Frequently Asked Questions

Is Short Run Injection Moulding Expensive?

We are surrounded by injection moulded parts in every facet of our lives, from light switches to the electric kettles we use to the keys on our keyboards. The one thing all these items have in common is that they are produced in high numbers, frequently hundreds of thousands upwards.Injection Moulded parts

Huge flexibility, large range of materials and cheap parts

Moulding is ideal for these requirements; with cycle times measured in seconds and part costs measured in pence allowing for the product pricing that we all take for granted. Add to this flexibility, potential materials stretching from soft elastomerics to metal replacement polymers and the scope begins to become apparent.

What if I don't want so many parts though? Then tooling must be considered. Tooling is traditionally expensive, and takes a long time to produce. That said it is the ‘enabler’ that permits the benefits identified earlier and the good news is, these days there are numerous alternative tooling options that can be considered to make the costs less inhibitive. 

So what drives the cost?

Setup/cleandown

This typically includes installing the tool into the moulding press, drying and loading the specified material/colour, setting up the moulding conditions and running initial QA samples for approval. Then at the end of the moulding run purging out any residual material, applying any protection to the tooling before stripping it out of the press and returning it to stores.

This process is obviously independent of how many parts are produced and often quoted as a ‘setup’ charge, especially if dealing with low volumes. It can take anything from an hour to half a day depending on a number of factors like the size of the tool, configuration, what material/colour options are being changed and inspection/dimensional requirements.

MouldingMoulding 

The moulding phase is driven by material costs, press costs and whether the press is running manned or unmanned.

Material costs vary substantially from one material to another, and also depend heavily on the quantity being procured. For example it is quite possible to see a 10:1 difference in price between buying a single 25kg sack and 3 tonnes of material.

Colours can require masterbatch or compounding and add further to the costs especially if universal grades cannot be used.

Press size is a function of tonnage (force required to hold the mould tool closed during the injection cycle) and shot weight (amount of plastic delivered to the mould per cycle). The larger the press the more expensive it is both in terms of depreciation and power to operate. 

Whether a press is run manned or unmanned is more often dictated by the tooling rather than the press. With small batches, lose inserts may be used requiring an operator to load and unload the inserts every cycle. Alternatively there may be a post moulding operation that is completed by the operator (or robotic alternative) whilst running the mould - this could be printing or packing.

ToolingTooling

Tooling costs will vary dramatically depending on the specification. It is not just the tool cost that is important, but matching it to the quantities required and deciding how to account for the cost. Getting this right and aligned to the production quantities is vital.

Different companies account for tooling in different ways and thus it shows up in the unit price differently:

  • Company A might choose to write off all tooling costs in the development phase, thus giving production a ‘free’ mould. 
  • Company B might predict the product life and write the tool off against parts produced, effectively wrapping an element of the tool price into every part, or
  • Company C could treat the tooling as an asset and follow its own depreciation schedule. 

All will give different results. However, whichever option is employed it can be seen that there is a dramatic difference between:

  1. a fully automatic tool, possibly with multiple cavities, running 24/7 on a press producing a quarter of a million parts per month, and
  2. setting a tool to produce 200 parts using lose inserts with an operator manually packing each one.

Are there prototyping options?

Most definitely, yes! The ability to have prototypes in the production intent material is a huge driver. Nowadays we get involved in moulding as few as 2 parts, we have multiple tooling options at our disposal both to advance prototyping and also tackle low volume production.Tooling

Development Tooling and moulding parts can be produced in a few days, but this will be subject to a string of conditions relating to the geometry, material, finishes etc. 

Quoted times will only apply to T1 (first trial), so any tweaks will increase the lead-time. More typical timescales would be around 2 - 4 weeks.

Tool costs

Costs are driven by part complexity, size and time. It is unusual to see any mould tool offered for less than £2,000 and in this case the parts may well carry a substantial premium. 

A wide variety of tools could be produced for £5,000 - £7,000, although large complex items can see this exceed £30,000. The only way to accurately quantify this is to obtain a quotation against the specific data involved. 

Additional information on the different types of tooling and options to reduce both the cost and associated lead-time for low quantities can be found here.

We are specialists in low volumes, so if you are considering injection moulding for your project but are unsure of the potential price point for your quantities, please contact us. We will be happy to advise.

  • “Plunkett Associates have excellent breadth of experience, work with high quality partners and have a flexibility that we have found enables challenges to be met successfully, cost effectively and in a timely manner.”
    Nick Skaer, CEO, Orthox Ltd
  • Plunkett associates always find a solution. Whatever we need to prototype, they have a great grasp on the technologies available, costs and lead-times so we get the right solution tailored to the project needs. Have always delivered and never let us down.
    Naim Audio
  • “I can’t recommend Tim and his team highly enough. We ended up with a design which can be produced and assembled quickly, efficiently and reliably, in volumes that make sense”
    Simon Leggett, Director, Olivewood Technology
  • "Tim's experience, expertise and supplier base have been fundamental to us getting this project off the ground."
    Sam Pearce, Jelly Products Ltd
  • “We were really surprised at how quickly they turned round such a high quality prototype and the parts certainly proved their worth. They were of high enough quality to provide a fantastic visual representation and to undergo rigorous testing."
    Stuart Wilson, Design Director, TRT Lighting
  • “Accuracy, finish and delivery all first class.”
    Andrew Peters, JMDA Ltd
  • “We use Plunkett Associates because we want someone we can trust, that knows what they’re talking about, has all the contacts, will provide reliable advice and feedback and will get the right result for us.”
    Jim Copestick. Design Manager, Thorlux Lighting
  • “We always know exactly what we’re getting and we know we won’t be let down on quality, price or lead times.”
    Mark Williams, Research and Development Director, Johnson Safety Products
  • “Plunkett Associates truly offer a complete turnkey solution with Speed, Effectiveness and Precision.”
    David Harden, Director, Enica Ltd
  • “Kirintec were thrilled with Plunketts. They made a complex process simple and we were just amazed at the lead times achieved. Plus, every single deadline was met without any drama.”
    Penny While, Marketing Director, Kirintec
  • “Thanks to Plunkett Associates flexible, bespoke and cost effective service I was able to produce the objects that I had originally had in mind.”
    Simon Ryder, Artist
  • To create such a consistent quality finish in chrome was an amazing achievement and the prototypes really gave our stand the wow factor.
    James Clark, Group Commercial Director, The Airdri Group
  • Interestingly, people who look at it in its own right with little knowledge of what it does, just like it! It’s tactile and it looks good…
    Tim Collings, Operations Director, Troika Systems Ltd
  • "With their simple to understand language, willingness to go the extra mile and approachability, Plunkett Associates were a great partner for our company. We couldn’t be happier with the results of our project. (A working prototype that they got right first time, by the way). Thank you!"
    Carolina Ballon-Forrester, Director, Kittyrama Ltd
  • Plunkett Associates worked on the design and production of titanium frames for an artificial heart valve where precision and consistency was paramount. Communications were efficient and productive with concepts readily incorporated into the final design, and suggestions for improvements all highly appropriate. The quality of the end product was ideal and I have no doubt that I will use the advice and expertise of Plunkett Associates again.
    David Wheatley, Wheatley Research Ltd
  • “Thanks for the present that arrived this morning, as promised. Parts look first class, as always.”
    Jon Todd, Design Manager, PHS Group
  • “Plunkett Associates have a fantastic supply chain, work with all sorts of production processes and will always do their utmost to solve a problem.”
    Naim Audio
  • “ Plunketts developed a solution that met our precision requirements at a cost significantly lower than alternative manufacturing approaches we had investigated”
    Nick Skaer, CEO, Orthox Ltd
  • “Doing business with you has been an absolute pleasure. You have made my goals a reality. You have been patient, helpful and above all, responsive. Best service that I have experienced in ages. I consider Plunkett Associates to be an integral part of my business plan moving forward.”
    Jet Cooper, Sculptor
Related Processes

Injection Moulding

Produces production intent material properties. Injection Moulding is used for development as well as production parts.

more info

Read more expert articles in our FAQ section where we discuss topics on materials, methods and products.

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  • “Plunkett Associates have excellent breadth of experience, work with high quality partners and have a flexibility that we have found enables challenges to be met successfully, cost effectively and in a timely manner.”
    Nick Skaer, CEO, Orthox Ltd
    Nick Skaer, CEO, Orthox Ltd
  • Plunkett associates always find a solution. Whatever we need to prototype, they have a great grasp on the technologies available, costs and lead-times so we get the right solution tailored to the project needs. Have always delivered and never let us down.
    Naim Audio
    Naim Audio
  • “I can’t recommend Tim and his team highly enough. We ended up with a design which can be produced and assembled quickly, efficiently and reliably, in volumes that make sense”
    Simon Leggett, Director, Olivewood Technology
    Simon Leggett, Director,  Olivewood Technology
  • "Tim's experience, expertise and supplier base have been fundamental to us getting this project off the ground."
    Sam Pearce, Jelly Products Ltd
    Sam Pearce, Jelly Products Ltd
  • “We were really surprised at how quickly they turned round such a high quality prototype and the parts certainly proved their worth. They were of high enough quality to provide a fantastic visual representation and to undergo rigorous testing."
    Stuart Wilson, Design Director, TRT Lighting
    Stuart Wilson, Design Director, TRT Lighting
  • “Accuracy, finish and delivery all first class.”
    Andrew Peters, JMDA Ltd
    Andrew Peters, JMDA Ltd
  • “We use Plunkett Associates because we want someone we can trust, that knows what they’re talking about, has all the contacts, will provide reliable advice and feedback and will get the right result for us.”
    Jim Copestick. Design Manager, Thorlux Lighting
    Jim Copestick. Design Manager, Thorlux Lighting
  • “We always know exactly what we’re getting and we know we won’t be let down on quality, price or lead times.”
    Mark Williams, Research and Development Director, Johnson Safety Products
    Mark Williams, Research and Development Director, Johnson Safety Products
  • “Plunkett Associates truly offer a complete turnkey solution with Speed, Effectiveness and Precision.”
    David Harden, Director, Enica Ltd
    David Harden, Director, Enica Ltd
  • “Kirintec were thrilled with Plunketts. They made a complex process simple and we were just amazed at the lead times achieved. Plus, every single deadline was met without any drama.”
    Penny While, Marketing Director, Kirintec
    Penny While, Marketing Director, Kirintec
  • “Thanks to Plunkett Associates flexible, bespoke and cost effective service I was able to produce the objects that I had originally had in mind.”
    Simon Ryder, Artist
    Simon Ryder, Artist
  • To create such a consistent quality finish in chrome was an amazing achievement and the prototypes really gave our stand the wow factor.
    James Clark, Group Commercial Director, The Airdri Group
    James Clark, Group Commercial Director, The Airdri Group
  • Interestingly, people who look at it in its own right with little knowledge of what it does, just like it! It’s tactile and it looks good…
    Tim Collings, Operations Director, Troika Systems Ltd
    Tim Collings, Operations Director, Troika Systems Ltd
  • "With their simple to understand language, willingness to go the extra mile and approachability, Plunkett Associates were a great partner for our company. We couldn’t be happier with the results of our project. (A working prototype that they got right first time, by the way). Thank you!"
    Carolina Ballon-Forrester, Director, Kittyrama Ltd
    Carolina Ballon-Forrester, Director, Kittyrama Ltd
  • Plunkett Associates worked on the design and production of titanium frames for an artificial heart valve where precision and consistency was paramount. Communications were efficient and productive with concepts readily incorporated into the final design, and suggestions for improvements all highly appropriate. The quality of the end product was ideal and I have no doubt that I will use the advice and expertise of Plunkett Associates again.
    David Wheatley, Wheatley Research Ltd
    David Wheatley, Wheatley Research Ltd
  • “Thanks for the present that arrived this morning, as promised. Parts look first class, as always.”
    Jon Todd, Design Manager, PHS Group
    Jon Todd, Design Manager, PHS Group
  • “Plunkett Associates have a fantastic supply chain, work with all sorts of production processes and will always do their utmost to solve a problem.”
    Naim Audio
    Naim Audio
  • “ Plunketts developed a solution that met our precision requirements at a cost significantly lower than alternative manufacturing approaches we had investigated”
    Nick Skaer, CEO, Orthox Ltd
    Nick Skaer, CEO, Orthox Ltd
  • “Doing business with you has been an absolute pleasure. You have made my goals a reality. You have been patient, helpful and above all, responsive. Best service that I have experienced in ages. I consider Plunkett Associates to be an integral part of my business plan moving forward.”
    Jet Cooper, Sculptor
    Jet Cooper, Sculptor