Adding multiple layers of high-quality materials to a plastic product enhances its durability and performance. Overmolding allows diverse parts to fuse together naturally, avoiding adhesives and resulting in a stronger, more resilient product. This process is commonly used in hardware tools like blades, pocket knives, pliers, wrenches, hammers, and tape measures. These types of power tools typically incorporate an overmolding component that protects the product from damage caused by abrasion and impact.
Overmolding involves using a rubber-like material that fuses to the plastic substrate to form a solid unit. Depending on the type of overmolding method, the two substances can bond chemically or mechanically. Choosing compatible grades of both materials ensures that they will fuse together, while also maintaining their distinct material properties. The selection of the appropriate materials for an overmold depends on many variables, including the core function of the part and its intended use.
For example, a power tool that needs to dampen sound or vibration will require thicker overmold materials than those used in other overmold applications. Moreover, the surface texture of the overmolding locations and the level of friction between the two materials can make a significant difference in their performance.
The choice of the appropriate overmolding method also impacts production costs. Co-injection, injection molding, and insert molding are three overmolding methods that produce a strong mechanical bond between the two materials. These methods also provide excellent aesthetics. However, they are expensive and labor-intensive.
On the other hand, pick-n-place overmolding is a cost-optimized process for small batches of overmolded products. This method takes advantage of the fact that overmolding can be done while the original injection-molded part is still hot. The overmolded component can be manually removed from the first mold and inserted into the second one to complete the overmolding process.
As the overmolding process progresses, it is important to avoid delamination between the two materials. This can occur if the overmolding process exceeds the optimal temperature range for the two types of plastic. Fortunately, engineers can prevent this by incorporating a mechanical interlock between the overmolded and substrate components.
It is also necessary to carefully consider gating, ejector pin locations, and parting lines when designing an overmolded product. These details are often overlooked by designers, but getting them wrong can reduce a part’s performance or appearance. For instance, the shutoff between the overmold and substrate needs to be sharp without any thinning or feathering. Additionally, gating and ejector pin locations should be located in the thickest wall areas. Finally, flow length must be minimized to avoid air entrapment that can interfere with adhesion. All of these factors can contribute to a smooth, successful overmolding process.