- Wayne Conrad
Injection Molding vs 3D Printing
The success of any manufacturing venture is based upon an innovative product design brought to market with capital, materials and labor.
In 2019, manufacturing in the United States, Canada and Europe is either deemed impractical by skeptics or the future of manufacturing is seen as additive manufacturing technology using 3D printers of all kinds of shapes and brands.
3D printing is an amazing plastic forming technology with a wide range of applications. Many different types of 3D printers from machines as sold using technologies such as building up a product with layers of melting a plastic filament, or using UV light and/or lasers to fuse either liquid or powdered plastics.
Many companies claim their 3D printing process to be a viable production technology that can compete with traditional production processes for small volume and bridge manufacturing. This claim is valid but only for some products and it cannot be used to economically manufacture many types of functional components for electrical, plumbing, HVAC or consumer appliances.
Recently it was claimed that sneakers could be mass produced using 3D additive manufacturing technology. While this is true, would you be willing to pay $750 to $3,000? For a pair of sneakers?
Why is 3D printing so expensive? The 3D printing equipment is expensive and produces only a few parts per day making the per part equipment capital cost high. 3D printers use specialized plastics rather than mass produced resin which also makes the materials expensive. These combined factors typically make 3D printing for manufacturing only viable for high value parts.
3D printing is however a valuable process in the development of new products and technologies. Inventors and designers use 3D printing to first make concept models to visually validate their ideas, to later make functional prototypes for testing and design optimization, and finally to make a prototype to demonstrate the viability of a product to stakeholders including customers before production tooling is made.
Although 3D printing can be used to make parts which are under very little stress and strain, or where hand processes to enhance cosmetics are financially and visually acceptable, or where part walls are thick, it is not viable for making many products.
There is however a viable solution which is sustainable and economically affordable.
Omachron has developed a new molding process with low capital cost equipment combined with quick turnaround low cost tooling to enable molding of parts up to 300 pounds made of ABS, PVC, PE, HDPE and PET which can be new materials or 100% recycled materials.
The use of 100% recycled material without the need to add virgin material makes the process a viable and sustainable means of enabling recycling programs everywhere.