3D Printing vs. Injection Molding for Plastic Part Manufacturing

Plastic Part Manufacturing Process Comparison 3D Printing / Additive Mfg Injection Molding
Up front mold cost None Expensive – $5K and up, easily in the $10,000 plus range
Mold lead time None Usually at least 4 weeks
Setup cost Low to Free, See Mold cost
Ease/speed of design changes and iterations Easy/Fast Requires mold modification/ Slow
Part Cost Low, but a little higher than IM Low, if in thousands of pieces
Minimum order As low as one, 100’s -1,000’s (after paying for mold)
Materials Most thermoplastics and some thermoset plastics Most thermoplastics
Part strength Anisotropic Isotropic
Part geometry Almost unlimited, allows complex geometries that can reduce part count and assembly time and are impossible for IM Limited to mold limitations, No overhangs, not voids, etc.
Surface finish Usually textured, not shiny smooth Smooth to rough

Additional Notes About Plastic Part Manufacturing

When it comes to plastic part manufacturing, each process has pros and cons. Likewise, each process has different design criteria in order to optimize the end results. Just one example, plastic parts manufactured via Injection Molded (IM) parts generally have draft angles on all sides to aid in the ejection of the parts from the mold. Those angles are not needed for 3D printing/Additive Manufacturing (AM). Likewise, IM parts are generally hollow on one side with ribs and gussets added for strength, whereas AM parts can be solid on all sides, but the interior is usually partially hollow with an infill pattern for strength. The infill density depends on the specs of the part.

Here at Paxton Engineering, our product engineers stand ready to discuss all your plastic part manufacturing needs and aid you both in determining the best solution for your needs as well as assist you in optimizing your designs for your chosen process.

Note 2

Here at Paxton Engineering Inc., we can also assist you with your non-plastic manufacturing needs as well, not to mention your overall design engineering needs. Contact us today to learn more.