In the process of plastic injection molding, it is common to see flow mark on plastic parts. Flow marks are lined patterns, often wavy, or discoloration on a part surface. For cosmetic medical plastics, the look is usually very critical and flow mark is a defect that must be eliminated.
Cause of flow mark
Flow mark defect could be traced to one of three sources, the resin or dditives used, the injection molding process, or the mold itself.
Resin manufacturers supply specific formulations in a range of standard flow rates. Thin-walled products may require an easy flow material while thick-walled products can use a material that has a stiffer consistency. It is better to use the stiffest flow possible because it improves physical properties of the molded part. However, the stiff material will require higher injection pressures, which may blow the mold open and cause flash at the parting line. If an easy flow material is used, the physical properties will not be as great but, in addition, the material will flow into very thin areas and could create flash where the stiffer materials would not.
- Generally, a hot mold will allow a material to stay molten longer than a cold mold and cause the molecules to pack together properly before they solidify. This results in a dense part with no flow lines. If the mold is too cold, the molecules solidify before they are packed out and flow lines may result.
- Gates and/or runners that are too small will cause excessive restriction to the flow of the molten plastic. Many plastics will then begin to solidify before they fill the cavity. The result is an unpacked condition of the molecules and flow lines will not have a chance to be pressed out of the product surface.
- Venting If there is not enough venting in the mold, the material will push into unvented areas and not compress against the mold steel because trapped gases are in the way. The material will actually “stutter” as it tries to force the gas out of the way, and will eventually solidify before packing can be achieved. The stutter marks will imprint on the part surface as flow lines.
Material freezing near the gate. Low melt or mold temperature, and low ram speed can result in cold material entering the cavity. This can cause the partly solidified material to take on the form of the flow pattern.
How to fix the flow mark defect?
1.Optimize the cold well. Design the cold well in the runner system to trap the cold material during the filling phase. The proper length of the cold well is usually equal to that of the runner diameter.
- Examine the gates and runners to determine if any burrs or other obstructions exist. If possible, perform a computer analysis to determine the proper sizing and location of gates and runners.Optimize the runner system design. A restrictive runner system design can result in premature gate freeze-off. It can however, increase shear heating for better melt flow.
- Increase the mold and melt temperature.This will force the molten plastic against the mold cavity steel before the plastic solidifies, removing the flow lines and duplicating the cavity finish.
- Increase the barrel temperature to that recommended by the material supplier. Adjust as needed to eliminate the flow lines. And, remember to keep the profile set so the material is heated from the rear towards the front of the barrel.
Solving one problem can often introduce other problems to the injection molding process. Each option hence requires consideration of all relevant aspects of the mold design specification.