Notice the smooth sheen on the interior of the mold. Liquid-hot polypropylene is
pushed through a rod and into the mold, where the plastic is formed and cooled.
The result of the injection-molding process is a piece of plastic that is formed. It took
less than four minutes to make this Honda front fender.
A Cycra Racing employee removes the fender from the molding machine. Next, he
checks the part for any imperfections and cuts off any leftover plastic pieces.
BEHIND INJECTION-MOLDED PLASTIC
HOW A MOLD IS MADE:
Cycra designs its parts on a computer using three-dimensional
Computer-Aided Design (CAD)
Pro/Engineer software. The molds
are further refined and then
built in Mastercam CAD milling
software. Once the specifics are
ironed out, the designs become
a reality. Cycra’s sister company,
Xceldyne, builds the molds using
CNC milling machines. In total,
there are 50 different metalworking CNC machines responsible for crafting each mold.
COST OF A MOLD: The average cost per mold is $65,000. Note:
a mold is for a specific piece of
plastic, such as a rear fender, for
a specific model. Hence, the total
plastic tooling cost for one bike
is nearly $300,000. Why is a mold
so expensive? Each mold starts
with two blocks of solid, tool-grade steel that each weigh 1500
pounds. It can take up to several
weeks for a mold to be completed on a CNC milling machine.
Fortunately, a mold can produce
hundreds of thousands of parts in
its lifetime, which could be over
EFFICIENCY: It’s possible for
Cycra to run at capacity for 24
hours a day, seven days a week;
however, each machine needs constant inspection of the hydraulic
fluids and heater elements. Cycra
continually updates the on-board
computer software of each
machine for greater efficiency and
reliability. In the course of a day,
Cycra can make 5000 parts if all its
machines are running at full tilt.
HOW A PIECE OF PLASTIC
IS MADE: Polypropylene is fed
into a heated barrel. Materials are
mixed, raised to a temperature
of 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and
pushed through a rod into a mold.
It takes around 200 seconds for
a piece of plastic to be formed.
Cycra Racing makes its injection-molded plastic in-house, meaning it closely guards quality control. Cycra also has the ability to
make unique plastic parts for the
race teams that it supports. That
technology is then trickled down
to the consumer. Very cool. ❏