How to find the right micro moulding supplier?
Choosing the right supplier is vital for the success of any project. In the case of micro moulding, final products are complex and challenging to make, with complicated standards and procedures to follow to be sold globally, hence the process to choose the trusted supplier could take longer with more questions to be answered.
Partnership from Day 1
Unlike conventional injection moulding, the design and manufacture of mould tooling for micro-moulded components calls for a higher level of precision and a unique set of skills. The chosen micro moulding partner should not be only considered as a contractor or supplier, but rather a strategic partner throughout the whole product development process, working closely with the designers and product developers of the OEMs. With their expertise and experiences, the ideal micro moulding partner would be able to advise their OEMs on the practicality, scalability, accuracy, time scale and cost effectiveness of the product concept and design.
When shortlisting the potential suppliers, OEMs should also pay attention to the level of support and the method of communication, to ensure effective communication and knowledge sharing are maintained throughout the whole process.
In addition, in order to build and maintain a successful partnership, the project management capability of the supplier plays an important role. A micro moulding supplier with an effective project management system could maximise client satisfaction and project’s success through a well executed, open and successful project plan. The project manager from the supplier’s side could also help avoid any unforeseen expenses and wasted time, by providing useful, most updated information to both the supplier’s internal and external parties, the client and any other relevant groups of interest.
By having a close relationship with the suppliers, OEMs could also have a better understanding about the former’s business approach, values and sustainability, ensuring they are in line with their own. Additionally, for micro moulding projects with the potential to be expanded in the future, it is vital for OEMs to discuss the suppliers’ capabilities in expanding their physical and human resources to meet the higher demand.
The chosen micro moulding supplier should have the required experiences, technology and capability to meet the future demands from OEMs. (Photo: Micro Systems)
In micro moulding, due to their extreme small size down to a fraction of a human hair, materials behave differently, which makes it almost impossible for conventional injection moulding companies to take on micro moulding projects. The chosen micro moulding partner needs to have the extensive and unique knowledge and experience in tooling and material, such that the chosen material and mould designs could support the scalability and durability of the final moulded parts as requested. Depending on the nature of each project (prototype vs mass production, medical vs non-medial, etc.), material experts from the chosen suppliers could give valuable inputs since the early stages of the project, hence reducing the chance of mistakes and time wasted on unsuitable materials.
The shortlisted suppliers also need to be able to showcase their expertise through their samples from previous projects, proving their ability to produce moulds and moulded parts down to the micro size required.
Technology and In-house production
Due to the complexity and tight relationships between mould components, it is vital to choose the supplier that has the capability to design and manufacture micro moulds in-house. As the heart of any micro moulding project, micro moulds require a combination of unique expertise and state-of-the-art technology. Top micro moulding manufacturers could spend millions of pounds each year on training and purchasing the most cutting-edge equipment and manufacturing technologies. Furthermore, it’s not only the matter of having the most expensive machinery, but also the collaboration between departments (design, tooling, etc.) on-site at the supplier to smoothly deliver a successful project. Experienced suppliers could have both micro tooling and micro moulding facilities on the same site, making them the ideal suppliers for a turnkey project, as any unfortunate problems in the final moulding stage could be dealt with effectively, miscommunication could be avoided and efficiency is overall improved.
A critical part of micro moulding that differs it from conventional injection moulding is the vital role of quality assurance and measuring. Micro moulding suppliers having the ability to carry out quality checks with an inhouse Micro Metrology department could avoid any error in measurement due to the change in environments between the production site and metrology site. A trusted supplier could also prove their highest attention to quality assurance by heavily investing on the top micro metrology equipment.
Choosing a supplier with well-recognised Quality Management System (QMS) certifications is not unfamiliar with most OEMs, especially for those with projects related to the Healthcare/Medical industry. Whether it is for tool manufacture or micro injection moulding process, a QMS, for example ISO 9001 or ISO 13485, works as a formal system that records the processes, procedures, and roles necessary to effectively accomplish the project’s goals based on globally accepted standards.
With the green revolution across industries nowadays, another important factor to be considered when choosing the ideal micro moulding supplier is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). As sustainable procurement and sourcing has become a common standard for many businesses, especially those operating internationally, having a key micro moulding supplier with a clear CSR approach and a high level of transparency in their performance allows OEMs to ensure their overall CSR performance.
After-sales service support
The relationship between OEMs and their micro moulding suppliers does not stop when the moulds or moulded parts are delivered. Immediate and effective support after-sales from trusted suppliers show their responsibility, professionalism and their ultimate efforts to ensure a long-term relationship with their clients. Especially in the case of micro moulds, as throughout their lifecycle, undesired faults could happen, or simply the moulds need prearranged maintenance and servicing after their designed hours of operation, the chosen suppliers need to be able to communicate effectively with their OEMs to ensure the required tasks are completed within a reasonable time and costs (if any).
In a world where marketing and social media could be misleading, understanding the major differences between those who claim they can mould micro components (or provide mould design/manufacturing) and those who can is essential when selecting the right micro moulding supplier to partner with for a micro moulding project. By spending the time and effort in choosing the right supplier at the beginning, OEMs can save a lot of time and finance (shorter project time length, lower rates of faults, etc.), and positively find themselves a trusted supplier for other projects in the future.
When making the final decision on the chosen micro moulding supplier, OEMs should ask themselves those important questions:
- Does the supplier possess the necessary production capabilities?
- Does it have the ability to produce/design moulds/micro moulded parts quickly enough to meet requests at the stages of product development, market launch, or production?
- Does it provide the products at a reasonably competitive price?
- Does it have the necessary degree of quality control (in Healthcare/Medical, in Food and Drink, etc.)? Does it have the required certifications for the targeted industry?
- What is its method of communication? Who will be responsible for the communication between the 2 parties?
- Does it work with other contractors for your project? If yes, how do they control the quality of their suppliers?
- Does it provide after-sale services (maintenance, servicing, etc.)?
- Does it have the required scalability and flexibility for the future expansion of the project?
Micro Systems specialises in the design, manufacture and validation of ultra precision micro moulds for the medical, pharmaceutical and optical markets, at the same time, the development and use of micro and nano technologies in the design and manufacture of injection moulded components. We have a dedicated micro moulding facility, and have ISO13485 and ISO9001 certifications. For more information, please Contact us or visit our website.