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Mold Making Services In The U.S. Vs. China—Which Should You Choose?

Posted by Drew Santin on Nov 13, 2017 8:00:00 AM

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If your company requires plastic injection molding services to create a plastic part, one of the first—and most critical—decisions to make is whether you’re going to go with a plastic injection mold service in the U.S. or one based overseas. While many countries offer mold-making services, China is the primary player in this market. 

Your company might be leaning toward China because their plastic injection molding services are generally low-cost—you’ll likely save between 20-60% with a injection mold made in China. You may also achieve faster results.

But in order to benefit from those low costs and fast results, a number of factors would need to be in place so the quality of your injection mold doesn’t suffer:

  • You’d need superb engineering support. Without it, you could end up with a mold that has to be thrown away or completely retooled. Can you find such services in China? Possibly, but you’ll need to vet the companies you consider very closely.
  • You’d need clear and effective communication between your company and the mold-making shop. Working with a mold-making service based in a different country, with a different language, and a different culture increases the complexity of communication (both in terms of the language barrier and cultural sensitivities), and increases the chance that errors will occur.
  • You’d need confirmation that the mold-making service can handle the intricacies of the mold you require. The complexity of the plastic part you need directly influences the complexity of the mold. Has the company you’re considering demonstrated that they can handle this type of mold? If not, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere.
  • You’d need to visit the facility one or more times throughout the life of the project. China is about 7,000 miles from the U.S., making it a lengthy and costly trip. But at the very least, for a small mold-making project, you’d need to be there for at least the last two weeks of production, for tryouts, sampling, and any tooling adjustments that need to be made. Note that you’ll also have to plan for adjustments taking longer than anticipated. If that happens, would you be able to extend your trip, or make another? If not, you may end up with a mold that doesn’t meet your specifications.

So while cost savings can be considerable, all of the above elements need to be in place for you to get a satisfactory mold. If you disregard these elements, you run the risk of selecting a mold that won’t create a good looking plastic part once you begin working with a plastic injection molding service.

It’s important to point out that U.S.-based mold-making services aren’t de facto better than Chinese mold-making services. As in any industry, there are quality U.S. mold-making services and poor quality ones—the same goes for those in China. When you work with a U.S.-based shop, you’ll encounter less travel and fewer communication problems, but it all depends on the mold-making service you go with.

Regardless of whether you choose a shop in the U.S. or China, you’ll also want to take the following into consideration:

Can the mold-making service meet your quality standards?

Quality U.S. mold-making shops source only the highest quality steel for their molds. But unless you specify the grade of steel and the country you want the steel to come from, similar shops in China may use poorer quality materials. Here at Micron, we only use high-grade German steel, which is known to be both durable and reliable for plastic injection molding services. Many mold-makers in China rely on steel made in China, which may not be consistent with the grade of steel you require.

Does the company have tooling expertise, and are they willing to make tooling adjustments along the way?

The plastic injection molding company you select should have experience in the type of mold you’re using, so they can provide insight on how the material will flow in the mold and the different types of surface finish. It’s worth noting that some U.S.-based companies don’t actually build the molds themselves—they work with a broker to purchase them from shops in China or elsewhere. Micron molds are all made in-house (unless our clients request a mold to be made elsewhere), so we have quality control over tooling and are free to make adjustments during the process. If you work with a mold-making service in China, you will need to take tooling adjustments into account and consider what could happen if those adjustments don’t suit you.

Questions?

Here at Micron, we specialize in in-house mold making services as well as plastic injection molding services for small- to mid-size companies. We know you’re making some critical decisions right now that’ll affect the quality and efficiency of your future plastic parts, so if you have any questions at all about Micron’s process for mold-making or injection molding, we’d be happy to help answer them.

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Topics: injection molding