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If above $1000, you may pay 30% before they start producing the mold, and 70% upon completion and successful testing.
Keep in mind that most suppliers don’t make any profit of the mold itself, and therefore need to secure, at a minimum, a deposit before they order the mold and other tooling from their subcontractor.
Where can I find mold manufacturers in China?
Specialized injection mold manufacturers are present all over China, and its industrial cluster. However, there is a higher concentration of mold suppliers in Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Guangdong province.
Many mold suppliers are also based in Taiwan, even though a large percentage have moved production to the mainland.
That said, buyers rarely need to source mold suppliers on their own. Instead, the majority of importers use the injection mold suppliers, already used by their assembly manufacturer.
In the Watch industry, for example, none of the so called ‘Watch suppliers’ (they put the pieces together basically), manufacture injection molds for the various components needed.
Instead, they subcontract this to specialized mold and tooling suppliers.
For most products, it’s better to just use the suppliers existing network of mold suppliers.
That said, if they cannot match your technical specifications, you may want to consider contacting a mold supplier directly.
How can I protect mold ownership?
As you pay for the molds, you may assume that they are by default owned by you. That said, the ownership is practically impossible to claim, unless it is written on paper.
For example, you must state in the sales contract, that the mold is owned by your company, and can be collected at the supplier’s facility with short notice.
Does mold ownership equal IP ownership?
No, there is no relation between the two. Owning the mold doesn’t mean that your design is protected in any way. To ensure that your designs are protected, you need to file for a design patent (or design protection, if you are based in Europe).
That said, you can only protect a design that is ‘new and unique’. Hence, it’s not an option for most importers.
Where should the mold be kept?
The injection mold, and other tools, is normally kept in the supplier’s production facility, even when not used. This can pose a serious risk, as the supplier may use your mold to manufacture products for themselves – or other buyers – without letting you know.
To reduce the risk of this ever happening, you can store the injection mold at the premises of a trusted third party in China – and return it to the supplier before production, only to collect it once again after production completion.
How can I prevent my supplier from making a copy of my mold?
The short answer is that you can’t prevent them from making a 2nd version of your injection mold. As explained above, there are ways to make it harder for the supplier to steal your design, but you cannot stop your supplier if they really, really, want to copy your product.
The only way to truly protect your designs is by filing for design and utility patents, and get your brand and logo trademark.
This costs money, but there are no shortcuts.
That said, I think many importers overestimate the supplier’s interest in replicating their products.
It’s good to be aware of it, and implement measures that will at the very least make it harder for the supplier to copy your products – but the risk of IP theft should not hold you back from launching a product.
Do I need a mold when buying private label products?
There’s nothing wrong with that. They use these directories to showcase what they have made in the past, and what they can make.
But don’t assume that there is a complete set of tooling for every product they list.
Can I use existing injection molds to make my product?
Yes, but as explained above, don’t assume that they have an organized catalog of ODM products for your choosing.
At best, they have a limited number of designs you can choose from.
But even then, you may for any of the following reasons not be able to use their existing injection molds:
a. Design changes: If you intend t make even the slightest design change, you need a new injection mold.
b. Ownership issues: Buyer ownership goes both ways. There are loyal and trustworthy suppliers out there, and they will not rent out molds from their customers to other (especially new) buyers.
c. Material changes: Injection molds can often only be used for specific materials. Even if you find a design you like, you can only use it for the material (i.e., PP plastic or Zinc Alloy) that it was made for. If you want to change materia (i.e., to TPU plastic or 316L Stainless Steel, you need to pay for a new mold.
Can I take the mold with me if I change suppliers?
Yes, at least in theory, and assuming that you are the actual owner of the mold. That being said, don’t assume that your supplier will let you take the mold without putting up a fight.
They can make up all sorts of reasons, and some suppliers will not care about previous agreements.
If you plan to ‘break up’ with your supplier, collect your molds weeks or even months before you let them know.
If you would ever lose access to your molds, you will face a severe supply chain disruption, as you will be forced to source a new supplier and buy an another mold – a process that can easily take 4 to 5 months.
How long time does it take to make the mold?
That depends on the complexity and size of the mold, but smaller molds normally take around 30 to 40 days to produce and adjust.
Adjusting the mold can be both time consuming and unpredictable, which is why it takes such a long time.
In many cases, additional adjust are needed, even after the initial 40 days spent.
What should I look for when selecting an injection mold supplier?
As mentioned, you may not even need to source an injection mold manufacturer by yourself. For most products, it’s easier and even safer to use the supplier’s existing mold supplier.
That said, if you for any reason decide to try finding one on your own, use the following checklist:
1. Do they make molds related to your product?
2. Do they make molds for the same type of plastic or metal you plan to use?
3. Does their business scope include the term ‘mold’ or ‘tooling’?
4. Do they have a registered capital of at least RMB 1,000,000?
Co-founder of Asiaimportal (HK) Limited and based in Hong Kong. He has been quoted in and contributed to Bloomberg, SCMP, Alibaba Insights, Globalsources.com, China Chief Executive, Quartz Magazine and more.
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