripped off? Or is it to low to be confident of a good quality product?
The game I'm working on has 31 different mini designs so the moulds would cost $31,000. Obviously that's alot of money. Does anyone know of any cheaper alternatives that would still produce a good mini?
Any advise you can give would be hugely appreciated
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George P.E., PMP, DM
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That seems really low. Ours cost more in the $10k to $50k range for items not much bigger. Is that for a rapid prototyping mold? We've made things using a 3D printer to create the blank used to then make a laser-sintered (usually SLA) mold, and then they poured polyurethane into that. Those cost around $1k to $2k, but those molds are only good for a few score items before they disintegrate. You might want to ask how many items you can get out of each mold.
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maf man
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it depends on their set up and how they would do the 31 minis. If they can make batches of the 31 from one mold block its obviously going to be cheaper than having 31 different mold blocks. You may be able to work on a long term plan including all your designs to get a better deal but that mold cost doesn't seem too outlandish to me. Whats the size of the mold? How detailed is it? Is it your design? Have they given you a quote on the pieces themselves? Chances are the parts themselves will be fairly cheap, its just that hurdle of the tooling is high (for them too, they probably don't make much money with that, they want to use it)

GeorgeMo wrote:
but those molds are only good for a few score items before they disintegrate.

would you mind going into more detail? I havent actually worked on a 3d printed injection mold but I've gone to some shows where the 3d printer boasts about their ability to do so (Stratasys and they claim hundreds of shots, with the right material of course).
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Tiarnan Murphy
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GeorgeMo wrote:
Is that for a rapid prototyping mold?


No, I was told each mould would be good for the entire 1000 unit minimum order.

mafman6 wrote:
Whats the size of the mold? How detailed is it? Is it your design? Have they given you a quote on the pieces themselves?

I don't know how big the mould is but the minis are all 30mm high to the eye with 15x15mm square base.
None of the minis are overly intricate, though they aren't too simple either I suppose. They each represent either a human hero or various demon like enemies.
The minis were all designed by a friend of mine. She and I have shared ownership of the designs.
No quote for the minis no, but for the non-moulded components I was quoted $10.15 per unit, including board, cards, box, manual, dice, punchboard tokens, and character boards.
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George P.E., PMP, DM
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mafman6 wrote:
GeorgeMo wrote:
but those molds are only good for a few score items before they disintegrate.

would you mind going into more detail? I havent actually worked on a 3d printed injection mold but I've gone to some shows where the 3d printer boasts about their ability to do so (Stratasys and they claim hundreds of shots, with the right material of course).


I'm not the ME, so I don't know all of the details. What I know is that we hand them our 3D-printed object, they laser sinter the mold (SLA), and they pour polyurethane into that SLA mold. The SLA material is good for a few dozen or a few score pours, and costs around $1k to $2k each. That's at very low volume, a few molds for 10s of molded objects.

Edit: Corrected EE to ME (I am the EE blush ).
 
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maf man
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Well whatever the price, unless this is prototyping I hope they are able to keep the tooling alive as long as you need it. Ask to make sure they wont charge you again when the tooling breaks or ask for specifics on that. Maybe ask if the tooling is steel or aluminum and if they can do aluminum. That would be cheaper but some places don't favor it as steel is simply stronger; but that may be wasted on your needs.
Where the sizing matters:
The bigger picture you can go the better. If they say a mold costs $1000 it matters on what you can do with one mold and what they can do with what size of mold. If thats what it takes to have one guy made but they can run a bigger mold that includes 10 guys chances are the cost doesn't go from 1000 to 10000. And if its does you may be able to negotiate as their giving you a rounded number.
Have you made sure your design is injection friendly?
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maf man
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GeorgeMo wrote:
What I know is that we hand them our 3D-printed object, they laser sinter the mold (SLA), and they pour polyurethane into that SLA mold. The SLA material is good for a few dozen or a few score pours, and costs around $1k to $2k each.

Have you looked into FDM printing recently? The presentation I went to last fall, there was a guy who was starting up his own shop and he was kinda the trial run for this stronger material that they have that had some type of mix of material that had plexiglass or something like that. He was able to print out a mold and stick it right into his machine and run it hundreds of times before signs of fatigue.
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George P.E., PMP, DM
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mafman6 wrote:
GeorgeMo wrote:
What I know is that we hand them our 3D-printed object, they laser sinter the mold (SLA), and they pour polyurethane into that SLA mold. The SLA material is good for a few dozen or a few score pours, and costs around $1k to $2k each.

Have you looked into FDM printing recently? The presentation I went to last fall, there was a guy who was starting up his own shop and he was kinda the trial run for this stronger material that they have that had some type of mix of material that had plexiglass or something like that. He was able to print out a mold and stick it right into his machine and run it hundreds of times before signs of fatigue.


No, and we need to do another run soon. I'll check that out, thanks.
 
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Tiarnan Murphy
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Thanks, I'll ask them about that.

I think the designs should be ok. I asked what would be possible early on in my contact with them and they said they could do most things but to avoid undercuts as they would require multi-part moulds which they said cost more.
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Jason Sheehan
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Depending on the size, design, complexities, of each mini, you might possibly be able to combine multiple figures on each mold. This is called a family mold, which could save you a lot of money. We’ve been able to do this for customers in the past and save them money. BUT it all depends on the designs of the pieces and whether or not there are potential mold release issues and evenly distributed material flow when combining multiple pieces on one family mold.

Hope that helps!
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Tiarnan Murphy
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Hey there

Thanks for the reply, I've actually asked them about that, as per advice from mafman6.

They said they'd see what was possible and get back to me. Just waiting to hear back.
 
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Jeff Saxton
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Tuirseach wrote:
I have been talking to a few manufacturers and got a quote back from one of them of around $1000 per mould not including any plastic used to make the minis.


I've got a small injection molder in my garage (very small) and was trained as a die maker, though never made a career of it (I'm a hobbyist mainly, small production model railroad parts).

$1000 a mold wouldn't even cover our costs in 1983, much less today, for a small mini as you describe. I'd say the costs are too low by a factor of five or six, or else you are going to get a really poor quality part, or the "dies" they are offering are not true injection molding dies, but are designed to produce resin parts.

I'll also note my dies are machined aluminum, 3" x 7" x 1" (each, total 2" when closed) and take about 800 psi, and have been in use for nearly thirty years, using standard polystyrene pellets as the molding medium.



For short run parts, I have made poured epoxy molds, they normally last roughly 100 parts, but if that's all I needed ...
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Jake Staines
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Mack_me_Bucko wrote:

$1000 a mold wouldn't even cover our costs in 1983, much less today


Out of curiosity, how much of your cost estimate is labour? I was shown a die-making setup in the late 80s/early 90s which consisted of a diamond bit held in a pantograph that a human painstakingly carved out the mould cavity with - but these days, as I understand it, moulds are often CNC carved.

That alone should cut down on the costs significantly for any major producer of moulds that can amortise the cost of the machine over multiple units. On top of this, software solutions exist to plan the layout of the mould and model the flow of the plastic, so mould design isn't necessarily such an expert job as it once was. While a block of aluminium isn't amazingly cheap, I'd be surprised to see it costing a thousand dollars for a slab large enough to make a mould for a couple of minis out of.
 
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Tiarnan Murphy
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I'm also curious about that.

From the current price of aluminium $1612.75 per metric ton, and it's density 2.7g per cubic centimeter.

If I were to get a mould that was say 6x6x6cm mould, which I imagine would be enough for a 30mm tall mini (though I am by no means an expert), that should cost only cos about 94c for the aluminium itself, if it's being bought in bulk, which I suspect it would be.
That means essentially the entire cost is coming from labour and tooling.

But I don't know what way that's divided up?
 
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Jeff Saxton
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Bichatse wrote:
Out of curiosity, how much of your cost estimate is labour? I was shown a die-making setup in the late 80s/early 90s which consisted of a diamond bit held in a pantograph that a human painstakingly carved out the mould cavity with - but these days, as I understand it, moulds are often CNC carved.


Both prior questions are valid -- my experience was that the material used for the die blocks was of negligible cost in the grand scheme of pricing, now or back years ago (unless if it was a large die-set).

That said, some molds (like you'd see in a plastic model kit) weigh hundreds of pounds, and are steel).

Back in the day, as now, it's all labor and time. It may have been a sharpened tool cutter and a pantograph, or a fancy CNC machine -- but the 3D pantograph or the CNC machine can cost over a hundred thousand dollars. Someone has to either pantograph the die, or program the CNC, and that's a direct labor cost -- one which I can't speak to today.

But as an experiment, the die set pictured above, which I made in either late 1987 or early 1988 (I know it spanned a few weeks in Winter), took roughly 40 to 42 hours, and was cut using a 3D pantograph and a milling machine -- and about 98% of the design was actually done purely on the milling machine as an experiment to see if I could do it without access to the pantograph, in fact.

The parts made are "sideframes" for model railroad "trucks" (the things that hold freight car wheels together and in alignment). The bars that are the main frame, the cavities for the journal boxes, and everything else were milled using calculations and drawn designs converted into what could be called a "tool path" - but the tool was propelled by me spinning the handles on the milling machine itself, and starting or stopping at set points based on those calculations. The only thing that used the pantograph were the star shapes on the journal lids (barely visible on the left side of the right die half in the image).

At my current hourly pay rate back then, that 42 hours would have equated to about $600.00 for my own labor -- but I was making them for myself, using my employer's machines after hours. Had you been a paying client of the company I worked for, that 42 hours would have cost you around $2300.00. At their shop rate today, that would be $3570.00.

Then add that each "shot" from the injection molder to get your final parts would be about $1.00 each (it's a labor intensive manual machine that I operate myself with muscle and time -- not a whit of hydraulics or power other than electricity for the heaters). A modern large injection molding machine can spit parts out for anywhere from pennies to quarters per part.

So a quote of $1000.00 for a fancier or more complex die made today still seems quite low to me, unless it is an exceedingly simple part you are having made.
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Michael Smith
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1,000 a mold, that's a steal, but it will probably show in the mold quality. I doubt for 1k a piece they're using a true CNC process for the mold. Probably more like an epoxy mold, which is fine, but the quality suffers, and the molds themselves aren't as dense. Basically less detail, and flimsy molds sounds like. A good price for a true aluminum mold is around 2-4k. It might be aluminum molds, but i doubt it's true CNC machined. Of course maybe it's the real deal? Great deals pass me by every day lol, I'm just skeptical of them.

Ask them more about their process, specifically how they make their molds, what material is used, and the amount of pressure each mold is injected with. Also ask if once they are done, do you get to keep the molds, or do they stay in house? This would help everyone here understand more about the price your paying, but as i said earlier, it could be legit, maybe they're using a process that is new to the market that we haven't explored yet?
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Ze Masqued Cucumber
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Seems a correct price for an asian-made 32mm miniature injection tool.
A few years ago, I made some research, and IIRC asian-based manufacturers charged about $5k for a 6-cavity tool (i.e. the modl contains 6 32mm minis).
So today your 1k$ quote per mini (cavity) doesn't seem off-base.
Of course if the tooling is manufactured in EU or US it will be much more expensive, as indicated above.

Anyway the print run is a major factor. Injection modling is only interesting if your print run is large enough.
There are technologies more suited for small (or very small) runs (metal spin-casting, resin vacuum-casting, etc), where the tooling is much cheaper but the cost per part much higher.
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Tiarnan Murphy
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Roolz wrote:
Seems a correct price for an asian-made 32mm miniature injection tool.

The manufacturer is in China so I guess that makes sense.

ZavenGames wrote:

Ask them more about their process, specifically how they make their molds, what material is used, and the amount of pressure each mold is injected with. Also ask if once they are done, do you get to keep the molds, or do they stay in house? This would help everyone here understand more about the price your paying, but as i said earlier, it could be legit, maybe they're using a process that is new to the market that we haven't explored yet?

I'll check that and let you guys know what they say.

Thanks for all the info and questions
Really helping me over that learning curve
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Chairman Sheng-ji Yang
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Out of curiosity (I don't want to derail the thread), how do the costs of custom wooden pieces compare at the same scale of production?
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Tiarnan Murphy
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I imagine it would depend on what kind of piece and what you mean by custom.

For example a meeple with a face painted on it could be considered custom but on a large scale would cost hardly any more than a standard meeple
 
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Chairman Sheng-ji Yang
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I meant custom in terms of shape and painted in a single color. Like a small space ship design, no bigger than, say 2-3 meeples in size.


 
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Jeff Saxton
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Hast3 wrote:
I meant custom in terms of shape and painted in a single color. Like a small space ship design, no bigger than, say 2-3 meeples in size.


Assuming you meant "made like a normal meeple" -- then three individual pieces would cost roughly what 3000 pieces would cost total. For wooden meeples, usually a shaper with custom cutters is used. Making the custom steel cutter blades is the pricey thing, and once they are made, you can make 1 or 10,000 meeples from them. It would take as much time and set-up to make three as it would take to make 3000.
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Jake Staines
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On the other hand, if you only wanted three you could have custom meeples laser-cut for much less than having custom spindle-moulder/shaper blades machined. Or just hand-cut with a scrollsaw!
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Chairman Sheng-ji Yang
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Thanks, both of you.

 
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Kai Scheuer
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Hi Tiarnan,

Just a thought, but have you considered 3d printing instead of injection moulding?
Depending on the amount of detail desired, the result might be on par with moulding - but the price might be different...



Kind regards,
Kai
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