SHRINKAGE (excessive)


 Excessive shrinkage can be defined as an extreme decrease in the
 dimensions of a molded part after it has cooled to room temperature.


Barrel Temperature Too High

Explanation: If the barrel temperature is too high, the resin absorbs an excessive amount of heat and this increases the size of the voided area between the plastic molecules. Upon cooling, the skin of the material solidifies first and the remaining resin closes up the excessively large molecules and voids as it cools, pulling the solidified skin with it. The larger the molecules and voids, the greater the amount of shrinkage.

Solution: Decreasing the barrel temperature allows the molecules and voids to expand and contract normally and provide consistent shrinkage values. Shrinkage is impossible to predict accurately, but keeping the material and mold temperatures at the right settings (as recommended by the material suppliers) will minimize the effective shrinkage.

Insufficient Injection Pressure or Time

Explanation: Injection pressure must be high enough to push molten material into the mold, through the runners and gates, and into the cavity image area. It should be used to force material into every part of the mold until it is packed solidly. The proper amount of pressure held for the proper amount of time ensures that all the resin molecules are held closely together while they cool and solidify. This minimizes the amount of shrinkage that will take place after the part is removed from the mold. But, if inadequate pressure is used or if it is applied for too short a period of time, the molecules will not be constrained during the solidification phase and the entire part will shrink excessively after removal from the mold.

Solution: Increase the amount of pressure or the time applied. Upon initial startup, the mold should be filled incrementally starting with intentional short shots (if the mold design allows) and progressively increasing pressure shot-by-shot until the mold is filled and packed properly. Then, parts should be inspected for critical dimensions. If the mold is new, and dimensions are incorrect, the mold should be returned to the moldmaker for adjustments. If the mold has already been in production and the dimensions are wrong, process parameters can be adjusted to make the part shrink less or more, whichever is required.

Inadequate Cooling Time

Explanation: The cooling phase of the total molding cycle determines how long the molten material is held in a constrained condition until a strong skin is formed. After that, the part can be ejected from the mold and the next cycle can begin. If that cooling time is too short, the skin will not be of sufficient thickness and strength to hold the part together after ejection from the mold and continued shrinking may become excessive.

Solution: Adjust the cooling time portion of the cycle. It is true that longer cycles make the part more expensive but there is a minimum amount of time required for the resin to form a proper skin. It depends on what material is being molded. A general rule-of-thumb for a part with a wall thickness of 0.100'', the cooling time should be 20 seconds. The overall cycle would then be 25-30 seconds.

Insufficient Cushion and/or hold time

Explanation: A cushion (pad) is required at the end of the injection stroke to maintain steady pressure against the molten material after it has filled the cavity image. This pressure (and the time it is applied) keep the molecules packed together and constrained while the product skin forms and solidifies enough for the part to be ejected. If the cushion is too small or the time is too short, the plastic molecules are not constrained and some will actually pull back out of the cavity. The remaining molecules may move after the part is ejected and cause excessive shrinkage as they contract beyond their normal values.

Solution: Maintain a cushion that is somewhere between 1/8'' and 1/4'' at the end of the injection stroke. This provides something against which hold pressure can be applied. The amount of time for holding pressure should be long enough for the gate to freeze, normally 3-4 seconds.

Excessive Non-Return Valve Clearance

Explanation: The non-return valve, found in the front section of the screw and barrel assembly, keeps molten plastic from slipping back over the injection screw when the screw is pushed forward during the injection phase of the process. The valve lies between the outside diameter of the screw and the inside diameter of the barrel and creates a seal between the two. If there is too much clearance (due to wear) the sealing effect is lost and slippage occurs. This results in a reduction in volume of plastic and a bottoming out of the injection stroke, eliminating the required cushion.

Solution: Inspect the non-return valve mechanism and replace worn or damaged components. This wear is normal but is accelerated by molding materials that have reinforcements (such as glass) in them. The valve should be inspected at least every three months.


Mold Temperature TOO HIGH

Explanation: Generally, a hot mold will allow a material to stay molten longer than a cold mold and cause the molecules to stay fluid longer before they cool and solidify. Upon ejection from the mold the material will be allowed to contract more than normal and excessive shrinkage will occur.

Solution: Increase the mold temperature to the point at which the material has the proper flow and packs out the mold with maximum fill. Start with the material suppliers recommendations and adjust accordingly. Allow 10 cycles for every 10-degree change for the process to re-stabilize.

Small Gates and/or Runners

Explanation: 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 a material that is not fully contained within the metal mold surfaces and is allowed to shrink beyond normal values.

Solution: Examine the gates and runners to optimize their size and shape. Do not overlook the sprue bushing as a long sprue may solidify too soon. Use a heated bushing or extended nozzle to minimize sprue length. Ask the material supplier for data concerning gate and runner dimensioning for a specific material and flow rate.

Improper Gate Location

Explanation: If certain materials are injected directly across a flat cavity surface they tend to slow down quickly as a result of frictional drag and cool off before the cavity is properly filled. The material is not held under proper pressure while solidifying and excessive shrinkage will occur after ejection from the mold.

Solution: Relocate or redesign the gate so that the molten plastic is directed against an obstruction such as a core pin. This will cause the material to disperse and continue to flow instead of slowing down.


Improper Flow Rate

Explanation: 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 is stiffer. It is better to use as stiff a flow as possible because that improves physical properties of the molded part. But the stiff material will be more difficult to push and this may result in a less dense material filling the cavity image. The lower this density, the higher the amount of shrinkage that will occur after ejection.

Solution: Utilize a material that has the stiffest flow possible without causing non-fill. Contact the material supplier for help in deciding which flow rate should be used for a specific application.


Inconsistent Process Cycle

Explanation: The machine operator may be opening the gate too soon, thereby effectively shortening the overall cycle time. This would cause the part to be ejected before the skin has formed properly and excessive shrinkage may occur.

Solution: If possible, operate the machine on automatic cycle, using the operator only to interrupt the cycle if an emergency occurs. Use a robot if an ``operator'' is really necessary. And, instruct all employees on the importance of maintaining consistent cycles. 

Copyright Texas Plastic Technologies
Worldwide rights reserved