When designing plastic parts for production, the process you want to optimize depends on many factors, such as part geometry, quantity, function, material and location in the development cycle. 3D printing and injection molding are two leading production processes; However, it has not been decided which method is better. Therefore, in this article, we will discuss the benefits and conditions of using these two processes. What are the benefits of 3D printing?
Here are some significant advantages associated with 3D printing:
Fast and versatile
3D printing is recommended for accurate and repetitive prototyping and small end use production to ensure faster component delivery. There is no doubt that 3D printing technology initially refers to the rapid prototyping of parts. But now it has become a feasible production of final production parts, supported by advanced materials and processes.
Create complex geometry
For the manufacturing of parts with relatively simple geometry, injection molding or CNC processing may be a more suitable and cost-effective solution. However, for organic and complex complex geometries, parts requiring multiple iterations, and small plastic parts, 3D printing may be the best solution. Generally, additive production methods provide more design freedom than injection molding or traditional production methods. However, the condition is that the design process has been effectively implemented, otherwise the degrees of freedom may be more expensive and time-consuming for manufacturers.
Assembly part assembly
As mentioned above, the most significant advantage of AM is that it provides considerable degrees of freedom for designing complex part geometry. At the same time, the ability to combine existing components usually composed of many components into one component is another important advantage of 3D printing. Ultimately, this reduces assembly costs. For example, it requires less work, reduces operating costs, and has a lower chance of failure at any time.
Lightweight high strength components
The additive materials used in 3D printing have excellent durability but are light in weight. This is why the aerospace and automotive industries use 3D printed parts. Although in this publication, we only regard plastic materials as an additive, printed aluminum (alsi10mg) is also one of the most acceptable materials for the production of end-use parts.
The flexibility to adjust the details printed on the 3D printer is another significant advantage of additive manufacturing. Therefore, the production of small end-use components, including patient oriented medical devices, wearable devices and small high-performance aerospace components, seems to be an ideal choice for 3D printing. In addition, the customization options provided by AM are unprecedented because they allow you to rebuild small parts, preforms or die castings.
What are the benefits of injection molding?
Injection molding also has some advantages related to its use as a production process:
Cost efficiency is a significant advantage of injection molding. For example, the cost of aluminum forming ranges from $5000 to $80000, depending on the design of the parts and the number of components required. Therefore, if you are looking for mass production of specific parts, increase the quantity to meet the cost of the mold.
Wide selection of materials
The raw materials used for injection molding are thermoplastic resins, elastomers and variants of liquid silicone rubber. In this range, thousands of materials belong to the material category used in the production process and are processed by injection molding. In contrast, only some materials are available for 3D printing. In addition, this wider availability of materials makes injection molding the most well-known and acceptable production process in many industries. In this regard, the performance, function and application of parts can also be controlled by adding the required materials as raw materials.
In view of the many benefits of injection molding, the production capacity using this method becomes too high. After initial investment in mold tools, the mold can be used to manufacture thousands of parts with a wide range of sizes and complexity.
If you plan to design a detail that needs to be expanded to thousands or even millions, 3D printing will not be a profitable choice. Although some 3D printing technologies can be used, such as multi nozzle connection, the output of parts is still less than 1000. In addition, the scalability of injection molding is too high. After rapid prototyping with the correct material selection, the molding will be optimized before mass production. In addition, one mold can make millions of parts.
With 3D printing, the execution time of the final production part or prototype may be longer than expected. Given this, it may take weeks or even months. However, in the case of injection molding, the execution time may be shorter. For example, it may take two weeks, depending on the complexity of the part, production volume, and project type.
3D printing for injection molding
Most of the time, the combination of these production technologies plays a vital role in the existing product template. The process begins with the overwhelming possibility of adjusting the 3D printing prototype design. Injection molding is then performed to increase the number of parts.
In short, the production method chosen should be well suited to your part application and its function. Also, remember that injection molding and 3D printing with additional materials are not the only manufacturing processes available in your kit. Alternatively, various manufacturing processes can be used, including CNC machining or sheet metal manufacturing, which can be used alone or in combination with 3D printing