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How do 3D printing and injection molding work together?

June 20, 2023

While a manufacturer may choose to use 3D printing or injection molding depending on the specific requirements of the product or customer, the two processes can be combined to great advantage. This is especially true when building new products, creating injection molds, or producing small batches for testing.

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By using 3D printing to prototype new products, manufacturers and their customers can test, review and iterate designs quickly and easily. This means that products can be improved until they are of the highest quality and function possible, before investing in expensive metal injection molds that cannot be adjusted.


Additionally, master models and mold inserts can be used to 3D print injection molding tools. Mold inserts can be used to add specific features to a part, such as logos or textures, or to create complex geometries with more complex features. These methods can be faster and less expensive than traditional mold making methods such as machining or EDM.

 

However, these mold inserts often have a short service life because they are made of softer materials than normal injection molds, such as plastic instead of steel. This means that using 3D printing to make molds is not currently the most common production method. Although it does offer a higher degree of flexibility and cost-effectiveness, which means it may become more popular in the future.

 

The flexibility and cost-effectiveness of 3D printing means it is also a great way to create small batches of new products for customers to test. Therefore, businesses do not need to invest heavily in metal tooling until they know the product will earn the desired profit or profit. It also allows them to take customer feedback and adjust the final design appropriately without incurring huge costs.

 

In short, by combining the two processes of 3D printing and injection molding, manufacturers can make mass production of products or components more accurate, cost-effective and agile.