Molding is the process of manufacturing by shaping liquid or raw material using a rigid frame called a mold. Injection molding is a manufacturing process for producing parts by injecting material into a mold. Injection molding can be carried out using materials such as metals, glass, elastomers, ceramics, and thermoplastic & thermosetting polymers. Micro-molding is defined as a unique injection molding process, which requires specialized molding machine capable of delivering uniform melt temperature, high injection speed and pressure, accurate shot control, and ultrafine resolution using servo-electric drives and sophisticated controls. Micro-molding is a very specialized, precision injection molding technique geared specifically to mold micro-miniature components. It is one of the key technology for micro-manufacturing due to its mass production capability and relatively low production cost.
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Micro-molding is the process of transferring the micron or even submicron features of metallic molds to a polymeric product. During the process, the material, in form of granules, is transferred from a hopper into a plasticizing unit so that it becomes molten and soft. The material is then forced with pressure inside a mold cavity, where it is subjected to hold pressure for a specific time to compensate for material shrinkage. After some time, the material freezes into the mold shape, gets ejected and the cycle is repeated.
The advent of nanotechnology has led to rampant implementation of miniaturization across various industries. This calls for manufacture of very small components to fit into small circuitry, channel the smaller fiber optic light source, or control the smallest droplet. The growing advancements in medical applications, micro-implants, micro-sensors, and nanotechnology are the key applications for the use of micro-molding materials. For this, there is a huge development going in the field of processes and equipment used for micro-molding. The key process/equipment used are LIGA, Laser Micro Machining, and Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM).
Micro-molding Materials Market Outlook – Rising Demand from Medical & Healthcare End-use Segment to Fuel Market Growth
In the medical & healthcare industry, micro-molding is used to manufacture parts such as catheter tips, micro-optics, sensors, tubes, and implants. Micro-molding products are now replacing machining molding products at a high rate. The increasing trend of small devices combined with increase in number of slightly invasive surgeries is enhancing demand for micro parts from medical device manufacturers. The important factor for the increasing use of micro-molding than machine molding is cost savings. Micro-molding takes very less time to mold the parts and consumes very less cost raw materials compared to machining, hence results in high cost savings.
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Low awareness in emerging economies such as Asia Pacific and Middle East & Africa is expected to be one of the restraining factors for growth of micro-molding materials market over the forecast period. However, the scenario is expected to change in the near future, with key players focusing on tapping into this highly lucrative market, especially in highly populous countries of India and China. Rampant economic growth in these countries and burgeoning growth of end-use industries would position these as key markets in the not-so-distant future. Some of the major companies operating in the global micro-molding materials market are Precimold Inc, Accumold, Micromold Inc, Stack Plastics, American Precision Products, ALC Precision, Micromolding Solutions, Micro Precision Products, American Precision Products, Stamm, Makuta Technics, Sovrin Plastics, Rolla AG, and Rapidwerks.