Injection molding is widely used in product development, especially for plastic parts. This method allows for the production of a large number of items quickly once a mold is made. It can use different types of plastics, making it adaptable to various product needs. The main steps include designing a mold, injecting molten plastic into it, and then cooling it to form the part. Injection molding is useful because it can make many parts at once, reducing the cost per item. It’s a standard process in manufacturing due to its ability to produce consistent and high-quality parts efficiently.

Understanding Injection Molding Prototyping

Prototyping in injection molding refers to the process of creating an early sample or model of a product using a simplified mold. The purpose is to evaluate a concept, design, or functionality before proceeding to full-scale production. This stage allows designers and engineers to test shapes, materials, and mechanical properties, ensuring the final product will meet the required specifications and quality standards. Prototyping helps identify design flaws, improve accuracy, and save time and resources by addressing issues before mass production begins.

Injection Molding Prototyping Part

Prototyping vs. Full-Scale Production in Injection Molding

Objective and Scale

  • Prototyping: The primary goal is to create a functional model to test design, material, and usability. It is typically done in small quantities to allow for quick assessment and modifications.
  • Full-Scale Production: Aimed at manufacturing the final product in large volumes after all designs and materials have been finalized and tested.

Cost and Investment

  • Prototyping: Generally less expensive in terms of upfront costs because it uses simpler, often less durable molds and does not require the full setup of a production run.
  • Full-Scale Production: Involves significant investment in high-quality, durable molds and the setup of production lines. The initial costs are higher, but the cost per unit decreases significantly with volume.


  • Prototyping: Relatively quick, as the focus is on producing a limited number of samples to evaluate the design. Changes can be made more rapidly.
  • Full-Scale Production: Requires a longer setup time, especially for creating robust molds and optimizing production parameters, but results in faster production rates once underway.

Feedback and Revisions

  • Prototyping: Provides the opportunity for feedback and revisions. The design can be modified based on prototype evaluations without significant cost implications.
  • Full-Scale Production: Typically, no major design changes are made once production starts. Revisions can be costly and time-consuming as they might require new molds and downtime.

Design Considerations for Injection Molding Prototypes

Injection Molding Prototyping -

In the design phase for injection molding prototypes, it’s essential to prioritize uniform wall thickness, as this helps prevent defects and ensures even cooling and solidification of the plastic. The thickness should be adapted to the material and part requirements, with smooth transitions between different sections to avoid stress concentrations. Gating strategy is also crucial; the placement and type of gates affect how the plastic fills the mold and influences the appearance and structural integrity of the final part.

Gates should be positioned to facilitate optimal flow and located in areas that minimize aesthetic disruptions. Additionally, undercuts should generally be avoided because they complicate the mold design and increase production costs. If undercuts are necessary for the part function, consider integrating features like side-actions or lifters into the mold design, but remember that these add to the complexity and cost of the mold.

The Prototyping Process in Injection Molding

The injection molding prototyping process follows these steps:

  1. Conceptualization and Design: Begin with a clear concept of the part or product you wish to create. Use CAD software to develop detailed 3D models of the prototype. This stage may involve multiple iterations to refine the design based on functionality, aesthetics, and manufacturability.
  2. Material Selection: Choose appropriate materials for the prototype that mimic the properties of the final product. Consider factors such as strength, flexibility, heat resistance, and cosmetic appearance.
  3. Mold Design: Design the mold based on the finalized product design. This includes deciding on the type and location of gates, runner systems, and cooling channels. Consider creating a less complex and less expensive mold for prototyping, especially if design changes are anticipated.
  4. CAD/CAE Simulation: Utilize CAE software to simulate the injection molding process, analyzing how the molten plastic will fill the mold, cool, and solidify. Adjust the design as necessary to address any issues identified during the simulation, such as short shots, air traps, or excessive warping.
  5. Mold Fabrication: Once the mold design is finalized, manufacture the mold.
  6. Injection Molding: Set up the injection molding machine with the prototype mold and selected material.
  7. Evaluation and Testing: Inspect the initial prototypes for quality, accuracy, and functionality. Perform any necessary mechanical or stress tests. Gather feedback from designers, engineers, stakeholders, or potential users.
  8. Refinement: Based on feedback and testing results, make any necessary adjustments to the design, material, or mold. Repeat the molding and evaluation steps as needed until the prototype meets all requirements and expectations.
  9. Finalization: Once the prototype is deemed satisfactory, finalize the design and mold for full-scale production. Document all design changes, testing results, and process parameters for future reference.

Rapid Prototyping Methods

Rapid prototyping is an essential phase in the product development process, enabling designers and engineers to test ideas, refine designs, and ensure functionality before entering mass production. Each offering unique benefits and suited to different stages of the design process. From additive manufacturing techniques like 3D printing to subtractive forms such as CNC machining and the innovative approaches of rapid tooling, these methods provide a wide array of options for creating prototypes quickly and efficiently. Here are the most common rapid prototyping methods:

3D Printing:

3D printing is ideal for complex geometries that are difficult to achieve with traditional manufacturing techniques. It’s widely used due to its speed, low cost, and material versatility. Common technologies include Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), Stereolithography (SLA), and Selective Laser Sintering (SLS).

CNC Machining:

CNC machining is a subtractive process that removes material from a solid block using various cutting tools to shape the part. CNC machining is suitable for functional prototypes that require precise tolerances similar to the final product.

Rapid Tooling:

Rapid tooling bridges the gap between prototyping and full-scale production, allowing for the fast fabrication of molds used in injection molding and other manufacturing processes. This method significantly reduces the time and cost associated with traditional tooling and is ideal for short-run production or for validating mold design before investing in expensive production tooling.

How can you choose the best rapid prototyping technique for your project?

Choosing the right rapid prototyping technique involves assessing your project’s unique requirements. Start by determining the purpose of your prototype—high detail and accuracy call for methods like SLA or SLS, while functional testing might require materials with specific properties. For aesthetic models, focus on color and finish.

Consider the material needs for your prototype. Metals often lead to choosing DMLS or CNC machining, while plastics align with 3D printing or rapid tooling. The number of prototypes needed also matters; 3D printing is cost-effective for small batches, whereas CNC machining and rapid tooling are better for larger quantities.

Budget and time are key factors. 3D printing is generally cheaper and faster for initial prototypes, but CNC machining and rapid tooling can be more cost-effective at higher volumes and offer better mechanical properties. Also, think about surface quality—CNC machining typically provides a superior finish.

Finally, align your choice with future production plans. If you’re moving towards methods like injection molding, rapid tooling could be beneficial. Summarize your needs in terms of detail, functionality, materials, quantity, and cost to decide on the best prototyping method, and consider consulting experts for tailored advice.


The prototyping phase in injection molding is a critical step in product development, enabling teams to refine designs, test functionality, and ensure that the final products meet the required standards before committing to full-scale production. Adopting the right prototyping strategy not only streamlines the development process but also significantly reduces the risk of costly errors and reworks in later stages.

Senses: Your Partner in Injection Molding Solutions

Senses is an ISO 9001:2015 certified plastic injection molding company, offering a comprehensive array of services including mold and part designprototyping, small-batch production, and full-scale manufacturing. We serve a diverse range of industries, encompassing automotive, medical, and consumer electronics. Our focus is on ensuring each product we deliver meets the highest standards of quality and functionality.

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