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Compression molding

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Compression molded rubber boots before the flashes are removed. Compression molding is a method of molding in which the molding material, generally preheated, is first placed in an open, heated mold cavity. The mold is closed with a top force or plug member, pressure is applied to force the material into contact with all mold areas, while heat and pressure are maintained until the molding material has cured. The process employs thermosetting resins in a partially cured stage, either in the form of granules, putty-like masses, or preforms. Compression molding is a high-volume, high-pressure method suitable for molding complex, high-strength fiberglass reinforcements. Advanced composite thermoplastics can also be compression molded with unidirectional tapes, woven fabrics, randomly oriented fiber mat or chopped strand. The advantage of compression molding is its ability to mold large, fairly intricate parts. Also, it is one of the lowest cost molding methods compared with other methods such as transfer molding and injection molding; moreover it wastes relatively little material, giving it an advantage when working with expensive compounds. However, compression molding often provides poor product consistency and difficulty in controlling flashing, and it is not suitable for some types of parts. Fewer knit lines are produced and a smaller amount of fiberlength degradation is noticeable when compared to injection molding. Compression-molding is also suitable for ultra-large basic shape production in sizes beyond the capacity of extrusion techniques. Materials that are typically manufactured through compression molding include: Polyester fiberglass resin systems (SMC/BMC), Torlon, Vespel, Poly(p-phenylene sulfide) (PPS), and many grades of PEEK. Compression molding was first developed to manufacture composite parts for metal replacement applications, compression molding is typically used to make larger flat or moderately curved

parts. This method of molding is greatly used in manufacturing automotive parts such as hoods, fenders, scoops, spoilers, as well as smaller more intricate parts. The material to be molded is positioned in the mold cavity and the heated platens are closed by a hydraulic ram. Bulk molding compound (BMC) or sheet molding compound (SMC), are conformed to the mold form by the applied pressure and heated until the curing reaction occurs. SMC feed material usually is cut to conform to the surface area of the mold. The mold is then cooled and the part removed. Materials may be loaded into the mold either in the form of pellets or sheet, or the mold may be loaded from a plasticating extruder. Materials are heated above their melting points, formed and cooled. The more evenly the feed material is distributed over the mold surface, the less flow orientation occurs during the compression stage. Thermoplastic matrices are commonplace in mass production industries e.g. automotive applications where the leading technologies are Long Fibre reinforced Thermoplastics (LFT) and Glass fiber Mat reinforced Thermoplastics (GMT). In compression molding there are six important considerations that an engineer should bear in mind[citation needed]:

Determining the proper amount of material. Determining the minimum amount of energy required to heat the material. Determining the minimum time required to heat the material. Determining the appropriate heating technique. Predicting the required force, to ensure that shot attains the proper shape. Designing the mold for rapid cooling after the material has been compressed into the mold.


1 Process definition 2 Process characteristics 3 Process schematic 4 Workpiece geometry 5 Setup and equipment 6 Typical tools and geometry produced 7 See also 8 References o 8.1 Bibliography 9 Further reading 10 External links

Process definition

Compression molding is a forming process in which a plastic material is placed directly into a heated metal mold, then is softened by the heat, and forced to conform to the shape of the mold as the mold closes.

Process characteristics
The use of thermoset plastic compounds characterizes this molding process from many of the other molding processes. These thermosets can be in either preform or granule shapes. Unlike some of the other processes we find that the materials are usually preheated and measured before molding. This helps to reduce excess flash. Inserts, usually metallic, can also be molded with the plastic. As a side note, remember not to allow any undercuts on the shape, it will make ejection especially difficult. Thermoplastic matrices with an inherent indefinite shelf-life and shorter cycle moulding times are widely used and examples are shown in Ref 3.

Process schematic
The compression molding starts, with an allotted amount of plastic or gelatin placed over or inserted into a mold. Afterward the material is heated to a pliable state in and by the mold. Shortly there after the hydraulic press compresses the pliable plastic against the mold, resulting in a perfectly molded piece, retaining the shape of the inside surface of the mold. After the hydraulic press releases, an ejector pin in the bottom of the mold quickly ejects the finish piece out of the mold and then the process is finished. Also depending on the type of plunger used in the press there will or won't be excess material on the mold.

Workpiece geometry
This process is commonly used for manufacturing electrical parts, dinnerware, and gears. This process is also used to produce buttons, buckles, knobs, handles, appliance housing, radio cases, and large containers. Common commercial examples are shown in Ref 3.

Setup and equipment

Compression mold presses are manufactured in a wide variety of sizes. Most presses utilize a hydraulic ram in order to produce sufficient force during the molding operation. The tools consist of a male mold plunger and a female mold.

Typical tools and geometry produced

Three types of molds used are the flash plunger-type, straight plunger-type, and the "landed" plunger-type molds. The flash type mold must have an accurate charge of plastic and produces a horizontal flash (excess material protruding from the mold). The straight plunger-type mold allows for some inaccuracy in the charge of plastic and produces a vertical flash. The landed plunger type mold must have an accurate charge of plastic, and no flash is produced. Further details are explained in Ref 3.

See also

Matrix molding


Todd, Robert H., Dell K. Allen, and Leo Alting. Manufacturing Processes Reference Guide. New York: Industrial P, Incorporated, 1993 on page 219-220.

Further reading

Compression Molding, ASM Handbook 2001, volume 21 Composites, Peterson, Charles W, Ehnert G, Liebold R and Khfusz R pp516535, ISBN 0-87170-703-9

External links


Plastics industry

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Compression Molding and Transfer Molding of Thermoset Materials

Compression Molded Thermosets
Thermoset materials have excellent physical property characteristics when compression molded. Structural parts molded from BMC or SMC can be an excellent alternative to cast or machined aluminum, and result in significant weight savings without sacrificing strength. Phenolics and Polyesters can also deliver exceptional cosmetic qualities. Superior heat resistance, compressive

strength, flexural modulus (stiffness) and dimensional stability are all proven attributes of compression molded thermosets. Reliance Engineering has extensive experience in compression molding of the following materials:

Phenolics Bulk Molding Compound (BMC) Sheet Molding Compound (SMC) Thermoset Polyester Vinyl Ester, Epoxy, Diallyl Phthalate (DAP) Silicones

Compression Molded Thermosets - Parts

Reliance Engineering has extensive experience in compression molding of Phenolics, BMC (Bulk Molding Compund), SMC (Sheet Molding Compound), Thermoset Polyester Vinyl Ester, Epoxy, DAP Diallyl Phthalate, and Silicones.

What is Compression Molding and Transfer Molding?

Compression molding of thermoset materials is a manual process that transforms granular material into a molded shape by placing material into an open mold cavity and then closing the mold. Thermoset transfer molding includes the additional process of pre-forming a "pill" of material before being injected into a closed mold via the mold's runner and gate system. Thermoset materials are cured by an irreversible chemical reaction under heat and pressure. The result of this reaction is a highly cross-linked molecular structure and why compression molded thermosets can retain their properties at elevated temperatures. Compression process starts with granular material added into the cavity mold. Closing the mold adds the force needed for the material to flow in the mold which is heated to 300 degrees or higher. This process starts the curing. Because there is no runner and gate system in a compression mold, the mechanical properties of compression molding is better than identical parts molded by transfer molding or thermoset injection molding. Transfer molding generally requires applying preheated preform of material into the mold pot before a plunger applies pressure to the material, forcing it through a runner and gate into the mold cavity. Thermoset transfer molding is considered more precise creating less flash than compression molding. Transfer molding is excellent for insert molding because the molding machine clamp opens and closes vertically, and retention of the insert is more easily accomplished through a closed mold. The extra material left behind in the mold must be disposed of, since cured thermoset material from sprues and runners cannot be reground and reprocessed, as opposed to thermoplastic

injection molding. When the mold cavities are filled, the parts must cure to a solid form. The mold opens for part removal, and parts are ejected and removed by hand or automated equipment.

Thermoset Transfer and Compression Molding Advantages

High temperature thermoset materials more dimensionally stable less wall thickness variations less expensive tooling

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Compression molding is one of the original processing methods for manufacturing plastic parts developed at th the plastics industry. In fact, it was widely used in the bakery industry for cookie or cake molding before plasti

Aalthough it is also applicable to thermoplastics, compression molding is commonly used in manufacturing the parts. The raw materials for compression molding are usually in the form of granules, putty-like masses, or pre first placed in an open, heated mold cavity. The mold is then closed and pressure is applied to force the materia cavity. A hydraulic ram is often utilized to produce sufficient force during the molding process. The heat and p maintained until the plastic material is cured.


Molding compound is placed in an open, heated mold cavity.


The mold is closed and pressure is then applied to force the ma the entire mold cavity. Excess material is channelled away by t grooves. The heat and pressure are maintained until the plastic


The final part after the mold is removed.

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There are two different types of compounds most frequently used in compression molding: Bulk Molding Com Sheet Molding Compound (SMC). SMC costs higher but can be pre-cut to conform to the surface area of the m evenly distributed material over the mold surface usually results in less flow orientation during the compressio therefore, higher product consistency.

Compression molding is commonly used for manufacturing electrical parts, flatware, gears, buttons, buckles, k electronic device cases, appliance housing, and large container. Common plastics used in compression molding processes include

Polyester Polyimide (PI) Polyamide-imide (PAI) Polyphenylene Sulfide (PPS) Polyetheretherketone (PEEK) Fiber reinforced plastics

There are four primary factors in a successful compression molding process:

Amount of material Heating time and technique Force applied to the mold Cooling time and technique

Pros and Cons of Compression Molding Pros

Low initial setup costs Fast setup time Capable of large size parts beyond the capacity of extrusion techniques Allows intricate parts Good surface finish (in general) Wastes relatively little material Can apply to composite thermoplastics with unidirectional tapes, woven fabrics, randomly orientated fi strand Compression molding produces fewer knit lines and less fiber-length degradation than injection moldin


Production speed is not up to injection molding standards Limited largely to flat or moderately curved parts with no undercuts Less-than-ideal product consistency

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