It’s amazing how profoundly small things affect our lives. Mechanical watches have tiny springs and gears, but knowing what time it is can mean the difference between a hectic morning and a calm day. Buttons, keys, switches and knobs make dressing easier, help us secure our homes, allow us to easily control lights and give us the power to crank our stereos. They aren’t the only small things that make big impacts, though. Our world relies on micro molded parts to keep things running. From medicine to satellites, the little things make it all run.
Why are Micro Components so Important?
Technology miniaturization powers our culture. Just 70 years ago, the ENIAC computer took up 1,800 square feet. Now, we have pocket-sized phones with more than 300,000 times ENIAC’s computing power. It would be impossible to create powerful electronics with such small footprints without micro molding. As various industries continue cramming more power in smaller spaces, they’ll need greater access to smaller components. If we lost micro molding and its benefits, our way of life and technological advances would disappear.
How do they Make such Small Components?
Most small plastic components are products of the micro molding process, a type of miniaturized plastic injection molding. Designers create molds for the products they need to create and a machine takes special plastic, liquefies it and injects it into the mold. The machine melts the plastic by compressing it and forcing it through a barrel as it gets closer to the mold. Once the mold is full, the plastic cools and you have a new component.
What Industries use these Parts?
Micro molding has made a huge impact on the pharmaceutical and medical industries. Companies use it to create surgical components, hearing aid parts, catheter tips, syringes, vials, nanospray nozzles, diabetic lab-on-a-chip devices and blood analysis devices. Because these devices are created from injection molded plastics, they can be mass-produced, making them less expensive and, consequently, easier to obtain for the people who need them.
Manufacturers can now create microtechnology components from high temperature plastics, allowing for the replacement of steel components in the aerospace industry. Aircraft, engines, satellites and space vehicles all make use miniature high temperature plastic parts.
Every car manufactured for at least a decade features many micro molded parts. Every button and switch in your dash and all the hidden clips and ports holding your interior together are injection molded. Though buttons are giving way to touchscreens, there’s still a major need for miniature plastic components in modern cars.
This is the industry most people think of when they think of micro molding. Phones, MP3 players, hard drives, laptop and desktop parts, sensors, printers and copy machines all make heavy use of micro molded parts. Every tape player, whether cassette or VHS, uses several gears to spin the tape reels and regulate the speed. Disc drives, both slot-loading and tray-loading, use gears to load discs. It’s impossible to have a modern electronic device without micro molding.
Micro molding is everywhere. We usually don’t see it, but only because it holds our favorite and most important pieces of technology together.