Micro Injection Moulding Micro cutting tools – enablers for a fast growing market

From MA Alexander Stark Alexander Stark Reading Time: 10 min

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According to a recent market research report published by Markets and Markets, the Micro Injection Moulding Machine Market will be worth 609 million Dollars by 2026. The tools and moulds required for these processes have to be machined with specialised cutting tools that ensure accuracy down to the micron.

Drilling specialists generally use the term micro drilling when describing holes smaller than three millimeters (mm) in diameter.
Drilling specialists generally use the term micro drilling when describing holes smaller than three millimeters (mm) in diameter.
(Source: Sandvik Coromat)

Micro injection moulding machines are machines used for the manufacture of plastics components for shot weights of 1 to 0.1 grams with tolerances in the range of 10 to 100 microns. This moulding process permits the manufacture of complicated small geometries with maximum possible accuracy and precision. Part size is an obvious factor in determining micro moulding. Micro moulding produces a component or part that is: micro in size, micro in features, micro in tolerances. This process hinges on the precise and accurate manufacturing of moulds.

30 to 40 tons clamping force is the largest type segment of the micro injection moulding machine market. APAC was the largest market for micro injection moulding machine in 2020, in terms of value. Factors such as growth in automotive sector and rising demand from medical application is driving the market, Markets and Markets states in its report “Micro Injection Molding Machine Market by Type (0-10 tons, 10-30 tons and 30-40 tons), Application (Medical, Automotive, Fiber Optics, Electronics), and Region (APAC, North America, Europe, MEA, South America) — Global Forecast to 2026”. According to the analysts, the global Micro Injection Moulding Machine Market size is projected to reach 609 million Dollars by 2026, at a CAGR of 9.8 percent from 381 million Dollars in 2021.

30 to 40 tons clamping force segment is projected to be the fastest-growing type for micro injection moulding machine market between 2021 and 2026. The demand for micro moulded plastic parts in automotive, electronics and medical application is driving the demand for micro injection moulding machine with clamping force 30 to 40 tons. However, micro injection moulding machines with clamping forces 0 to 10 tons are expected to grow at the highest CAGR. The shift towards nanotechnology in every sector including medical, automotive, fiber optics, electronics and others is increasing the necessity of smaller high-precision parts.

The micro injection moulding machine market size is estimated to reach a value of $609 million by 2026.
The micro injection moulding machine market size is estimated to reach a value of $609 million by 2026.
(Source: Markets and Markets)

The medical segment is expected to be the fastest-growing application in micro injection moulding machine market between 2021 and 2026. The technological advancement in the medical industry is fueling the use of micro parts in its medical processes to enhance the overall procedure with better results for their patients. Intensive R&D is further increasing the demand for medical micro parts, thus, increasing the demand for micro injection moulding machine in medical application.

The Asian economies are the fastest-growing countries for these special machines, with China being the largest market. Increasing domestic demand due to the rapid increase in manufacturing facilities and other commercial units is expected to continue driving the demand for micro injection moulding machine in the region. Increasing population and demand, accompanied by initiatives for new technologies and products, are projected to make this region a promising market. The growing population will have a significant impact on automotive and electronics industry in the region.

The tools and moulds that make micro injection moulding possible require precise cutting tools from specialised suppliers.

When microns count: How to achieve high accuracy in the tool and mould making process

At the upcoming Metav trade fair in Düsseldorf, Zecha Hartmetall-Werkzeugfabrikation will put a special focus on micro-milling tools. At the Molding Area the company will be presenting precision tools for specific applications and modern materials. These include micro milling cutters, which, thanks to a new milling cutter design, are suitable for productive yet high-precision machining of a wide range of materials, alloy components and material hardnesses up to 70 HRC. With contouring accuracy levels down to 0.005 mm and concentricity accuracy down to 0.003 mm and below, the Peacock family of micro-milling cutters ensure precise component contouring. For Zecha application engineer Andreas Weck, the new micro families are distinguished above all by their new design which guarantees “tool and die industry users the finest surface finishes, high machining efficiency yet also optimum component contouring accuracy.”

Engis’ single pass dual diameter bore finishing.
Engis’ single pass dual diameter bore finishing.
(Source: Engis)

Engis Corporation on the other hand has developed advanced tooling and processes for the precision finishing of dual-diameters in components, enabling step-bores to be finished simultaneously while holding diametrical tolerances under one micron in a production environment. The company‘s precision diamond tooling is manufactured to deliver high-quality bore cylindricity, surface finish and concentricity between each bore. In addition, with the company‘s design, separate size compensation for each diameter can be performed easily and quickly, while the long-lasting diamond tooling helps to reduce the cost per finished piece. As well as increased production and a reduced number of spindles other significant advantages of single-pass dual diameter bore finishing, include: a split sleeve design which allows for independent size adjustment, separate adjusting nuts, two sleeves on the same mandrel and the improved bore concentricity — with the cylindricity of each bore being under two microns.

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Solid carbide precision micro-precision drills and mills

The Walter Titex DB133 drills feature a 140-degree point angle to ensure positive engagement in the pilot hole that is produced by DB131.
The Walter Titex DB133 drills feature a 140-degree point angle to ensure positive engagement in the pilot hole that is produced by DB131.
(Source: Walter Tools)

When it comes to precision micro-drilling, Walter has established a position of authority with its high-quality Supreme range of drills. The Tübingen-based company has introduced two new additions to extend the portfolio for end users.

In a programme expansion, the internally cooled Walter Titex DB133 Supreme micro drills have become established for machining precision parts. Recent developments see the series has been expanded with the DB133 Supreme solid carbide micro drill in dimensions of 5, 8 and 12XD. The through coolant DB133 Supreme features an AlCrN coating. The 5XD offering has WJ30EL full flute length coating applied. However, the longer 8XD and 12XD drills are WJ30ER with the coating only applied to the point of the drill and not the entire flute length, which further aids chip evacuation in deeper holes.

The Walter Titex DB133 drills feature a 140° point angle to ensure positive engagement in the pilot hole that is produced by DB131. The DB133 Series starts at 0.7 mm diameter, and increases in 0.05 mm increments to the largest drill in the range, 1.984 mm. The overall flute length of the 0.7 mm diameter 5XD, 8XD and 12XD drills is 6 mm, 8 mm and 11 mm and 17 mm, 23 mm & 31 mm respectively for the largest 1.984 mm diameter 5XD, 8XD & 12XD drills. The entire programme is based upon a 3 mm diameter shank with all drills consisting of precision ground flutes and two coolant channels that maximise chip clearance and cooling performance.

The Micro-Drill-Steel series from Mapal is available in diameter range 1.0 to 2.9 mm with internal cooling.
The Micro-Drill-Steel series from Mapal is available in diameter range 1.0 to 2.9 mm with internal cooling.
(Source: Mapal)

Mapal has also expanded its range of solid carbide drills for steel machining in order to offer the right tool for micro-machining operations. The Micro-Drill series for the diameter range from 1.0 to 2.9 mm with internal cooling allows users to drill at depths of 5xD, 8xD and 12xD. Four guiding chamfers ensure the best guiding properties. The tool experts have developed the geometry especially for the efficient and economical machining of very small bores in steel. According to the company, the flute shape with core tapering ensures ideal chip removal even with tough steel materials. Maximum performance and tool life are guaranteed thanks to a new combination of cutting materials and specially adapted micro-geometries.

For micro-drilling operations Inovatools introduced its Inomed mills set, with a special focus on the medical sector. The programme makes tool selection quick and easy and opens up new options for high-precision milling in the micro range for diameters of between 0.1 mm and 20.0 mm. The company also develops and produces special tools for complex drilling and milling tasks with extreme precision and accuracy in the μ range. Thanks to the Special Tool Express Service, the manufacturer receives a quotation specially tailored to their requirements within just 24 hours. The solid carbide (SC) special mills and drills in dimensions from 0.1 mm to 32 mm, which are custom-made for individual requirements including edge preparation and PVD coating, can then be shipped within just one week.”

Complete micromachining programme

The RF100 Micro Diver Series is suitable for cutting materials up to 48HRC at depths up to 5XD.
The RF100 Micro Diver Series is suitable for cutting materials up to 48HRC at depths up to 5XD.
(Source: Gühring)

Drilling specialists generally use the term micro drilling when describing holes smaller than three millimeters in diameter. Solid carbide as the tool material is, however, not used in all fields of application. Particularly with small and medium series production, with unstable machining conditions and always when toughness is required, users continue to rely on drilling tools in high speed steel (HSS/HSCO). Gühring’s micro-precision drills in powder metallurgical HSS-E steel distinguish themselves by a very high wear resistance and a high toughness and cutting edge stability that is especially important under unstable machining conditions. The powder metallurgical manufactured HSS-E steel has a very homogeneous structure that has a positive effect on the consistently high performance capabilities of micro-precision drills.

In the field of carbide tools, Gühring has extended this series to the micromachining sector with the new RF100 Micro Diver. The new micro-precision milling range is a universal tool for every material and application. Providing plunging and milling in a single tool, the new RF100 Micro Diver permits extreme cutting values with very high cutting depths. Available in two variants, the 6808 and 6809, the RF100 Micro Diver features a symmetrical drilling face for stability when ramping and drilling, a new transition geometry to improve rigidity and an innovative flute form that further enhances rigidity and eliminates vibration.

End mills for extremely precise applications

The new V-Series of square, radius and ball nose end mills from Union Tool is a complete line-up of high-quality precision end mills with 3 mm diameter shanks to cater for machine shops undertaking the challenges of small part machining.

With the shanks ground to an h4 finish on specialist grinding machines, customers can be assured of the quality of this new Union Tool series. This level of precision also improves machining performance when undertaking high-speed machining with high-end collets and shrink fit systems. The V-Series is offered in three variants, the VHLS, VHLRS and the VHSLB which identifies the square, radius and ball nosed options. The solid carbide V-Series end mills have been developed with Union Tool’s Hardmax coating technology to provide the perfect combination of hardness, durability and heat resistance for machining hard materials from 40HRc to around 65HRc. This hard-wearing coating makes the V-Series suitable for cutting a wide range of materials from carbon, alloy and pre-hardened steels through to hard steel, heat resistant alloys and much more.

The Union Tool VHLRS Series from Rainford Precision.
The Union Tool VHLRS Series from Rainford Precision.
(Source: Union Tool)

Manufactured from a super micro-grain carbide with a 30° helix, flat land and optimised geometry that demonstrates extreme resilience when machining challenging materials with very small tools, the V-Series is the right choice for machining with tool diameters as small as 0.1 mm.

For extremely small profiling applications and parts that demand the utmost precision, the 2-flute VHSLB range of ball nosed tools is available. This high-precision range of end mills is available with a ball nose from as small as R0.05 mm and extending through 0.1, 0.15, 0.2, 0.25, 0.3, 0.4, 0.5, 0.75, 1, and 1.5 mm. Except for the smallest R0.05 tool that has an effective flute length of 0.3 mm, every tool diameter in the VHSLB range is offered with a wide variety of effective cutting lengths to provide complete stability, strength and rigidity for the specific task at hand.

Carbide and PCD tooling

Sandvik Coromant has launched two new microdrill families specifically designed for precision machining. The Coro Drill 462 with -XM geometry and the Coro Drill 862 with -GM geometry support industries that demand small parts manufacturing, such as medical, automotive, electronics and aerospace. Designed to cover a variety of workpiece materials, the new drills offer precise performance where accuracy is key.

The Coro Drill 462 and 862 are the next generation of micro drills from Sandvik Coromant. Available in new geometries to offer a wide variety of cutting diameters and lengths, the drills feature an increased product range compared to previous assortments.

The drills have been specially adapted to overcome challenges of micro drilling. For instance, much like macroscale applications, it’s critical to have quality coolant to effectively evacuate chips when performing deep-hole drilling with micro tools. Both the Coro Drill 462 and 862 can easily drill hole depths of up to nine times diameter (xD) when using external coolant, and a through-coolant option is also available for drilling diameters of 1.00 mm and above and hole depths of up to 16xD. Not only does the effective use of coolant help the tools to drill deeper holes, but it also extends the tools’ life and reduces the risk of chip jamming.

The Coro Drill 862 is ideal for making holes from 1.00 mm to 3.00 mm in diameter in all materials, when used with internal coolant. In addition to conventional drilling, the Coro Drill 862 supports a variety of other drilling activities, including cross holes, stack drilling and drilling convex and concave surfaces.

In addition to being off-the-shelf solid carbide tools, both the Coro Drill 462 and 862 are available for customisation. As part of the range, Sandvik Coromant has made it possible to configure the tools based on diameters, usable length, step-diameter length and shank diameter, for manufacturers who require a bespoke approach to micro drilling. Furthermore, customers have the option of purchasing the Coro Drill 862 with a polycrystalline diamond (PCD) vein cutting edge. PCD is up to 100 times more wear resistant than solid carbide. In addition, PCD tooling is more accurate and can produce tighter tolerances than solid carbide tools, Sandvik states. Therefore, customers seeking to drill micro-sized holes in notoriously difficult-to-machine materials, such as titanium, aluminum, glass and ceramics, should consider PCD.