Injection molding machines have many components and are available in different configurations, including a horizontal configuration and a vertical configuration. However, regardless of their design, all injection molding machines utilize a power source, injection unit, mold assembly, and clamping unit to perform the four stages of the process cycle.
The injection unit is responsible for both heating and injecting the material into the mold. The first part of this unit is the hopper, a large container into which the raw plastic is poured. The hopper has an open bottom, which allows the material to feed into the barrel. The barrel contains the mechanism for heating and injecting the material into the mold. This mechanism is usually a ram injector or a reciprocating screw. A ram injector forces the material forward through a heated section with a ram or plunger that is usually hydraulically powered. Today, the more common technique is the use of a reciprocating screw. A reciprocating screw moves the material forward by both rotating and sliding axially, being powered by either a hydraulic or electric motor. The material enters the grooves of the screw from the hopper and is advanced towards the mold as the screw rotates. While it is advanced, the material is melted by pressure, friction, and additional heaters that surround the reciprocating screw. The molten plastic is then injected very quickly into the mold through the nozzle at the end of the barrel by the buildup of pressure and the forward action of the screw. This increasing pressure allows the material to be packed and forcibly held in the mold. Once the material has solidified inside the mold, the screw can retract and fill with more material for the next shot.