Injection molding is a versatile, efficient, and cost-effective manufacturing process ideal for producing high volumes of plastic parts. It can create intricate, detailed designs unmatched by traditional methods. 

Various industries utilize this versatile process, from automotive to consumer goods, due to its reliability and high-quality products. However, transforming an initial concept into a final injection molded part involves crucial steps, from the engineering drawings to the actual manufacturing process. 

That said, this article provides the step-by-step process of injection molding. Read on to understand how you can transform ideas into physical objects through this fascinating manufacturing technique: 

  • Engineer The Design

The initial critical step involves engineering an accurate design that meets your functional, strength, and aesthetic requirements. Collaborate closely with design engineers specializing in injection molding during this phase. They can ensure your vision transitions seamlessly into a manufacturable plastic part design tailored for injection molding tooling and processing.

Consider aspects such as part geometry, thickness variations, assembly requirements, quantity needed, and target budget when engineering the design. Advanced 3D modeling software aids in assessing concepts for moldability within the chosen injection molding machine and optimizing designs upfront.

For instance, you can perform mold flow simulations to identify and rectify potential issues before tooling commences. This virtual modeling reduces uncertainty and saves significant costs.

  • Create The Prototype

With your design fully defined in 3D Computer-Aided Design (CAD) models, the next logical step is creating an initial prototype of your product. Prototyping validates the form, fit, and functionality before investing in high-cost tooling for complete manufacturing. Technologies like Computerized Numerical Control (CNC) machining or 3D printing can produce prototypes that precisely match the CAD specifications.

Carefully review the physical prototype, evaluating how every feature performs. Refine any aspect that falls short of the requirements, whether it’s strength and precision issues or cosmetic changes, to enhance the end-user experience. 

For example, if a handle’s grip feels uncomfortable or a lid doesn’t seal properly, make the necessary adjustments. This hands-on analysis ensures your product looks, feels, and works as envisioned before proceeding to actual production. 

  • Build The Injection Mold Tooling

Once you finalize and approve the prototype, you can start building specialized steel tooling. Injection molds require tremendous force and heat resilience to produce millions of precision plastic parts.

 CNC machining crafts two tool halves matching every contour and detail on your product CAD models. One half is the core side, while the other is the cavity side. When locked together, the parts form the complete mold with a separation line parting surface. Additionally, the tool incorporates a highly engineered runner and gate system to deliver the melted plastic.

Tooling may have an extended lead time of about three months. However, it’s an excellent investment, enabling years of continuous mass production with minimal maintenance. Note that any design changes later necessitate modifying or replacing tooling components at an additional expense. 

Therefore, take the time upfront to refine your design to ensure accuracy. Consider every detail, such as the precise fit of interlocking parts or the smooth flow of material into complex geometries.

  • Select The Right Material 

Selecting a suitable material is crucial for ensuring the functionality, durability, and aesthetic appeal of an injection molded product. Various thermoplastic and thermosetting polymers are available, each with unique properties tailored for different applications. Factors influencing material selection include:

  • The intended use: The primary function and requirements of the product, such as strength, flexibility, transparency, or chemical resistance, affect the type of material chosen. 

For instance, common thermoplastics you can use in injection molding include polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), polycarbonate (PC), and polyamides (nylons). Each has distinct advantages. PE is known for flexibility and chemical resistance, PP for strength and stiffness, ABS for impact resistance and aesthetics, PC for transparency and heat resistance, and nylons for mechanical strength and wear resistance.

  • Environmental conditions: This involves exposure to chemicals, heat or cold, moisture, UV radiation, and other environmental factors that could degrade the material over time.
  • Cost: The cost of raw materials, processing requirements, and any necessary additives or reinforcements may also impact the material you choose, depending on your financial capabilities and budget.
  • Processability: The choice will also depend on the material’s suitability for injection molding, including melt flow, shrinkage rates, and compatibility with the tooling and machinery.

Proper material selection, combined with an optimized part design and controlled processing, enables the production of high-quality injection molded parts tailored to meet application-specific requirements.

  • Start The Injection Molding Process

With certified tooling and a qualified process, high-volume production can commence to fulfill commercial orders. This involves several critical steps:

  • Melting: The first step is feeding raw plastic pellets into the injection molding machine’s hopper, where they’re heated to a precise temperature until achieving a molten, flowable state.
  • Injection: The molten plastic is then forcefully injected into the mold cavity under immense pressure, ensuring it fills even the most intricate details.
  • Cooling: Once inside the mold, the material rapidly cools and solidifies, taking on the exact shape of the desired part. Tight control of cooling rates prevents defects.
  • Ejection: After sufficient cooling, the now solid plastic part is ejected from the mold, often with the assistance of automated ejector pins that push it out cleanly.

The cycle then repeats for each part produced, with cycle times varying depending on factors like part size, material properties, and geometric complexity. For a simple container cap, cycles may be under a minute, whereas a sizeable automotive component could require several minutes.


Injection molding is a detailed and sophisticated process that transforms ideas into tangible items in additive manufacturing. Each step requires precision, expertise, and a deep understanding of the process and the materials used. The result is a production method capable of creating high-quality, detailed, and durable products at scale, making injection molding a pivotal process in the manufacturing landscape.