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Analysis and Validation of Mold Design Guidelines for Cooling Time and

Runner Sizing

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Society of Plastics Engineers Annual Technical Conference


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MOLD MAKING AND MOLD DESIGN D35
n/a
Zombade, Nivant; Univ. Mass. Lowell, Dept. Plastics Engineering
Kazmer, David; Univ. Mass. Lowell, Dept. Plastics Engineering

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ANALYSIS AND VALIDATION OF MOLD DESIGN GUIDELINES


FOR COOLING TIME AND RUNNER SIZING
Nivant Zombade, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, MA
David Kazmer, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, MA
Abstract

Cooling Time Rule

Injection molds have been designed over the years using


rules of thumb which have become almost standard
guidelines in industry practice. This paper analyzes and
validates two common guidelines for 1) estimation of
cooling time and 2) determination of runner sizing. The
common guideline for cooling time estimation is
compared to the analytical solution of the heat equation
and found to have a small average error but significance
variance across material properties and processing
conditions. The common guideline for runner system
designs was found to provide very good results compared
with optimal designs produced with the Hagen-Pouiselle
flow equations.

Consider the mold section of Figure 1. One way of


calculating cooling time is with the help of nomograms
which can be found in literature [1]. A commonly applied
rule for estimating cooling time is given as:

Introduction
Estimating cooling time and optimizing runner
geometry have significant effects on the final mold design
of an injection mold. Cooling time analysis not only helps
the designer to predict the cycle time but it also helps in
determining the number of cooling channels, flow rate of
coolant required, and the final layout of the cooling
circuit. Though the Ballman-Shusman equation is accurate
it still needs to be solved using coefficients for the thermal
and processing conditions for a given material. Hence an
easier rule that can predict the cooling time within 1020% of the exact value can be very useful for the mold
designer. The suspected origination and performance of
one commonly used rule is subsequently analyzed.
Runner size on the other hand plays a critical role not
only in the final quality of the molding but also in the
overall economics of the process. Though large size
runners ease the forward movement of melt, they also lead
to a large scrap volume which needs to be regrinded hence
increasing the overall cost of the final product. Other
disadvantages with large runners are increase in the
cooling time and clamping pressure because of large
cross-sectional and projected area respectively. Runners
can be sized with the help of software tools to minimize
the total volume. Alternatively, mold designers often use a
rule to size downstream runners based on the dimension
of the primary runner diameter. The performance of this
commonly used rule is subsequently analyzed.

tc = 2 H 2

(1)

where tc is cooling time (s), and H is the thickness of part


in millimeters. For comparison, the cooling time given by
Ballman-Shusman cooling equation is as follows [2, 3]:

tc =

H2
2

ln

8 TM TC
2
TE TC

(2)

where tc is the time for the average temperature across the


thickness to reach the specified ejection temperature, TE,
TM is the temperature at which melt is injected, TC is the
mold coolant temperature, H is the part thickness and is
thermal diffusivity. This equation is the result of the
solution of the one dimensional heat equation across the
thickness of the cavity shown in Figure 1, so it neglects
the heat transfer in the transverse direction.
By inspection, it is observed that the forms of
Equations (1) and (2) are quite similar, with cooling time
being proportional to the thickness squared. This leads to
the supposition that the rule for cooling time estimation is
derived from the Ballman-Shusman equation. Let us
consider the constant of proportionality, K, such that

tc = K t 2
where

K=

1
2

ln

8 TM
2
TE

(3)

Tm
Tm

(4)

The value of K will clearly depend on the melt


temperature, mold temperature and the ejection
temperature chosen; frequently, the heat deflection
temperature (HDT) is taken as the ejection temperature as
previously discussed [4]. Table 1 shows some common
processing parameters for few commercial polymers.
Substituting values for TM, Tm, TE and for different
materials in equation (1) gives the values of K shown in
Table 2. To visualize the results, Figure 2 charts the
deviation of the K values for the different materials from
the commonly used rule. It is observed that the average
value for K across several materials is very close to 2,
which corresponds well to the design rule.
In fact, this result may be expected since most
thermoplastics have thermal diffusivity values in the same
range. However, some significant variances etween the
rule and the Ballman-Shushman equation are observed.

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While both melt and mold temperatures are given within a


small range, ejection temperatures values varies for
materials like nylon and HDPE. Hence final cooling time
depends significantly on the ejection temperature chosen.
The processing range for these materials is such that their
ratios are always close to each other as can be seen in
Table 3. Another factor that is responsible for the cooling
time differences in different materials is the type of
materials itself. Since most of the commodity plastics like
PS, HDPE and PP etc are run on almost same temperature
conditions, hence any change over from amorphous to
crystalline or vice versa will give different cooling times
because of difference in specific enthalpies of crystalline
and amorphous materials.

Runner Sizing Rule


Consider the simple branching runner design with
one primary runner with two secondary runners shown in
Figure 3. One of the key aspects to consider during sizing
the runner system is the overall pressure drop that would
result from a given runner size. Runners should be
designed such that the overall pressure drop should be
kept to minimum without increasing the overall cycle
time. Rules regarding runner layout to minimize volume
have been previously proposed [5]. Methodologies for
optimizing cooling channel layout using flow simulation
have also been developed [5-7]. Studies have also been
conducted on understanding the effect of mold material on
cooling system [6].
A common rule of thumb for runner sizing states that
Ain = Aout
(5)
i.e. area of the primary runner should be equal to the sum
of the areas of secondary runners. For the runner layout of
Figure 3, this design rule leads to the relationship:
Secondary

Primary

(6)

This rule of thumb seems intuitively correct since it will


cause the polymer melt to continue flowing at the same
linear velocity through the runner system. However, the
preservation of linear melt velocity does not necessarily
ensure a good runner system design.
Alternatively, the pressure drop in each branch of the
runner system can be analyzed to develop an optimal
design that balances the pressure drop and runner volume.
Equation (4) is the Hagen-Pouiselle equation for pressure
drop in circular channel for power law fluid [8-10]:

P =

1 + 3n
n R3

2KL n
Q
R

(7)

where P is the pressure drop across the channel, R is the


radius of cylindrical channel, L is the length of channel, Q
is the flow rate of plastics melt flowing through the
channel, n is the power law constant, and K is the
consistency index of plastics. This equation was applied to
the HDPE resin with n= 0.59 and K= 4700 Pa.sn.

To compare the performance of the runner sizing rule


with optimal runner design using the Hagen-Pouiselle
equation, optimization of the runner design has been
conducted using Microsoft Excels solver with a
spreadsheet in the form of Table 4. The objective was to
select the diameters of all runners to minimize the total
runner system volume while constraining the pressure
drop through the runner system to a specified maximum.
Optimization of runners was carried out for two
generation runners with one primary runner and two
secondary runners. Ratios of the primary to the secondary
runner lengths were varied from 0.2:1 to 15:1 and the
optimization was performed for a volumetric melt flow
rate of 87 cm3/s. Optimization was carried out to
minimize the total volume ( V) subjected to the total
pressure drop ( P) equal to 30 Mpa (4,500 psi). Once the
optimized diameters were found out they were compared
with the runner diameters obtained by thumb rule for
same pressure drop.
For comparison purposes, this paper examines the
ratio of the volumes of the runner system designs derived
using the runner sizing rule to the optimal runner system
design. If the runner sizing rule is effective, then this ratio
should approach 1. If the runner sizing rule is not
effective, then the ratio will be much greater than 1. The
ratio is plotted as a function of the ratio between the
primary and secondary runner lengths in Figure 4.
In Figure 4, it was found that the volume predicted by
rule always lies within 9% of the optimized runner
volume. As such, our primary conclusion regarding the
runner sizing rule is that it is quite effective. Indeed, it is
observed that the rules efficiency approaches 1 for large
or small runner lengths ratios. The reason for this lies in
the fact that for long primary runner, the overall volume
of the runner system is dominated by primary runner
diameter as it controls most of the pressure drop.
Whereas, for short primary runner, the opposite is true i.e.
overall runner volume is dominated by secondary runner
diameters which also controls most of the pressure drop
associated with runners. Due to the dominance of one or
the other diameter, the dominant diameters take values
closer to each other during optimization for both the
optimized and thumb rule case as can be seen in Tables 5
and 6. Hence, the efficiency of the runner sizing rule
approaches one. Due to the same above reason there is a
peak inefficiency then the ratio of the primary to
secondary runner lengths is 2. At this length ratio, none of
the diameters dominate and both share equal amount of
runner volume which makes the rule inefficient.
Another aspect about runner sizing apart from
pressure drop is its affect on overall cooling time. A low
pressure drop runner system yields large diameters
requiring high cooling time which in turn affects the
overall cycle time. Cooling time for the same HDPE
runner system was found out using the Ballman-Shusman
cooling equations similar to that given by equation 2.
Cooling time for the runner systems based on

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optimization and thumb rule is plotted in Figure 5 as their


ratio vs. corresponding length of that particular runner.
In Figure 5, it can be seen that for short primary runner,
the runner design rule yields a runner resulting in to an
increase in cooling time up to 60%. Thus, following the
thumb rule for sizing the runners for very thin parts whose
cooling time is very less will result in an increase in
overall cycle time.
Another comparison between runner sizes based on
optimization and thumb rule can be made by comparing
the performance of both at different pressure drops. The
same approach was followed for 10 MPa and 50 MPa
pressure drop. Runner volume and cooling time was noted
for each case and plotted as shown in Figure 6. Both
runner volume and cooling time increases with a decrease
in pressure drop due to the increase in runner diameter. It
can also be observed that runners based on the design rule
will require much higher cooling times at lower pressure
drop (about 70% more time at 10 MPa) as compared to
cooling time at higher pressure drop (about 50% at 50
MPa).
Figure 7 shows the cooling data for some actual
runners that were analyzed. For the same system
optimized runner sizes and runners based on thumb rule
was found out and their cooling time was compared with
the actual values. In Figure 7, it can be seen that
optimized runner sizes would save a lot of cooling time.
For e.g. optimizing runner diameter reduces the cooling
time from 20s to 15s and from 30s to 20s. Similarly
runners based on thumb rule would have reduced the
cooling time as well from 30s to 25s. This decrease in
cooling time would become more critical for cavities with
thin walls because that would mean runners will govern
the cooling time and hence overall cycle time thereby
damaging the productivity. Figure 8 shows the runner
volumes for the same actual and optimized runner system.
Though they are close to each other but at higher volumes
some significant difference can be observed which again
stresses the point of optimizing the runner system for
large volume runners.
One of the key aspects with the runner sizing is that
the runners are sized for a particular pressure drop. Hence
a different value of pressure drop would yield a totally
different runner system. Thus it can be said that the
constraint based optimization is a pressure depend design.
This pressure dependency will in turn limit the machine
size on which the part will be molded.
Another issue that needs to be resolved is the distribution
of pressure in various segment of runner system. This can
be done either by distributing equally for different
segment or other approach would be to distribute the
pressure drop in proportion to respective lengths of the
segment. Another factor to consider while sizing the
runners is the flow rate of melt which is adjusted by the
molder. This in turn will affect the pressure drop and
hence leads to a different runner volume as can be seen in
figure 6. Thus a runner system optimized to run at a

particular flow rate would not be optimum at a different


flow rate.

Conclusion
Mold designers often use design rules for cooling
time estimation and runner sizing. The two rules have
been analyzed and found to provide a simple and often
reasonable approach for mold design. In fact, both design
rules were found to have very low expected error on
average. The term expected error is used here to
represent the average error across many different mold
design applications. While the expected error may be low,
these design rules can provide very high errors on an
application by application basis.
Specifically, the cooling times for predicted with the
cooling time rule for acetal and HDPE were near the exact
values of those predicted with the Ballman-Shuchman
equation. However, the cooling times predicted for PC
and PA6 were under predicted, while those for PS were
over predicted. For this reason, the common rule for
cooling time estimation can be quickly used for noncritical estimates, but more advanced analysis should be
used for determination of mold cavitation and cooling
system design.
Similar performance was observed between the
results predicted with the runner sizing rule and the
optimal runner designs developed with the HagenPouiselle equation. In general, the runner sizing rule
provide designs that had volumes that were just a few
percent above the optimal designs. When examining
cooling times, however, the runner sizing rule was far
from optimal. Accordingly, mold designers should
perform appropriate analysis on an application by
application basis rather than blindly following previous
practice or general design rules.

References
[1]
[2]
[3]
[4]
[5]

[6]

G. Menges, W. Michaeli, and P. Mohren, "How


to Make Injection Molds," 3rd ed: Hanser, 2001.
P. Ballman and R. Shusman, Easy way to
calculate injection molding setup time. New
York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 1959.
R. L. Ballman, R. L. Kruse, and W. P. Taggart,
Polym. Eng. Sci., vol. 10, pp. 1541, 1970.
H. Xu and D. O. Kazmer, "A Stiffness Criterion
for Cooling Time Estimation," International
Polymer Processing, vol. 13, pp. 249-255, 1999.
C.-C. Lee and J. F. Stevenson, "Optimizing
Runner System for Multicavity Injection Molds.
Part1: Runner Sizing," Polymer Engineering and
Science, vol. 39, 1999.
R. K. Irani, S. Kodiyalam, and D. O. Kazmer,
"Runner system balancing for injection molds
using approximation concepts and numerical
optimization," presented at 18th Annual ASME
Design Automation Conference, Scottsdale, AZ,
USA, 1992.

Page 4 of 5

[7]

J. Beaumont, Runner and Gating Design


Handbook: Tools for Successful Injection
Molding: Hanser, 2004.
D. H. Harry and R. G. Parrott, "Numerical
Simulation of Injection Mold Filling," vol. 10,
pp. 209-14, 1970.
E. Broyer, C. Gutfinger, and Z. Tadmor,
"Theoretical Model For the Cavity Filling
Process in Injection Molding," Transactions of
the Society of Rheology, vol. 19, pp. 423-444,
1975.
H. A. Lord and G. Williams, "Mold Filling
Studies For the Injection Molding of
Thermoplastic Materials: Transient Flow of
Plastic Materials in the Cavities of Injection
Molding Dies," Canadian Controls and
Instrumentation, pp. 318-328, 1975.

[8]
[9]

[10]

Table 5: Runner diameters for short primary runner


Runner
Optimized
Thumbrule
length(mm)
Diameter(mm)
Diameter(mm)
8
40
40

6.35
5.83
5.83

8.07
5.71
5.71

Table 6: Runner diameter for long primary runner


Runner
Optimized
Thumbrule
length(mm)
Diameter(mm)
Diameter(mm)
600
13.95
14.47
40
12.81
10.23
40
12.81
10.23

Table 1: Average processing parameters [2]


Processing
Mold temp
Ejection
temp (0C)
(0C)
temp (0C)
Polycarbonate
300
83
130
HDPE
210
33
75
Polyacetal
200
70
150
Polystyrene
200
45
85
Nylon 66
290
80
150
Table 2: K values for different polymers
Polymer
K
Polycarbonate
0.93
Acetals
2.09
Polystyrene
1.86-2.09
HDPE
3.06-3.86
Nylon 66
0.84

Figure 1: One dimensional heat flow


4
3.5

ln
Polycarbonate
HDPE
Polyacetal
Polystyrene
Nylon 66

Length
L1
L2
L3

8 TM
2
TE

4.72
4.15
3.89
4.19
4.50

Table 4: Format for optimization


Diameter
Volume Flow rate
1
2
3

Tm
Tm

V1
V2
V3
V

Q
Q/2
Q/2

Constant of Proprtionality,K

Table 3: Temperature ratios for thermoplastics


Polymer

Cooling Time Rule


2.5
2
1.5
1
0.5
0
Polycarbonate

Pressure
drop
P1
P2
P3
P

HDPE

Polyacetal

Polystyrene

Nylon 66

Figure 2: K value for thermoplastics

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optimised

rule

12000

volume(mm 3)

10000
8000
6000
4000
2000
0

Figure 3: Typical branching runner system

20

40

60

80

100

120

cooling time(s)
Figure 6: Pressure dependent volume and cooling time
1.09

40

1.07
1.06
1.05
1.04
1.03
1.02
0

10

12

14

16

LPrimary/Lsecondary

Optim um cooling tim e(s)

Vrule / Voptimum

1.08

Actual vs. Optimum

Actual vs. Rule

35
30
25
20
15
10
5
0

Figure 4: Effect of runner length on runner volume

10

15

20

25

30

35

40

Actual cooling time(s)


Figure 7: Actual vs. optimal cooling time
1.8

Linear (Actual vs. Rule)


1.4

Linear (Actual vs. Optimum)

6000

Optimum and Thumb rule


3
volume(mm )

t (ru le )/ t (o p tim is e d )

1.6

1.2
1
0.8
0.6
0.4
0.2
0
0

10

12

Lprimary/Lsecondry

14

16

5000
4000
3000
2000
1000
0
0

1000

2000

3000

4000

5000

Actual Runner volume(mm3)

Figure 5: Cooling time for runner system


Figure 8: Actual vs. optimal runner volume

6000