When making a product made out of plastic at scale, mould toolings are critical.
However, you’ll find more often than not that for the same design, you can have a wide range of different prices.
Why plastic mould tooling prices can vary so much?
What are the main parameters that make them vary?
What is the best way to select a mould tooling maker?
Let’s dive in.
Where is the trade-off?
Let’s address first how most people handle that issue aka the “worst possible way” which is by using cost as the sole determining factor.
Of course, they won’t select the cheapest mould maker cause “we don’t do that over here, we prioritize quality over cost” but selecting the 2nd cheapest is no different.
That’s where things go south: choosing solely based on cost can lead to compromises in quality, precision, and long-term reliability. It might result in subpar tooling that could affect the production process & product quality.
Let’s phrase it that way: you have committed a company on delivering mould toolings to you which they will 100% do. If these mould toolings can manufacture your product at scale and at the required level of quality is a whole another story (and price!).
Similarly, you have paid a cheap price to open mould toolings but who says that the rework for said bad quality toolings will be cheap? Has the supplier performed any serious DFM on the mould design? Has he shared this DFM to you for review? Has he communicated the material quality of your mould tooling and expected amount of shots on it?
Mold Pricing can be all over the place.
As usual, the best choice for a mould tooling maker depends on the specific requirements of your project and your budget constraints. It is on you to spec these out and communicate them properly to your mould maker.
To do so, you want to carefully assess the most critical parameters for your specific project and industry. Balancing these factors will help you make an informed decision based on your budget, production requirements and quality standards.
Here are some key parameters that can influence the pricing of plastic mould tooling:
- Simple vs. Complex Designs: The complexity of the mould design significantly impacts the cost. More intricate and complex designs require more intricate tooling, which can increase both material and labor costs.
- Example: Imagine designing a complex smartphone case with intricate patterns, undercuts, curves, and precise openings for ports and buttons. The mould for such a case would require advanced design & manufacturing techniques as well as being more complex compared to a simpler design, leading to higher tooling costs.
- Material Selection: The type of material used for the mould can affect the cost. High-quality, durable materials are more expensive but may be necessary for certain applications.
- Example: For a high-end smartwatch casing made of a specialized, durable plastic material, the mould might need to be constructed from high-grade steel or alloys capable of withstanding the repeated injection molding processes for this unique material, increasing the cost.
- Size and Weight: Larger and heavier moulds generally cost more because they require more material, energy, and time to produce.
- Example: Consider the production of large plastic housings for smart home devices, like a home security camera. The mould for such a sizable housing would require more material and machining time, contributing to higher tooling costs.
- Quantity: The quantity of parts you intend to produce affects tooling costs. High-volume production may justify higher upfront tooling costs, while lower-volume production might require a more cost-effective approach.
- Example: If you plan to produce millions of units of a plastic consumer product, like a smartphone case, you might opt for high-quality steel moulds despite their higher upfront cost. The increased production volume justifies the investment as the cost per unit decreases over time.
Tolerance & Surface Finish
- Tolerance Requirements: Tighter tolerances and specific surface finishes can increase the complexity of the tooling and, subsequently, the cost.
- Example: For medical devices with strict precision requirements, such as components for a diagnostic instrument, the mould must be designed and manufactured to extremely tight tolerances. Achieving such precision increases the complexity of the tooling and raises the cost in consequence.
- Mould Construction Method: Different tooling methods, such as CNC machining, additive manufacturing, or traditional machining, can impact costs. Some methods may be more time-consuming or require specialized skills.
- Example: While 3D printing may be suitable for prototyping a new design for a smart speaker enclosure for example, scaling mass production would likely require a traditionally machined mould to meet the speed and precision demands of regular consumer electronics manufacturing.
- Time Constraints: Urgency can increase costs. If you need the tooling quickly, manufacturers might charge a premium for expedited services.
- Example: Launching a new tablet in time for the holiday season may require expedited tooling services to meet tight deadlines. The tooling manufacturer may charge a premium for accelerated production to ensure timely product release.
- Supplier Reputation and Expertise: The experience and reputation of the mould tooling manufacturer can affect costs. More experienced and reputable suppliers might charge higher prices but offer better quality and reliability.
- Example: A well-established mould tooling manufacturer known for precision engineering and quality might charge more than a less-known competitor. However, the reliability and consistency of the established manufacturer could outweigh the initial cost difference.
- Location of the Manufacturer: The cost of labor, materials, and overhead expenses varies by region. Manufacturers in regions with higher costs of living or greater demand for their services may charge more.
- Example: Manufacturing in a region with high labor costs, such as Western Europe or North America, could result in more expensive tooling compared to a manufacturer in a region with lower labor costs, such as Southeast Asia.
- Services Included: Some tooling manufacturers may include additional services in their quotes, such as design assistance, prototype development, or ongoing support, which can impact overall costs.
- Example: A tooling manufacturer may offer design optimization services to improve the manufacturability of your plastic part. While this might add to the cost, it can lead to savings in the long run by avoiding issues in the production process.
Mold Maker: a key Partner.
When selecting a mould tooling maker, it's essential to consider a balance between cost, quality & lead time. Here are some key considerations for choosing a mould tooling manufacturer:
- Evaluate Experience and Reputation: look for manufacturers with a proven track record and positive customer reviews. Experience correlates with expertise and reliability.
- Request Quotes from Multiple Suppliers: obtain quotes from several suppliers to compare prices and services. However, be cautious of quotes that seem too good to be true: quality is crucial.
- Review Previous Work: ask for samples or case studies of previous projects to assess the manufacturer's capabilities & quality standards.
- Consider Long-Term Relationships: if your project involves ongoing production, consider a manufacturer that can support your needs over the long term.
- Communication & Collaboration: choose a manufacturer that communicates effectively in order to avoid misunderstanding & delays and is willing to collaborate on design improvements and modifications.
- Quality Assurance: inquire about the supplier's quality control measures and certifications to ensure that they meet industry quality management standards like ISO 9001, ISO 13485 or IATF 16949 for instance. Serious suppliers also get audited regularly by bodies like Bureau Veritas, SGS or TUV among others so do not hesitate to ask for & check their latest audit reports.
It's crucial to carefully assess which parameters are most critical for your specific project and industry. Balancing these factors will help you make an informed decision based on your budget, production requirements, and quality standards.