Both 3D printing and plastic injection molding are viable solutions for today’s businesses in making complicated plastic components and parts. These approaches were seen as competing technologies in the past, but they are now widely accepted as having distinct benefits. You can use them in tandem to improve manufacturing output.
There are times when plastic injection molding and 3D printing are both appropriate. Here we will go through each option to allow you to make the best decision on what to use.
- Plastic injection molding outperforms all other methods for high-volume manufacturing and minimizing waste.
- Although 3D printing takes longer, it is easier to set up, allowing for more frequent design revisions and is better for more complicated designs than other methods.
Rapid prototyping and designs that undergo numerous revisions benefit greatly from 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, because of its quick turnaround time of 1-2 weeks. You can also produce small plastic parts and components using this method. It is also a good fit for sophisticated or detailed designs. In terms of time and money, it is best suited for low-volume manufacturing runs of 100 or fewer pieces.
The following are the advantages of 3D printing:
- The initial investment in 3D printing is minimal
Injection molding equipment is more expensive than a desktop 3D printer and its materials. Open-source software and hardware may also offer continuing maintenance for free or at a low cost.
- Easy to make design changes
You can make design adjustments even during production with 3D printing since it is an additive process, saving time and money on a batch of components that may have a fault. It allows you to make design modifications in the middle of the process so that the whole manufacturing run doesn’t have to restart from the beginning. A minimal setup is necessary before manufacturing, so 3D printing is beneficial for quickly prototyping designs.
- Ideal for creating complicated patterns and decorations
3D printing is suitable for cumbersome or sophisticated designs with complex infrastructures since it manufactures pieces layer-by-layer.
Design adjustments are complex with injection molding because of the lengthy lead periods required to prepare the components for production (up to seven weeks for essential parts). But even though this process takes a long time, it is ideal for producing large numbers of components (more than 1,000 parts per run). Making large or small parts of any complexity is no problem for the mold tool.
Its advantages include:
- Ability to produce a large number of parts at a high rate
It is more cost-effective to produce a large number of items using injection molding because you can use many molds at the same time.
- Allows enhanced strength of objects
A single layer of poured material is necessary to manufacture injection molded items, avoiding any cracks or other weak points. Dense materials, such as concrete, may also be printed using this method after diluting or transforming in another way.
- Ensures minimal wastage
When using injection molding, you utilize the quantity of material that is necessary for the design. This manufacturing approach is perfect for mass-producing items at a low cost.
When is the best time to apply each technique?
- Using injection molding
This technique requires specialized equipment to be used in this manner. Indeed, injection molding is a process that necessitates the use of specialist equipment. This injection molding machine has an injection ram, a material feeder and a heating unit.
Making molds for your injection molding technique might be a little pricey and limit the number of prototypes you can create: Mold re-creation may be pretty costly if you need to manufacture numerous iterations. Due to the steel nature of the molding, alterations are complex and can’t be altered to fit your prototype development.
This is an excellent option if you want to generate many products. However, consider that injection molding tooling costs a lot and has a long turnaround time.
- When to utilize 3D molding
You can use additive manufacturing in a variety of ways. If 3D molding filament is what you are looking for, you may get a 3D printer like an FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) machine. It is also possible for your business to invest in more robust and professional 3D printers, such as those that use SLS (Selective Laser Sintering). However, if you’re a small business, you may not be able to afford an industrial 3D printer.
Alternatively, you might choose a 3D molding service that gives you access to more than 75 different combinations of 3D molding materials and finishes. 3D molding can let you make everything you can imagine, from metals, plastics to resins.
There is little waste from 3D moldings, such as support structures and failed prints, that you must eliminate during post-production when producing a single unit or a small batch. Still, it would help if you considered it when making large quantities. As a result, injection molding is the best option for big sets since there is no material waste.