When in Doubt, Go With the Flow—Proper Resin Flow
Use thermoplastic ProtoFlow analysis to improve the mouldability of your parts
Designing a good injection-moulded part is dependent on many factors. Proper flow of the resin into the mould is one of them. ProtoFlow is a proprietary software program that was created by Protolabs to digitally simulate flow of resin through your part geometry. The resulting data that emerges will essentially help you design a part that will mould better.
How does ProtoFlow help?
The analysis also examines how resins flow with certain temperatures and injection pressures (Figure 2). As material cools it begins to harden which is why gate pressure increases. The higher the pressure, the more difficult the fill, which translates to greater concern about weak knit lines (contributing to poor part integrity), flash, sink, and shorts.
Plastics with good flow characteristics include polypropylene, K-Resin, HDPE, LDPE and unfilled nylons. Resins such as PC and ABS/polycarbonate tend to flow poorly.
ProtoFlow works to pinpoint issues that can arise from these difficult flowing materials as well as other issues like thin walls and complicated geometries, providing solutions to improve flow and mouldability. ProtoFlow, however, does not show areas of distortions or sink in your part.
Our Customer Service Engineers (CSEs) will run an initial flow analysis with our default material Makrolon 2458 (PC) if a material is not listed. Since it’s a difficult resin, a successful run through ProtoFlow often means that any other resins you select will work as well.
What if your part is not filling right? A CSE can provide solutions such as increasing the wall thickness of the part, adding multiple gates or different material options (Figure 3). Keep in mind that if you see Makrolon 2458 listed as the material and it’s not what you intend to use, CSEs can correct the material and run another simulation.
ProtoFlow analysis is automatically applied to a small percentage of parts where mouldability issues are immediately present but flow analysis is also available upon request. And better yet, it’s free, all in an effort to help you design better parts and help us get them to you as fast as possible.
If you have any questions about ProtoFlow or our general capabilities, a Protolabs CSE is available at +44 (0)1952 683047. For additional resources such as molding and prototyping processes, resin options, video tutorials, and more, check out protolabs.co.uk.