new designer that needs direction

I was wondering if someone could direct me to a web site or book that explains how to create things that are plastic. for example, as I look around my office, I see, very stylized mini speakers for my computer. they are completely made of hard plastic. my printer, is also made of plastic…completely smooth and symmetrical. perfect curves. I am also looking at my mouse (Logitech mx510) solid plastic, perfectly sculpted to fit my hand. and perfectly symmetrical. now my eye travels to a plastic correction tape dispenser, a clear plastic gadget, yet highly stylized, with frosted and clear plastic parts. once again, perfectly symmetrical and flawless in its clean edges. My question is how are these things made how are such small household objects created with such perfection and detail with such things like perfect curved surfaces and consistent subtle textures. my walkman headphones, my cel phone case, power strip, plastic toolbox, the buttons on my keyboard and many other things… how? :astonished: I know how to model in clay but that’s about it but my fingerprints end up everywhere and it looks totally sloppy.

Learn it the right way, hands on…with ASSISTANCE through a text book, you’ll learn much more getting an internship (3-6 month) at a manufacturer.

You’re boss during an internship will be more than happy to show you applied manufacturing techniqes and suggest introduction books that won’t go over your head.

Yeah, totally agree with Big Red. The books I read for design class while back in school did little to prepare me for the real-world of plastic product design. They certainly give you specifics and details as to what plastics do what, etc, but I learned the most at my job. Working with the engineers, I learned about shrinkage (sp?), draft, undercuts, tooling design, sliders, hot-runners, gas-assist, family moulds, etc. Ah, just love the stuff! Good luck. The mere fact that you are interested in going out of your way to learn about plastic product design is great for your career.

your post sounds like it’s coming through a thick haze of smoke :wink:
As stated in your header you are a designer, what type? graphic, interior fashion, web?
the perfect symmetry and smooth organic curves are often designed on computer (for tooling) so that helps (even if it means some guy in China is eyeballing it when making the mold).
(yes I know there automated mold making processes, )

for some background on the process

here’s a good read:

“Plastic: The making of a synthetic century”
ISBN 0-88730-732-9

it puts plastic into a nice historical perspective. there’s a brief rundown of everything plastic from thin film to expandind foam and most everything in between.

“I just want to say one word to you, Ben. Just one word.”
The Graduate (1967)

The short answer is that plastic parts are defined by something much harder than clay. Typically the more plastic parts you want off of a mold, the harder that mold needs to be. “Injection molding,” which is the processes used for most of the plastic parts you describe, requires injecting hot liquid plastic under pressure, which obviously requires a really durable steel mold.

However, clay could be used as the starting point (common for detailed parts like action-figures I belive): The clay could be cast into a harder vitreous material, which in turn could be cast into metal, which could withstand the heat necessary to cast hot liquid plastic.

Also, larger-sized, low-volume parts (fiberglass, vacuum-formed styrene) can be cast right off of hardwood molds.


I am perplexed by this question. As you list yourself as a “new designer needing direction”, yet I wonder how you can call yourself a designer while possessing not even a fundamental knowledge of the predominant manufacturing process and materials.

Part of me wants to think that this is simply a gag posting, yet another part is concerned that it is not. Perhaps this is the reason so many designers never find work. Art Center programs focus on the sketching side neglecting the manufacturing and pseudo engineering aspects, while more technical state programs focus more on the problem solving and materials aspects neglecting the sketching aspect.

Igloo…are you an industrial designer with a degree?

Perhaps you need to read some material and process books such as “Industrial Design Materials and Manufacturing Guide” by Jim Lesko. I believe that an internship, as well as sitting down with a design engineer and working through some of your current designs would also be greatly beneficial.

You should also gather information on the various manufacturing processes for plastic:

  1. injection molding
  2. vacuum forming
  3. rotomolding
  4. blow molding

as well as other features such as:

  1. Insert molding
  2. In mold labeling/graphics
  3. Mold Pull, slides, actions, gate location, mold flow
  4. material specs for some of the most common materials as well as keeping up with many of the new resins.
    The more knowledge you have about manufacturing, engineering and material specifications, the more likely you are to have your designs make it through the gauntlet known as the product development cycle. This knowledge will also gain you respect from the engineering department as well as allow you to debate and prove engineering wrong on the inevitable “you cant do that with that resin” or “you could not possibly mold that” comments.

I can’t believe this posting! i learned about injection moulding even before I went to university and thought it was just common knowledge. If you are a graduated designer you should look into getting a refund from your course as you quite clearly learned nothing about materials or manufacturing processes.