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Mold Core In Injection Molding: What Is It And How Is It Different From A Mold Cavity

Injection molding is a manufacturing process widely used for producing parts by injecting molten material into a mold. This process is pivotal in producing complex and precise components for various industries, including automotive, consumer electronics, and medical devices. Two fundamental components of the mold in injection molding are the mold core and the mold cavity. This article delves into the specific roles and differences between these crucial elements.

Mold Core In Injection Molding

Mold Core: Definition and Function

The mold core is a part of the mold assembly that forms the internal surfaces of the molded part. Typically positioned in the mold’s “B” side or the moving half, the mold core projects into the cavity space and creates the hollow sections within the final product. The core essentially shapes the inner details of the product, such as holes, grooves, and other internal geometries.

Functions of the Mold Core:
  • Internal Features Formation: The primary function of the mold core is to shape the internal features of the molded part. This includes forming complex geometries that are essential for the functionality of the product.
  • Cooling System Integration: The core often integrates cooling channels to expedite the solidification process of the molten material. Efficient cooling is crucial for maintaining dimensional accuracy and reducing cycle times.
  • Ejection Mechanism: In many designs, the mold core also assists in the ejection process. As the mold opens, the core may include mechanisms such as ejector pins to push the final part out of the mold.
Maintenance and Care:

Regular maintenance of mold cores is essential to prolong their operational lifespan and ensure consistent part quality. This includes:

  • Cleaning: Removing residual plastic and contaminants from the core surface after each molding cycle.
  • Inspection: Periodic inspections for wear, cracks, or damage that could affect part quality.
  • Lubrication: Applying appropriate lubricants to moving parts or slide mechanisms within the mold core.
  • Repair and Refurbishment: Addressing any surface imperfections or damage through polishing or re-machining as needed.

Mold Cavity: Definition and Function

The mold cavity is the counterpart to the mold core and is responsible for forming the outer surfaces of the molded part. Located in the mold’s “A” side or the fixed half, the cavity works in tandem with the core to define the external shape and surface finish of the product.

Functions of the Mold Cavity:
  • External Features Formation: The cavity shapes the external contours of the molded part. This includes defining the overall dimensions, surface texture, and any external design features.
  • Material Flow Control: The cavity, along with the gating system, controls the flow of the molten material. Proper design ensures even distribution and filling of the mold, which is crucial for preventing injection molding defects such as voids or sink marks.
  • Structural Support: The cavity must withstand high pressures during the injection process. Therefore, it is designed to provide the necessary structural support to maintain the mold’s integrity under operational conditions.


During the injection molding process:

  • Molten plastic resin is injected into the mold cavity.
  • The plastic fills the cavity and takes the shape of both the core and cavity.
  • After the plastic cools and solidifies, the mold opens, and the molded part is ejected.

Design Considerations for Mold Core

Designing a mold core involves several critical considerations to ensure the quality and functionality of the molded parts:

  1. Part Geometry: The mold core must accurately replicate the internal features of the desired part geometry. This includes undercuts, holes, threads, and other intricate details.
  2. Draft Angles: Adequate draft angles are essential to facilitate easy ejection of the part from the mold. The mold core design should incorporate appropriate draft angles to prevent damage to both the core and the molded part.
  3. Cooling Channels: Efficient cooling is crucial for maintaining cycle times and minimizing warpage. Designing cooling channels within the mold core helps in uniform cooling of the part and faster production cycles.
  4. Material Selection: The material used for the mold core must have high wear resistance, toughness, and heat resistance to withstand the injection molding process conditions and ensure longevity.
  5. Ejection Mechanism: Incorporating an efficient ejection mechanism is necessary to ensure smooth part release after molding. The design of the mold core should integrate features such as ejector pins or sleeves as required.

Materials Used for Mold Core

Common materials used for mold cores include:

  • Tool Steel: such as P20, H13, or S7, known for their hardness and wear resistance.
  • Stainless Steel: provides corrosion resistance and is suitable for high-temperature applications.
  • Aluminum: used for prototype molds due to its ease of machining, but less suitable for high-volume production due to wear.

The choice of material depends on factors like production volume, part complexity, budget, and expected tool life.

Key Differences Between Mold Core and Mold Cavity

The mold core and mold cavity are fundamental components of the mold, each serving distinct roles. Helping to understand their distinct roles and design considerations in injection molding.

Comparison FactorMold CoreMold Cavity
Location and OrientationTypically located in the movable half of the mold (B-side)Located in the fixed half of the mold (A-side)
Functional FocusPrimarily responsible for shaping internal geometries (such as holes, grooves, etc.)Defines the outer dimensions, contours, and surface texture of the part
Design ConsiderationsIncludes internal cooling channels to manage the solidification of molten material. Includes features for the ejection mechanism (such as ejector pins) to assist in part removal from the moldFocuses on surface finish to ensure smooth and defect-free external surfaces. Includes gates and runners to control the flow of molten material into the cavity
Structural RequirementsMust be robust enough to maintain precise internal features under high pressure. Needs to endure repetitive ejection cycles without deformingNeeds to maintain structural integrity to withstand high pressures and temperatures during injection. Ensures proper alignment and sealing with the core to prevent flash or other defects
Role in Ejection ProcessOften involved in the ejection mechanism, including ejector pins or plates to assist in part removalLess directly involved in the ejection process but must be designed to allow easy removal of the part
Impact on Part DesignInfluences the design of internal features, requiring considerations for draft angles and undercuts to facilitate molding and ejection. Affects internal cooling and structural elements of the partImpacts the overall aesthetic and functional design of the part’s exterior, requiring precise control over surface finish and detail. Ensures smooth separation from the part upon opening the mold without damaging the exterior surfaces
Differences Between Mold Core and Mold Cavity

Key Factors in the Placement of Core and Cavity in Mold

In the process of mold design, the placement of the core and cavity is crucial for ensuring the quality of injection-molded parts and the economic viability of the mold. Here are the primary factors to consider and their impacts on the placement of core and cavity:

Part Geometry

The overall shape and dimensions of the part are the primary factors determining the placement of the core and cavity. Protruding features typically require the use of a core, while recessed features are formed by the cavity. Additionally, the distribution of wall thickness in the part significantly influences the placement. Non-uniform wall thickness can cause internal stresses during cooling, affecting part quality and mold longevity. Therefore, it is essential to strive for uniform wall thickness distribution during design, adjusting the shape of the core and cavity as necessary to achieve this goal.

Ejection System Layout

The ejection system is used to eject the molded parts from the mold after cooling. The positions and number of ejector pins and plates directly affect the layout of the core and cavity. Ejector pins are typically placed in positions that allow uniform force distribution on the molded part without damaging its appearance or functionality. For parts with complex internal structures or deep cavities, special ejection mechanisms such as slides or lifters may be necessary, and the design and placement of these mechanisms also impact the layout of the core and cavity.

Related information: Injection Mold Lifter Design

Related information: Injection Mold Slide Design

Material Characteristics

Different injection molding materials have varying shrinkage rates, flow properties, and processing temperatures, which indirectly affect the placement of core and cavity by influencing the molding and demolding processes. Materials with higher shrinkage rates undergo significant volume changes after cooling, necessitating additional space allowances in the design. Materials with good flowability can fill complex mold cavities more easily, allowing for more compact core and cavity designs.

Gate, Runner, and Gate Location Selection

The selection of gates, runners, and gate locations is crucial for ensuring part quality and mold economy. Their positions directly impact the flow path and filling of the plastic melt within the mold. Gates and runners are typically designed to evenly distribute the plastic melt into each cavity to achieve optimal filling and minimize material waste, often requiring adjustments to the placement of core and cavity. Gate locations also affect the appearance and strength of the molded part; if gates are in visible areas, additional measures may be needed to eliminate gate marks or enhance strength in those areas.

Mold Structure and Cost Effectiveness

The overall structure, strength, and rigidity of the mold also influence the placement of core and cavity. To withstand the high pressures and temperatures during the injection molding process and maintain precision and stability, the positions of the core and cavity require careful design and optimization. Additionally, manufacturing and maintenance costs of the mold are important considerations. Optimizing the layout of core and cavity can reduce injection mold costs and improve production efficiency.

Manufacturing Process of Mold Cavity and Mold Core

The production processes for mold cavity and mold core share similarities and have distinct steps tailored to their specific functions within injection mold manufacturing.

Design Preparation

Before manufacturing begins, the mold core design is thoroughly reviewed and finalized based on the specific requirements of the molded part. CAD (Computer-Aided Design) software is typically used to create a detailed 3D model, which includes all the critical dimensions, features, and cooling channels necessary for the mold core.

Material Preparation

Before starting the machining process, the appropriate materials for mold cavities and mold cores are carefully selected based on the specific requirements of the mold design. Common materials include:

  • Tool Steels: Such as P20, H13, S136, etc., which offer good hardness, wear resistance, and machinability.
  • Stainless Steels: Used for corrosion resistance where required.
  • Special Alloys: For applications needing enhanced properties like heat resistance or dimensional stability.

Tools, fixtures, and auxiliary materials such as cutting tools, clamps, cooling fluids, and protective coatings are also prepared to support the machining operations.

Machining Techniques

Precision machining techniques are employed to manufacture mold cores to exact specifications:

  • Milling: CNC milling machines are used to remove material from the raw block of steel or aluminum, creating the basic shape and features of the mold core. This process is crucial for achieving precise dimensions and smooth surfaces.
  • Turning: For cylindrical or round features, CNC turning machines are used to rotate the workpiece against cutting tools to remove material and create specific profiles.
  • Grinding: Surface grinding machines are used to achieve tight tolerances and smooth surface finishes on critical areas of the mold core that require high precision.
  • Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM): EDM processes, such as wire EDM or sinker EDM, are employed to create intricate details or internal features that are difficult to machine with conventional cutting tools. EDM is particularly useful for creating complex shapes and fine details with high accuracy.

Heat Treatment

After rough machining, the mold cavity and mold core undergo heat treatment processes:

  • Heat Treatment: This step is crucial for improving the hardness, strength, and wear resistance of the mold components.
  • Processes: Common heat treatment processes include:
    • Quenching: Rapid cooling to achieve hardness.
    • Tempering: Reheating to a lower temperature to reduce brittleness and enhance toughness.
    • Annealing: Heating and slow cooling to relieve internal stresses and improve machinability.
  • Control Parameters: Precise control of temperature, time, and cooling rates is critical to achieve the desired material properties and dimensional stability.

Mold Polishing

Once machining operations are complete, mold components undergo polishing processes:

  • Polishing: Improves surface smoothness and reduces roughness to meet specific cosmetic and functional requirements.
  • Mirror Finishing: Parts requiring a mirror-like finish undergo successive stages of rough and fine polishing to achieve desired aesthetics and functionality.

Assembly and Inspection

Once all machining and treatments are complete, the mold core components are assembled with other mold components such as cavities, ejector pins, and cooling systems. The assembled mold undergoes rigorous inspection using coordinate measuring machines (CMMs) and other metrology tools to verify dimensional accuracy and ensure compliance with design specifications.

Final Adjustment and Testing

Before deployment in production, mold cores undergo final adjustments and testing:

  • Fit and Function Testing: The mold core is tested within the complete mold assembly to ensure proper alignment, operation of moving parts, and functionality during simulated injection molding cycles.
  • Trial Molding Runs: Initial trial molding runs are conducted to validate the mold core’s performance, assess part quality, and make any necessary adjustments to optimize the molding process.


In summary, while both mold cores and mold cavities are integral to the injection molding process, they serve distinct purposes in shaping the final plastic part. The mold core defines the internal structure, while the mold cavity defines the external shape and surface finish. This differentiation allows for the precise control needed to manufacture complex and detailed plastic components efficiently.

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How do mold cores and mold cavities work together?

Mold cores and mold cavities work in tandem during the injection molding process. Molten plastic is injected into the mold cavity, filling both the cavity and the core. The core shapes the internal geometry, while the cavity shapes the external geometry of the molded part.

Why is precision important in mold core and cavity design?

Precision in mold core and cavity design ensures that molded parts meet exact specifications, including dimensional accuracy, surface finish, and part functionality. Proper alignment and interlocking of core and cavity components prevent defects like flash and ensure consistent quality in mass production.

Catalog: Injection Molding Guide

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