Will batch 3D printing replace injection molding?

Will batch 3D printing replace injection molding?

Content Catalog

Based on the 3D printing process, mass production has always been a direction for 3D printing manufacturers. At Formnext 2021, which ended before, we can also see the efforts of many manufacturers in mass production.

So if one day in the future, 3D printing can also achieve mass production like injection molding, will it replace it?

Let us compare the advantages and disadvantages of the two.

Advantages and disadvantages of injection molding process

Advantages of the injection molding process

Injection molding is currently one of the preferred processes for the production of plastic products. Its advantages are mainly in the variety of plastic materials that can be used, less material waste during production, fast mass production, and low cost.

Disadvantages of the injection molding process

The disadvantage of the injection molding process mainly comes from the mold.

  1. The mold production cycle is long and the cost is high. As a result, injection molding must produce a certain amount of plastic products to have economic benefits, which is not suitable for small batch production.
  2. Molding has limitations, some shapes can cause the mold to not be removed, limiting product design.
  3. The iteration cost is high. After modifying the product design, the corresponding production mold also needs to be modified, which will require new costs and time.

Therefore, iterations are generally only carried out when the set of molds has achieved economic benefits. In order to achieve economic benefits, it must be produced to a certain amount after starting up, which will cause inventory costs.

Advantages and disadvantages of 3D printing

Advantages of 3D printing

The advantages of 3D printing are that there are many advantages, including no need for molds, less molding restrictions, and can give full play to the advantages of design and topology optimization, optimize the structure of products, and achieve equal or better mechanical properties with less material.

The cost of 3D printing has little correlation with the complexity of the parts. For example, for a complex part, the cost will increase geometrically when using injection molding, but 3D printing will not. Moreover, multiple parts can be integrated into a whole and printed out in one piece. Reduce post-assembly time.

3D printing supports iteration better since no mold is required. In addition, 3D printing can be produced on demand, making as much as needed, reducing inventory pressure and making production more flexible.

Disadvantages of 3D printing

  1. The speed of mass production is not fast enough. When the production quantity exceeds a certain amount, the efficiency of 3D printing becomes inefficient. If 3D printing and injection molding are compared to runners, 3D printing is a sprinter, and injection molding is a long-distance runner.
  2. The types of materials that can be used are much less than that of injection molding.
  3. The surface quality is general, and post-processing is often required to improve the surface quality.

in conclusion

Starting from the advantages and disadvantages of both parties, the two parties are currently in a complementary stage, and some small batch productions are already using 3D printing technology.

In the future, with the continuous advancement of 3D printing technology, it will continue to grab some markets from injection molding.

But to really replace injection molding, it is still relatively difficult in a short period of time. When the printing speed of 3D printing is fast enough, the supported materials are enough, and the quality of the printed parts is better, it may have a relatively large impact on the injection molding process.

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