How to Communicate Effectively with Your China Mold Maker
Working with a China mold maker can be challenging due to differences in language, business culture, and geographic distance. However, with the right strategies for clear specifications, managing language barriers, using visual aids, and maintaining open communication, you can develop an effective working relationship with your China supplier. Read on for tips to improve collaboration on your custom molds or tooling.
Table of Contents
Provide Comprehensive Design Specifications
The first step is making sure your China mold maker has all the necessary details to manufacture your part correctly. Your specifications should include:
Supply CAD drawings with precise measurements for every feature of your part design. Don’t assume any dimensions are obvious—provide values for all lengths, radii, draft angles, etc.
Specify which material(s) the mold must accommodate, along with considerations like plastic grades, fillers, impact strength, etc. This affects mold Steels and coatings.
Indicate acceptable tolerances for each dimension. Tighter tolerances may require different mold manufacturing methods. Discuss requirements early to determine feasibility.
Call out required surface finishes like gloss, texture, or special coatings. Your mold maker can determine which machining and polishing steps are needed.
There is no single draft angle that works for all injection molded part designs. The ideal amount of draft depends on factors like:
- Wall thickness
- Material selection
- Ejection requirements
- Surface finish
- Feature depths
- Manufacturing methods
As a general guideline:
- Apply 0.5 degrees draft on all vertical surfaces if possible. This is strongly advised.
- For most standard parts, 1-2 degrees of draft works well.
- Use a minimum of 3 degrees draft on shutoff/mating surfaces where metal slides against metal.
- For parts with light textures, require at least 3 degrees draft.
- For heavy textured surfaces, specify 5+ degrees of draft minimum.
In challenging situations where more draft may negatively impact part performance, 0.25-0.5 degrees can still improve moldability over zero draft. Discuss special cases with your China mold maker to determine feasibility.
For prototype and low volume aluminum molds made by CNC machining, more draft and thickness may be required than for steel production molds due to end mill size limitations. The increase improves mold performance.
There is no “one size fits all” draft angle. The key is discussing draft requirements with your China mold maker based on your specific part design, material, volumes and quality needs. This ensures selecting the optimal draft for manufacturability while meeting product specifications.
Specify gate type (edge, tab, direct, etc) and location. The gate feeds plastic into the mold cavity and impacts part appearance, strength, and ease of processing.
Show locations for ejection pins to remove parts from the mold. Flush pin holes may be needed on critical surfaces.
Managing Language Barriers
The language difference with a China mold maker can make specifications less clear. Here are some tips:
Use Drawings Over Written Details
Supply drawings with GD&T callouts to illustrate design intent. Dimensioned drawings often communicate better than paragraphs of text.
Get Support For Translations
For important written communications, have them translated to ensure accuracy. Online services can help translate emails, quotes, and contracts.
Confirm Specs Are Understood
Ask your mold maker to explain or re-iterate your specifications back to you. This helps confirm they understand what you are asking for.
Incorporate Visual Aids
Share photos, videos, or 3D models to demonstrate important mold details. Visual aids reduce confusion.
Make Use Of Mold Terminology Resources
Look up key moldmaking terms in English and request their Chinese equivalents from your supplier. Knowing the right technical vocabulary improves clarity.
Send 3D CAD Models
CAD software enables you to share complete 3D model files with your mold maker rather than just 2D drawings. Benefits include:
Complete Part Visualization
3D models allow your mold maker to visualize exactly what the finished part looks like from all angles. This reduces errors.
Your mold maker can take measurements directly from a 3D model using inspection tools. No more interpreting 2D drawings.
Design Intent Communication
Advanced mold makers can infer draft angles, undercuts, ejection, and other molding considerations from examining a CAD model.
Your mold maker may identify areas where design tweaks will improve moldability while still meeting the product requirements.
With a 3D model, the mold maker can tool path for machining complex surfaces and optimize mold plate layouts.
Mature suppliers can work from 3D models as the sole design definition—no 2D drawings required. This reduces misinterpretation.
Just remember to discuss any model modifications with you first before implementation.
Use Renders and Physical Models
In addition to CAD, providing rendered images and even physical models of your part can be useful for Chinese mold makers. This allows them to visualize what the actual plastic parts should look like.
Using CAD software, generate photorealistic renderings showing your part in proper scale. This depicts color, textures and overall styling.
3D Printed Models
3D print a prototype model to send to your mold maker. They can use it as a reference to match aesthetics and fit.
CNC Machined Models
For very high accuracy, have a model CNC machined from mold steel or aluminum. This represents true-to-life tolerances.
Some mold makers offer low-cost rapid tools made from aluminum or epoxy resins. Parts made from these short-run molds preview the final mold’s performance.
Reviewing a physical approximation of the end product minimizes ambiguity on finish and styling goals.
Maintain Regular Communication
Consistent communication ensures you and the mold maker stay aligned throughout the project. Best practices include:
Agree on Response Time
Set expectations for email and phone response time from the outset. Quick feedback prevents delays.
Request Progress Updates
Require regular project updates from your mold maker—daily or weekly as appropriate. Stay involved.
Review CAD Model Iterations
Have your supplier send CAD model updates for review as the mold design progresses. This catches problems early.
Provide Timely Feedback
Promptly review and provide feedback on samples, models, drawings and other deliverables. This prevents the mold maker from going down the wrong path.
Conduct Project Reviews
Set up periodic conference calls or video meetings to discuss project status, technical issues, and next steps. Communicate directly.
Don’t Go Silent
Stay engaged even when things seem to be going smoothly. Ongoing participation ensures the mold maker delivers what you expect.
Clear specifications, accommodating language differences, incorporating visual aids, and maintaining open channels for regular communication all help in working effectively with a China mold maker. Leveraging these tips will set your project up for success. For optimal results, look to mold makers offering strong English capabilities, proven expertise in your part materials, experience shipping molds internationally, and a track record delivering high-quality molds on time and on budget. With the right strategy and supplier partner, your China mold making project can produce great outcomes.