With robust developments in manufacturing technologies, the global metal molds industry for plastic injection molding continues to gain prominence. Currently, numerous technologies exist for manufacturing plastic parts. However, plastic injection molding, which involves injection of liquid plastics into metal molds typically made of aluminum or steel, is fast emerging as the preferred method.
Over the years, the automotive sector has been one of the major adopters of injection molded plastic components. This global shift in the auto industry has been brought about by tightening environmental regulations and the need for more lightweight and fuel-efficient vehicle designs.
Plastic injection molding is being widely used for manufacturing auto parts and components due to its ability to produce high-quality, precise, and consistent products. In addition to the automotive sector, the technology is quickly gaining recognition in numerous other industries including construction, packaging, and electronics.
Reports claim that the metal mold market size for plastic injection molding was valued at US$4.16 billion in 2020 and is projected to record a robust expansion through 2027.
With the exponential spread of the novel coronavirus outbreak during the first half of 2020, the demand for personal protective equipment (PPE), medical equipment, and other supplies had increased significantly. In order to address this demand, numerous manufacturers ramped up the production of metal molds for manufacturing PPE and medical equipment.
In April 2020, for instance, a group of engineers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) had started manufacturing metal molds that could be used by medical equipment makers to produce plastic tubes for COVID-19 test kits. This effort by ORNL could help deliver over 40 million collection tubes per month. To manufacture the metal molds for COVID-19 test kits, the team had used additive manufacturing.
The initiative by ORNL was undertaken in coordination with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and was backed by the U.S. Department of Defense Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment Program.
In June 2020, SLM Solutions, as part of its Additive Alliance Against Corona initiative, had begun the production of metal molds for plastic injection molding for manufacturing face shield headbands for the Manufacturing & Advocacy Growth Network (MAGNET), an Ohio-based manufacturing consulting firm. MAGNET is part of the Ohio Manufacturing Alliance formed by the Governor of Ohio to fight the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Major players producing metal molds for plastic injection molding are adopting numerous growth strategies to expand their geographical presence. These include development of new technologies and collaborating with other players to bring innovative products to the market and gain a competitive edge.
In June 2019, for instance, Germany based Toolcraft had collaborated with Siemens PLM software to make metal molds using additive manufacturing for injection molded plastic products for the optical industry.
Online custom manufacturing firm Xometry Inc. had closed a US$55 million funding round in July 2019 to advance its global expansion plans. The company had also received a US$5 million investment from Robert Bosch Venture Capital. The funding also enabled the company to strengthen its CNC machining and injection molding capabilities.
In February last year, Xometry partnered with Dassault Systems to provide customers with a seamless, integrated way to manufacture parts using CNC machining and additive manufacturing.
With constant technological innovations in the manufacturing sector and the need for advanced high-performance materials across numerous end-use verticals, the global metal molds industry for plastic injection molding is likely to witness some remarkable developments over the next few years.