Injection molding automation: What it is and how it works

June 19, 2024
Standard Bots robot visualizer

What is injection molding automation?

In mass-production plants of plastic parts, the melted plastic material is injected into a mold to create a specific shape. After the plastic cools and solidifies in the mold, then the product is ready for finishing. However, the process can be dangerous and tedious for human workers. 

Using robots in injection molding for more automation helps because they can load plastic materials into the machine, remove finished parts, and check for any defects. They make the whole process faster and more consistent, reducing the need for human workers to do repetitive and sometimes dangerous tasks. This leads to higher quality products and more efficient production. 

The role of robots in injection molding

Robots are a cornerstone of automating injection molding processes. 

Here’s some of what they can help with: 

  • Loading and unloading: Robots are ideally suited to load raw plastic pellets or granules into the injection molding machine and unload the finished plastic parts. They can do it quickly and efficiently, pretty much 24/7 (except for maintenance stops). Manual loading and unloading is tedious, demanding work, often in hot environments, and can lead to injuries. Robots can help make these things safer. 
  • Part handling and manipulation: Robots are also fantastic at handling and manipulating the molded parts after they’re ejected from the mold. They can pick up the hot parts immediately and move them to the next stage of the process, like trimming, decorating, or packaging. Robots can also scan the parts for flaws and sort them accordingly. Their mechanical arms give them a high degree of skill and control.

Key robotic applications of injection molding automation

These days, robots are taking over many of the repetitive manual tasks on the injection molding factory floor, like: 

  • Machine tending: Robots remove those hot, freshly molded parts from the machine. This speeds up the process and keeps your human workers safe from burns and repetitive strain injuries.
  • Insert molding: Robots precisely place delicate electronic components into a mold before plastic injection. This guarantees that every component is positioned perfectly and reduces errors.
  • Overmolding: Robots combine multiple molded components into a single, complex product. They work quickly, accurately, and consistently, upping the standard for creating intricate designs and multi-material parts.
  • Post-processing: After removing parts from the mold, robots handle tasks like assembling, applying in-mold labels, and sorting recyclables. This not only improves production speed but also maintains quality and minimizes waste.
Standard Bots routine editor

Advantages of plastic injection molding automation

The many benefits of using robots in plastic injection molding include:

  • Budget savings: Robots cut labor costs by taking over repetitive tasks and working around the clock without needing breaks or benefits.
  • Turbocharged production: Robots operate non-stop at a fast, consistent pace, leading to higher production volumes and efficiency. They don't get tired or distracted, unlike us humans.
  • Precision perfected: Robots crank out high-quality parts with pinpoint accuracy and consistency, so you can say goodbye to defects and waste caused by human error.
  • Safety first: Robots take the danger out of injection molding. They handle the heavy lifting, repetitive motions, and high temperatures, creating a much safer work environment for your human employees.
  • Future-proof your factory: Robots offer long-term flexibility. Plus, they can be reprogrammed and reconfigured to produce different parts, so you can easily adapt to changing market demands. They also play well with other automated equipment, creating a super-efficient production line.

Challenges of implementing injection molding automation

Implementing automation in injection molding comes with its fair share of challenges: 

  • The price tag: The initial investment in robots and other automated equipment can put a serious dent in your budget. For smaller companies, this upfront cost might be a dealbreaker, even if automation promises long-term savings. It might take some time to see those sweet returns on your investment.
  • Integration headaches: Getting robots and automated systems to play nice with your existing production line can be a bit like fitting a square peg into a round hole. It takes time, resources, and a whole lot of figuring things out. 

    Your team needs to reconfigure processes, train staff on how to operate the new tech, and be prepared for a bit of a learning curve as everyone gets up to speed. This can temporarily impact productivity and quality while your team adjusts.
  • Tech support: Automation isn't always a plug-and-play situation. You need the right technical know-how on your team. If robotics, programming, and system integration aren't your team's strong suits, you might need to hire some new talent or bring in an automation partner. Bear in mind, though, that some high-end automation solutions, like Standard Bots’ RO1 don’t require programming knowledge. 

Considerations before automating

Before you take the plunge into automation, there are a few things you’ll want to consider.

Think about these to make sure you’re ready: 

  • Robot type: It's important to choose the right robot for the job. Do you need a six-axis robot with its full range of motion, a SCARA robot for its speed and precision in assembly tasks, or a Cartesian robot for its linear movement in simple pick-and-place operations?
  • End-of-arm tooling (EOAT): This is like the robot's hand — it needs to be the right fit for the materials it's handling. Choose the wrong tool, and you could end up damaging your parts. Your tooling needs to be right for the job. 
  • Planning for testing: Don't just plug in your new robot and expect it to work perfectly right away. Thorough testing is essential to fine-tune the robot's settings and ensure it's working seamlessly with your production line. This might involve some trial and error, but it’s very important for getting the right results. 
  • Money matters: Automation can be an investment, so consider the upfront costs of the robot, installation, training, and ongoing maintenance. But also remember the potential long-term savings in labor costs and increased productivity.
  • Think safe: Robots can be powerful, so make sure to implement safety measures like barriers, sensors, and emergency stop buttons to protect your human workers.
  • The human factor: How will automation affect your workforce? Consider retraining or redeploying employees to other roles within the company. Open communication about the transition is key.
  • Scalability: Think about the future. Will your automation needs change as your business grows? Choose a system that can easily adapt to your changing requirements.
  • Support and maintenance: Make sure the company you're buying from offers reliable customer support and maintenance services to keep your robots running smoothly.

Summing up

That wraps up our introduction to injection molding automation. You've got the inside scoop on how robots can help streamline the process and boost your production. 

Sure, implementing the tech takes careful planning.

But once your plastic molding line is optimized with automation, you'll be cranking out precision parts faster than a Tom Cruise sprint. 

Next steps

Prepare to supercharge your business operations with Standard Bots’ RO1, a state-of-the-art six-axis robotic arm designed to optimize efficiency for businesses of any scale.

RO1 can give you:

  • Affordable innovation: RO1 offers a unique blend of advanced features and affordability, delivering top-tier automation at half of the cost of comparable models.
  • Winning performance: With an impressive payload capacity of up to 18 kg and exceptional speed, RO1 outperforms the competition, ensuring precision and quality in every task.
  • Adaptability brainpower: RO1's advanced AI, comparable to GPT-4, enables continuous learning and adaptation to your unique workflow. With its intuitive, no-code framework, you can easily customize RO1 to meet your specific needs.
  • Safety-centric collaboration: Designed to work seamlessly alongside your team, RO1 prioritizes safety through cutting-edge vision and sensor technology.

We're offering a risk-free 30-day trial. Get in touch today and let's explore how RO1 can take your operations to new heights.

Standard Bots equipment manager
Standard Bots camera vision
Press contacts