Computer Aided Design of Side Actions for Injection Molding of Complex Parts

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Often complex molded parts include undercuts, patches on the part boundaries that are not accessible along the main mold opening directions. Undercuts are molded by incorporating side actions in the molds. Side actions are mold pieces that are removed from the part using translation directions different than the main mold opening direction. However, side actions contribute to mold cost by resulting in an additional manufacturing and assembly cost as well as by increasing the molding cycle time. Therefore, generating shapes of side actions requires solving a complex geometric optimization problem. Different objective functions may be needed depending upon different molding scenarios (e.g., prototyping versus large production runs). Manually designing side actions is a challenging task and requires considerable expertise. Automated design of side actions will significantly reduce mold design lead times. This thesis describes algorithms for generating shapes of side actions to minimize a customizable molding cost function.

Given a set of undercut facets on a polyhedral part and the main parting direction, the approach works in the following manner. First, candidate retraction space is computed for every undercut facet. This space represents the candidate set of translation vectors that can be used by the side action to completely disengage from the undercut facet. As the next step, a discrete set of feasible, non-dominated retractions is generated. Then the undercut facets are grouped into undercut regions by performing state space search over such retractions. This search step is performed by minimizing the customizable molding cost function. After identifying the undercut regions that can share a side action, the shapes of individual side actions are computed.

The approach presented in this work leads to practically an optimal solution if every connected undercut region on the part requires three or fewer side actions. Results of computational experiments that have been conducted to assess the performance of the algorithms described in the thesis have also been presented. Computational results indicate that the algorithms have acceptable computational performance, are robust enough to handle complex part geometries, and are easy to implement. It is anticipated that the results shown here will provide the foundations for developing fully automated software for designing side actions in injection molding.