Canadian Plastics

Moldmaking Report: Steel deals

Canadian Plastics   

Even in the plastics industry, there's no getting away from the need for good steel. Steel, indeed, is where most plastic parts are born. It hasn't made life easier for buyers of steel in the industry...

Even in the plastics industry, there’s no getting away from the need for good steel. Steel, indeed, is where most plastic parts are born. It hasn’t made life easier for buyers of steel in the industry that market forces have pushed the cost of this necessity up to new, high levels. With steel prices likely to remain elevated for the near term, moldmakers and their customers are being forced to rethink how to build molds cost-effectively.

“There are two types of costs with a mold,” says Ed Severson, technical manager, new product development at Boehler-Uddeholm. “Point-of-purchase cost for the steel and life cycle costs. End-users in North America have traditionally favored buying the cheapest steel, whereas Japanese and some European buyers have taken the view that if you pay twice the cost for the steel and get double the life of a mold, it’s worth it.”

Adding fuel to the escalating price of steel is the increasing demand for more wear-resistant, corrosion-resistant steels with excellent polishing properties.

“Everything that is good for plastic is bad for steel,” Severson says, noting that the additives and fillers, which impart strength, fire resistance and other qualities to a resin, are corrosive and wearing on steel inside a mold cavity. Because of the increasing prevalence of newer materials and the conditions under which they are processed, “It’s getting tougher to use cheap steel,” Severson says.


Mark Appleton, Boehler Uddeholm marketing support manager describes a shift in thinking in the moldmaking industry. “The buzz today is on piece part price, which means reduced tool maintenance, running more parts on a tool, etc. That’s what the end-user wants.”

The company has recently introduced an enhanced version of its stainless steel injection-mold steel launched over 20 years ago, Stavax ESR. The newer version, Stavax Supreme has been modified through chemical and production technology to impart improved toughness and better polishing properties. Appleton describes Stavex Supreme as a modified 420 stainless targeted to compete with H13 in certain applications.


The demand for harder, better polishing steels has also had repercussions in the steel supply industry. Mike Skrzypek, general manager of Integris Metals, began supplying steel produced by Industeel, a subsidiary of Acelor Group, in January of this year. In particular, Integris introduced two new grades of steel to the Canadian market with the type of through-hardness, polishing and machining traits sought by moldmakers.

Skryzpek describes the two new grades, designated Superplast (SP) 300 and SP 400, as chemically modified P20. “Our customers have been asking for harder steels with more wear resistance for last few years. These steels have the type of through-hardness moldmakers are looking for.”

In conventional P20 steel, alloys can commonly segregate, creating hard and soft spots, which in turn can cause tool breakage. Skryzpek says the Superplast grades are made with boron because the addition of boron to the metal matrix creates greater homogeneity and block-to-block hardness repeatability.

SP 300 is manufactured to a 290 to 320 Brinell hardness rating, while SP 400 is rated at 350 to 380 Brinell. Skryzpek says moldmakers using high-speed machining technology can gain 25 to 30% in machining time with the SP grades. The steel also has higher conductivity than many other types of steels (see chart), which reduces cycle time for the molder.

“Steel prices do not appear to be going down, so reducing machining time and increasing throughput is one way North American moldmakers can bring down their costs,” he says.

Boehler Uddeholm 800-638-2520

Integris Metals 800-265-9606


D-M-E has introduced pre-engineered lifters designed to double the undercut capability in injection molds. An innovation of Takao Injection Mold Engineering, The VectorForm Lifter System allows designers to incorporate undercuts into their designs that are twice as deep as previously possible. Alternatively, mold designers can cut their ejector stroke in half while maintaining existing undercut geometries.

The system utilizes an ingenious slide base concept to extend lifter angles. With the lifter rod being actuated from a sliding base rather than a static base in the ejector plate, the lifter angle can be considerably more aggressive. While most lifter systems recommend a maximum angle of 15, VectorForm can accommodate angles of 30 or more. The modular design of the lifter system allows ganging of multiple lifter systems to accommodate very large lifter cores. Until now, pre-engineered lifter systems were not suitable for large lifter cores. The technology is ideal for automotive applications and large enclosures.

D-M-E Company 248-544-5718


First released in 1995, ProFile is a mold management program for tooling engineers and tool room managers that assists in tracking and maintaining complete mold data, customer information and preventative maintenance scheduling in a single database. Version 5 includes all the same benefits offered in previous versions of ProFile, plus many new enhancements. Notable features include a full contact database for listing both customers and vendors, a bill of materials program and more reporting and field options. ProFile 5 is a Windows-based program. Both the full version and upgrades can be downloaded from a password-protected website or via CD-ROM.

Progressive Components


Cimatron’s MoldQuote and DieQuote automate a process that, until now, has been largely manual and stitched together with stand alone spreadsheets. The products enable tool shop executives to generate quotes more quickly and accurately, resulting in greater efficiency, more job wins and higher profitability.

MoldQuote and DieQuote support the entire quote generation process, starting with the import of part data and splitting the part, determining mass properties (weight, volume, surface area) through the development of a blank layout, thinning and gathering material conditions (for die quotes) to final quote generation in the desired format. All quote related data is stored in a database, allowing users to search for past quotes produced in similar situations, track successful versus unsuccessful quotes and conduct win-loss analysis. In addition, quote data can be linked to accounting or ERP software to reduce redundant data entry and streamline processes.

Cimatron Technologies, Inc.


1. Company strength: Many mold builders try to compete in markets in which they have little knowledge. If thin-wall injection molding is your bread and butter, then become the best in this area.

2. Marketing: In today’s mold market you must be able to let the plastics industry know you exist.

3. Capabilities: A mold shop today must have the latest computer aided design, capable designers and designers that can relate to the customer. Each person in the shop must be a salesperson.

4. Quick-to-market: If there is one area that can hold up mold delivery it is mold polishing, and it must be automated.

5. Information: A good mold shop will fill out detailed mold quote forms with the customer.

6. Relationship with your vendors: In order to be quick-to-market, it is imperative you have all your supplies on hand or within a few days of delivery. No one wants to carry inventory, so the relationship you have with all your vendors is a key.

7. Clean work environment: Your shop should be a show room that you and your employees are proud to work in and to have customers visit.

8. Mold accuracy and dependability:
The mold design agreed to, and signed by the customer and yourself, must be produced within all specifications.

9. Mold testing: A mold shop should provide the customer with a complete mold checklist or mold inspection report, including a water check, an infrared photo of the mold for heat or cooling and a thermal photo of the molded part.

10. Spare parts and molding assistance: A mold shop should be able to assist a customer in setting the mold, and even work with the machine operator if asked.

*Courtesy of Samuel L. Belcher, Sabel Plastics Inc., Moscow, OH. Presented at the Moldmaking 2004 conference in Cleveland, OH, June 2004.


The harder mold steels being used by moldmakers today has created a dilemma: How to obtain fine mold details in a cost-effective, timely manner.

Laser engraving provides the finest level of machining resolution, down to 0.1mm (less than 0.004 in.). The key advantage of a laser system is the ability to engrave fine details with a good surface finish. The most common laser types used in mold engraving are Nd:YAG based on designs with an output wavelength of 1064 nm. Parts with a hardness of 1333HV (>HRC73) have been successfully engraved using a laser. An EDM may be used for such materials, but the nature of the process introduces changes in the structure of the steel that will affect mold performance. In addition to engraving, lasers can be used for texturing electrodes, texturing molds and graphics for mold inserts.


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