As 3D printing takes off and becomes more accessible, many industry observers are wondering if it will have a negative impact on injection molding services. At Baytech Plastics, we don't think so. While 3D printing may be one of the latest and greatest tech advances, it just doesn't stack up to the capabilities of plastic injection molding. Read on to find out why.
Plastic injection molding is a long-established, tried and true production method. Some of the characteristics that make the technique so long-lasting are the same reasons we don't see it going anywhere anytime soon. It's basic, but it's dependable. It's also capable of producing mass quantities of high-quality parts very quickly. Despite advances in 3D printing technology, it just isn't there yet.
This is a fair question. All businesses need to be on the lookout for ways to keep costs in line and still meet customer demands. New technology has traditionally been one way to do this. 3D printing may be right for your needs but it depends on many variables like quantity, quality and cost.
1. Quantity. 3D printing does a decent job on small jobs, such as those numbering under 50 units. Once the quantity gets higher than that, 3D printers don't hold a candle to the speed of plastic injection molding. The printers are just too slow to manage quick production of large quantities. Large production runs will definitely benefit from sticking with injection molding services.
2. Quality. One of the biggest limitations to 3D printing is that it cannot make the parts that are equivalent to those made via injection molds. One of the best examples of this can be seen in the types of materials that can be used in injection molding vs. 3D printing. Injection molding can handle a much wider variety of materials than 3D printing. Not only that, finish quality on 3D printed pieces is highly dependent on the quality of the printer that is used. Even the highest quality 3D printers can't achieve the same level of smoothness or tolerances as an injection molded part.
3. Cost. Costs vary based on the quantity produced and the quality needs of the finished product. Per-piece production costs are generally higher for 3D printing than for injection molding, but design changes are less expensive in 3D printing because changes can simply be entered into a software program. Injection molding requires changes to be made to the actual mold, which can add to final costs, depending on the molding materials used.
Overall, 3D printing may be right for a small run job where finish quality or component strength and material isn't of concern, but for larger runs with exacting demands, plastic injection molding services still outperform 3D printing.
This is not to say that there is no need for 3D printing. It definitely serves a purpose and there is even room for manufacturers to use both 3D printing and injection molding. A better way to think of 3D printing and injection molding is of complementary rather than competing ways of manufacturing.
Prototype development, test molds, and short runs are three ways in which 3D printing can enhance the manufacturing process. But the ease and speed with which 3D printers can produce these pieces must be balanced with the knowledge that 3D printed molds won't last as long as plastic injection molds and there isn't a way to test the material characteristics of the prototype if it isn't made of the same material as what the production part will be made of.
Custom injection molding services at Baytech Plastics are versatile and effective. We work with businesses of all sizes to develop molds and produce products in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Learn more about our injection molding services or schedule a visit on our website at www.baytechplastics.com.
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