Injection molding has been around for a long time and continues to be a great choice for manufacturers. But what about 3D Multijet fusion manufacturing? Will 3D printing manufacturing replace injection molding? The answer depends on several factors, but in quantities up to at least 2000 units and in some cases much higher quantities, 3D printing can be the most cost-effective and engineering-friendly choice. Let’s explore further.

Comparison: 3D Printing Manufacturing versus Injection Molding

When comparing 3D printing manufacturing to current injection molding methods, there are a few areas to consider:

  1. Design Flexibility: This is where Multijet Fusion 3D technology shines. Where injection molding requires high-cost molds for each design, 3D printing can run several iterations at a very low cost, allowing engineers and designers to deploy an iterative design process to find the best possible design.
  2. Assemblies: Manufacturing fully assembled parts was not possible before 3D printing technology. Being able to reduce assembly time and the number of SKUs needed is an advantage introduced by 3D printing.
  3. Quantity: There is a break-even point when comparing the two processes. Typically, that break even point will fall around 2000-3000 units, at which point injection molding becomes the more cost effective solution. 
  4. Strength: 3D printing vs injection molding strength comparisons are key to understanding the future of these processes. Injection molding holds the advantage here for straight part comparison. However, the design flexibility of 3D printing manufacturing allow for additional strength to be built into the design. Add that to the latest in Multijet Fusion additive manufacturing, and the strength advantage is quickly fading.
  5. Customization: As we mentioned above, injection molding requires…well…molds. So, when it comes to manufacturing replacement parts, you’re pretty much limited to the original mold. With 3D printing, you have the freedom to find new designs for the same parts. We once used Artificial Intelligence to run iterations on a replacement part and came up with a completely new design, which performed better than the original part. That’s a big advantage for 3D printing over older processes.

 

Is 3d printing cheaper than injection molding?

As we mentioned above, quantity plays a significant role in comparing the costs of 3D printing manufacturing versus injection molding. For one-off parts and prototype manufacturing, 3D printing is much cheaper. Once you hit large-scale output, injection molding becomes more cost effective. At that point, you may combine the two processes and grow from early-stage, iterative design with 3D printing to full scale manufacturing with injection molding.  That it, until 3D catches up!

Is 3d printing commercially viable?

It is amazing how quickly the 3D printing technology industry has advanced. Once a novelty process, 3D additive processes have already become commercially viable. When it comes to building assemblies, packaging parts in their own container, and finding completely new designs for parts, 3D is already the only way to go.

What industry uses 3d printing the most?

Athena 3D Manufacturing, as well as others in the industry, are already building parts for the following industries:

  • Aerospace
  • Environmental Engineering and Architecture
  • Automotive
  • Robotics
  • General manufacturing
  • Medical
  • Dental
  • Government, Military and Education

And that’s just to name a few. 3D printing manufacturing is being utilized in manufactures in just about every industry.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line in answering the question, “Will 3D printing manufacturing replace injection molding?” is still…it depends. 3D manufacturing certainly has its advantages, from assemblies to packaged parts to prototypes to iterative design. It can even hold a price advantage in small quantities due to the cost of the molds with injection molding. But once you hit large-scale quantities, injection molding is still a viable solution.  For now.

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