May 8, 2018

The ins & outs of working with moulds

A little reflection on one of the most crucial elements of working with Precious Plastic.

You say Precious Plastic and immediately think of machines, products and plastic. However, it only takes a little dig into the project to understand that without moulds you won’t go far. Moulds whether you like it or not, are a crucial element of working with plastic.

Yes, exactly, moulds – that scary beast you’ve postponed for a while 👹
Let’s try to dissect this topic and open up a discussion around it so we can all get better at turning plastic waste into valuable polymers.


Let’s start with the basics
A mould is everything that can help you give a shape to the molten plastic. Ideally, this new shape should add value to the plastic used (this is recycling in a nutshell 👻). Moulds can be made from different materials depending on what you’re trying to create and the level of precision required. We often use steel and aluminium as they’re more durable but we also worked with wood, plexiglass, plaster or silicon and even know of people currently looking into ceramic as a possible option. We have seen people in our community using almost anything as a mould to work with Precious Plastic in creative and ingenious new ways.


If you are making a mould by yourself a great deal of time should be spent in the planning/designing phase as this will give you the strong, solid foundations necessary to make a great mould (and save you time in the long run). Moulds are complex beasts as we said, they need time and focus (and a bit of ❤) to look into every detail and explore all options before starting to manufacture your mould.


In the beginning, you might find yourself playing around with broken Ikea plates 💩, objects around you or found moulds but as you grow and evolve you will naturally find the urge to look into creating more complex and precise mould to make your products. And that’s when you go nuts 🤡. Mould can get very complex with multiple parts and components. It’s up to you to gradually increase the complexity of your moulds depending on your design, experience, skills and knowledge. 


It is a good practice to make test moulds with cheaper and easier to handle materials before making your final mould in metal. This prototype moulds can give you quick feedback and a more agile development process. Make, test, fail, iterate. Quick, fast and cheap. During this phase you can test the basic functioning of the mould, release mechanism, ejection, designs, etc.. Once you’re happy with your prototype mould you should move on to production.

From a purely financial point moulds can be very pricey. This is because the techniques, machines and materials needed to make a mould are usually very specific and expensive. The idea is that the investment will pay itself throughout time – that’s why is so crucial that you make prototypes and tests first. A little mistake and you’ve wasted hundreds of Euros 💰. To give you a bit of reference we paid 600€ for our iPhone mould and 500€ for the ruler mould- and this is just to produce it.


Power of the community
It can be difficult, time-consuming and, let’s admit it, a bit frustrating to make moulds – especially if that’s not your strongest skill. And that’s where the power our community comes in handy with its many people with all sorts of different skills, expertise and experiences.


We recently went to Chile to set up a workspace to recycle plastic. As you can imagine lots to think about and take care of. Little time to design and develop a mould ourselves. So we asked the guys at kunststoffschmiede (@carlf) to design and develop a ruler mould for us- and indeed they made a fantastic job 🙌. Moreover, we spotted this clever mould in the mould section of our Bazar made by El Tornillo and bought one which turned out to be well beyond our expectations. Thank you 😘


Huge demand 💰
We know for a fact that there is a huge demand for mould from people in our community and external organizations. So if your passion and expertise are making moulds, wait no longer and put them on the Bazar so people can buy you and start recycling plastic around the planet.


Mould not mold 😱
And last but not least, we like to call moulds by its English grammar version which is with a ‘U’. Why? Well we can talk about it over a coffee if this really interests you 😇


Interact ❤
If you good at working with moulds make sure to help others get better at it while if you suck at it (as I do 😝) ask questions so the community can help you.


Oh.. and if you made it this far you might as well click that little heart icon ❤ and leave comments to start a useful discussion.