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Is 3D Printing a Better Substitute for Plastic Moulding in Small Production?

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Plastic moulded parts
Plastic moulded parts/Source: LEADRP

Nowadays, there are plenty of injection moulding services that will provide you with various manufacturing processes to produce plastic parts and components, which include plastic moulding and other related injection moulding processes. However, these manufacturing services are often more suitable for bulk production or large-scale production runs.

So, is there any alternative to plastic moulding when it comes to running a small-scale production for your plastic parts and components?

The Disadvantages of Plastic Moulding in Small Production Runs

Sometimes, it’s best to consider the disadvantages of plastic moulding before you run this operation to produce plastic parts and components in small production cycles. Plastic moulding can be the best choice for bulk plastic production runs, but for small production cycles, 3D printing might still be the better option.

Here are the disadvantages of plastic moulding in small production runs.

  • Expensive tooling costs and complex mould preparations. With plastic moulding, you will need to pay more expensive tooling costs when compared to 3D printing, which doesn’t require any tooling. Furthermore, plastic moulding will require you to have more complex mould preparations, even during the installation of the mould into the injection moulding equipment.
  • Potential product defects with the wrong configurations. Plastic moulding also requires complex calculations that will ensure that your plastic products will be free from defects. With the wrong configurations on the injection machine, you can ruin your plastic moulding operations and increase the chance for you to have some defects in your plastic products. Even a slight miscalculation in the injection pressure can ruin your plastic product’s dimensional accuracy and shape.
  • The process can’t be performed at home. Plastic moulding needs to be performed by a trusted and reliable plastic moulding company that can handle all the complex preparations of this manufacturing operation, and it is almost impossible to do this manufacturing production process at home. The injection moulding equipment itself requires a large space to operate, not to mention the complicated tooling process and the expert workers you need to hire for the moulding operations.
  • Plastic moulding requires careful considerations about shrinkage and accuracy. Since you are working with plastic materials that are subject to shrinkage, plastic moulding requires you to calculate various aspects of the operation to prevent shrinkage in your plastic products, which can lead to dimensional inaccuracy. This is the reason plastic moulding might not be preferable for small production, as there will be a much higher percentage of shrinkage and dimensional inaccuracy when compared to bulk production.
  • More aspects need to be considered in your design. Designing a plastic moulding product, along with the mould, requires you to consider various aspects. The wrong aspects in your design can cause various problems and potential defects. Thus, you need to calculate various additional aspects, such as wall thickness, temperature, material melting points, and various other aspects during the design phase of your plastic moulding operation.

Reasons why 3D Printing is a Better Substitute for Plastic Moulding in Small Production

Additive manufacturing is a Substitute to Plastic Moulding
Additively manufactured products/Source: Formlabs

With the various disadvantages of plastic moulding, why not try a better alternative for a small-run production of plastic parts and components? 3D printing will be the best option to do that, as it offers plenty of advantages that plastic moulding couldn’t offer, and it is much simpler and cheaper for you to use.

Here are the reasons 3D printing is a better substitute for plastic moulding in small production:

  • Quick preparations, with no tooling required. With 3D printing, you just need to prepare the 3D printer equipment and connect it with your computer to configure various settings for it. There will be no tooling you need to make before the plastic parts production, unlike plastic moulding. It means you can also save plenty of time and effort in preparing everything you need for your plastic parts production.
  • Additive manufacturing process with minimal waste materials for your plastic parts production. The additive manufacturing process of 3D printing will only use the plastic materials as you need it, with very minimal waste materials. It works by adding layer upon layer of the plastic product you are building, until you can get your plastic part or component to take its full shape in this process.
  • Precise and accurate design for your plastic parts and components. By using CAD software, you can create the design for your 3D-printed plastic parts and components with ease, and you can also find ready-made design templates online. Moreover, you will get full accuracy and precision for your plastic parts and components without worrying about potential mismatch regarding the dimensional measurements, as it is completely computerized.
  • 3D printing is perfect for small production runs of plastic products, which you can perform at home. With 3D printing, you don’t even need to own a factory just to start a small-scale production for your plastic parts and components. You can put the 3D printer anywhere around the house, as it usually has a compact size, and you can start printing the plastic materials into the shape of your plastic parts and components right away.
  • You don’t need to think about shrinkage or potential product defects. With 3D printing, you don’t really need to think about shrinkage or potential product defects during the manufacturing process, as it is controlled 100% by a computer program. So, the accuracy and precision is top notch, and because it is a layer-by-layer manufacturing method, you can get your plastic products done with the most accurate dimensional measurements.

3D Printing as a Rapid Manufacturing Solution

You cannot use plastic moulding as a rapid manufacturing solution for your plastic parts production, as the preparations itself can take days or even weeks. However, with 3D printing, you can start the manufacturing process of various plastic parts in a matter of hours, which can cut down your production time by a significant amount.

So, it’s also best for creating prototypes of your plastic products before sending them into mass production, for the purpose of testing their features and functionality.

Conclusion

3D printing is an excellent substitute for plastic moulding if you need to produce plastic parts in small quantities, especially if you need them ready within a tight deadline. As 3D printing eliminates the tooling stage, the production for smaller production quantities is faster. For larger quantities however, plastic moulding is the ideal option.


About Manufactur3D Magazine: Manufactur3D is an online magazine on 3D printing. which publishes the latest 3D printing news, insights and analysis from all around the world. Visit our 3D Printing Education page to read more such informative articles. To stay up-to-date about the latest happenings in the 3D printing world, like us on Facebook or follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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Manufactur3D is an Indian Online 3D Printing Media Platform that reports on the latest news, insights and analysis from the Indian and the Global 3D Printing Industry.
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