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Key factors of an injection molding machine's lifespan

Since our company deals in used molding equipment and rebuild services in addition to automation for injection molding systems, I've seen a wide variety of machines in operation. I also spent over 15 years working for a major injection molding machine manufacturer. So my input is more from the supplier and observer's perspective.

Others have touched on the many factors that come into play when estimating the lifespan of an injection molding machine. Key factors include:

Environment: I've seen injection molding machines that are only a few years old in serious disrepair because of operation in harsh, dirty environments. On the other hand, I've seen 25+ year old injection molding machines that look brand new operating in clean rooms.

Maintenance Practices: This is probably the largest contributor to the lifespan of the injection molding machine. How often is the injection molding machine cleaned, recalibrated, oil changed, etc. will greatly affect the lifespan.

Cycle time and other molding conditions: It stands to reason that injection molding machines running long, slow cycles will last longer than those running high speed.

Machine size: As a rule of thumb, some of the oldest injection molding machines I've seen have also been some of the larger machines. This may be due to the overall cost of the equipment and the challenge of justifying replacing a million dollar machine as compared to a 100K injection molding machine.

Controls: Just like computers have evolved, so have controls. As a result, parts are becoming more difficult to find for older control systems. An otherwise good operating injection molding machine can become useless if one can't obtain parts for an obsolete control system.

If you're looking for an average time frame, I would say around 10-15 years life is normal. The injection molding machines will most likely still be functional well past this age. However, due to evolving technology, higher level control requirements, and costs of repairs, many people will consider replacement after the injection molding machine reaches this age.

With that said, these injection molding machines still have a use. Since much of an injection molding machine's cost is tied to the main structure, many times it makes sense to rebuild, refurbish, or reconfigure it for another use. This could be as simple as fixing minor issues all the way through a complete ‘frame off' restoration. Our most common rebuilds consist of control changes, machine options, and replacing worn hydraulic components. Also, since safety standards are always evolving, a rebuild could include updates to safety features on the equipment.

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