3D Printing VS Injection Molding

3D printing and injection molding are almost universally acknowledged as viable methods in the field of product development and manufacturing.

While, as an entrepreneur or a new product developer, you probably know only that 3D printing and injection molding are two useful options, with which you can create your product or prototype.

it’s also important for you to know some of the key differences between the two, so that you can have an optimum choice.

Today, this article will help you take a quick overview of the differences between the two methods in terms of time, cost, and applications.

3D Printing vs. Injection Molding: Definition and Advantages and Disadvantages

Before we get into the major topic, let us have a brief understanding of the two methods in the matter of definition, advantages and disadvantages.

3D printing is also known as the additive manufacturing (material is added, not removed).

It refers to a variety of processes in which a three-dimensional object is created by laying down successive layers of material (such as liquid molecules or powder grains being fused together) with the help of a CAD model or a digital 3D model.

Its advantages are listed as follows:

  • Low entry cost.
  • Easy to make changes.
  • Easy to support complicated designs.

Its disadvantages are listed as follows:

  • Slow object output.
  • Limited build volume.
  • Rough object surface.

Injection molding (U.S. spelling) is also known as Injection moulding (UK spelling).

Injection moulding is a high-precision manufacturing process, which is an indispensable step in the product design or product development.

In injection moulding, polymer granules are firstly melted and then injected into a mold under pressure. Next, they are cooled and solidified in a mold.

In injection moulding, the available materials can be colored or filled with other materials.

Its advantages are listed as follows:

  • Large simultaneous output.
  • Enhanced object strength.
  • Minimizing scrap produces.

Its disadvantages are listed as follows:

  • Limitations of design.
  • Difficult to correct mistakes.
  • High entry cost.

3D Printing vs Injection Molding: Differences on Time

Now, let us get into the major topic. Only you understand these differences, can you be in a great position to make an informed decision about which process is best for your needs.

The faster your cycle time, while maintaining an acceptable level of quality, the more components you can creat with less machine time, and the lower your overall costs.

3D printing usually takes a few hours to make the actual parts or components, depending on the sizes and design of your desired products. But it almost does not require lead time. You can even email your product design drawing to your supplier and ask them to start making the part as soon as possible. All these efforts will assure you might see your prototype in a few days.

On a per-part cycle basis, injection molding is definitely optimum. But when you create the custom mold out of steel or aluminum, it will take you weeks or months. You may also have to wait for machine time, depending on the working efficiency of your service provider.

All above factors make overall turnaround time longer than you might think of cycle times of a few seconds or minutes.

3D Printing vs Injection Molding: Differences on Cost

With a capital investment of several hundred thousand dollars, a good injection molding machine will bring you huge benefits and can be used for years (if not decades).

Injection molding machines are generally available in specialized shops. However, the purchase of an injection molding machine is not easy and cost-effective. The much more cost-effective choice for you is to contact an injection molding supplier.

As a customer of an injection molding supplier, you must pay for the injection molding cost amounting to the high thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.

Meanwhile, 3D printing machines typically only cost a few thousand dollars without the upfront setup cost. With the aid of the 3D printing, your financial responsibility to an external provider rests only on the machine time and materials. It is even viable for many small businesses to purchase their own 3D printer within financial reach.

3D Printing vs Injection Molding: Differences on Ideal Applications

3D printing is the best choice for situations as follows:

  • Limited run objects. This covers objects like prototypes or small-production of small quantities, among others.
  • Product designs with a lot of gaps or holes in the middle. Product designs with a lot of gaps or holes in the middle. 3D printing is convenient and fast for adding design support in accord to the need like like when a piece branches off or a gap is required in the middle of the product.
  • Tweaks in design. 3D printing can help you beautify and adjust your design. Therefore it’s of great use if you’re not sure where your design might fail during the creation process.

Injection molding is best choice for situations as follows:

  • Large batches of finished objects. If you’re looking to create a large number of identical objects at the same time, injection molding has you covered.
  • Solid designs. Injection molding’s one-step forming process makes your model one continuous form, which adds strength to your finished object.
  • Objects that will move against something else. There’s no need to add an extra finishing step to ensure that injection-molded objects are smooth enough to reduce friction against moving parts. This makes it especially suitable for applications where parts tooth together.

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