Will 3D Printing Be the Demise of Plastic Injection Molding?

Some observers of the plastics manufacturing field, particularly those with a vested curiosity, would like to have you believe that 3D printing is likely to be the demise of injection molding. Although there are absolutely situations where 3D printing will make sense, the studies of the dying of injection molding have been considerably exaggerated.

Plastic injection molding is a tried using-and-legitimate technique of creation that is in no risk of likely absent whenever shortly. It is a essential, dependable technique of manufacturing high quality plastic pieces. Inspite of current improvements in the engineering of 3D printing and those possible to arise in the future, the simple fact is that extra than 80% of plastic pieces utilised in products right now have to be injection molded.

The reply to the dilemma, “Which manufacturing technique is most effective for my portion?” is, “It relies upon.” It relies upon on variables like quantity, quality and value.


David Kazmer, Professor of Plastics Engineering at the College of Massachusetts Lowell, explained in a revealed paper that 3D printing at the moment will make sense for the most quick “procurement time to quantity” for a small quantity of fifty or fewer units.

So for creation runs, injection molding is however the most effective manufacturing technique, particularly contemplating the very long creation time involved for 3D printing in contrast to injection molding.

There is an rising “hybrid” follow of 3D printing the mildew tooling inserts only, then manufacturing the pieces with injection molding. For sure confined apps, 3D printed inserts can be utilized as a examination mildew for item enhancement and extremely confined portions. A 3D printed mildew may possibly very last for typically just sixty to 180 items.

Kazmer’s research seemed at where 3D printed tooling inserts may possibly fit into the big photograph, and concluded that there have been however substantial challenges with both of those steel inserts (area complete and equipment value) and polymer inserts (area complete as properly as bad power and warmth transfer).


One particular of the essential restrictions of 3D printing is the incapability to make pieces with the similar physical attributes as conventional injection molded pieces. Though the number of a variety of supplies offered for 3D printing seems to be consistently escalating, it is however confined in contrast to all the a variety of plastic supplies that can be molded. Although a 3D printed prototype might be acceptable for evaluating its form, there is no way to examination the material characteristics if your prototype is not the similar material as the creation portion will be.

Yet another problem cited in Kazmer’s research was area complete. Although the area complete of the portion may possibly change according to how excellent (pricey) the 3D printer is, it is however no match for the easy surfaces attainable with polished metal injection molds.

Final, but absolutely not least in the checklist of quality distinctions, is the problem of tolerances. Though the potential of 3D printing to keep tighter portion tolerances is anticipated to boost with superior course of action models (like parallel printing) and optimization, right now the portion quality realized in 3D printing is inferior in contrast to molded pieces.

Price tag

The total value of a 3D printed portion in contrast to an injection molded portion is tied to the quantity becoming made, assuming the aforementioned quality challenges do not preclude 3D printing as an solution out of the gate. In the research at Lowell, the value of 3D printing 300 of a sure measurement portion was $20 each. The piece cost of injection molding a million this sort of units with a metal mildew was just $one.13 each.

Yet another value issue to contemplate is that associated with a structure adjust in the prototyping stage. In 3D printing, there is no value of modifying a mildew for a prototype iteration. Design and style modifications are simply just designed to the CAD product.

Inside injection molding, structure modifications with a metal mildew are typically simple to make and fairly affordable, but with aluminum molding instruments, a structure adjust may possibly call for the cost of all new tooling.

Additionally, new simulation software program is now offered to support solve injection molding challenges in software program - instead than through pricey, time-consuming prototyping iterations. Screening molds in a virtual simulation setting cuts across communication obstacles and permits designers, moldmakers, and manufacturing pros to collaborate extra competently and proficiently, while eliminating the have to have for pricey prototype and mildew cycles.

When it comes to 3D printing vs . injection molding, the most effective creation technique for your pieces will turn into obvious when you can reply these issues regarding your wanted quantity, quality and value.

Post time: 04-29-2016