Two-color plastic injection molding process

Two-color or process color plastic injection molding products is the same raw materials were mixed into two different colors prepared by the two same structure, same size, plastics injection molding machine were two colors melt, and then injected through a nozzle molding die within. Molded plastic products with color separation, and blending, or is irregular pattern, and its effect is the appearance of ordinary injection molding and surface modification are not received. Two different specifications melt plastics injection molding machine nozzle injection completed by alternating from the plasticizing cylinder and the nozzle control valve is between the process control. This two-color injection molding machine structure, plastics injection, two plastics injection unit to the same time, with the feeding quantity, the same pressure, with the injection rate to two different colors, melt through the nozzle with a rotating mandrel injected into the molding mold , the way, can be obtained by injection of different patterns on products . The same two sets of specifications, the structure forms the same equipment and plastics injection mold device is composed. This structure follows the working methods of injection molding machine. Plastics injection unit also completed two after the first injection, two sets of the same structure forming mold around the center axis 180 for, and then the second injection unit by two different colors melt into the molding die within. With this completed in two different colors melt into the same molding die within the movement, get two-color injection molding products .

Two-color injection molding products, process characteristics are as follows.
(1) two-color injection molding machine by the two structures, exactly the same specifications as plastics injection device group. Nozzle according to production needs should have a special structure, or with transposition of the structure can rotate two sets of identical shape mold . Plastics injection, require two sets of plastics injection device in the melt temperature, injection pressure, injection melt feeding quantity and other parameters the same two sets of devices to minimize fluctuations in the difference between the process parameters.

(2) two-color injection molding plastic products, plastic injection molding with the ordinary product comparisons, when the melt injection temperature and injection pressure have a higher value of the parameter. Main reason is two-color injection molding mold flow longer, more complex structure, a larger injection melt flow resistance.

(3) two-color injection molding plastic products to choose good thermal stability, low melt viscosity of the raw materials, in order to avoid the high melt temperature, residence time in a long flow path and decomposition. Application more plastic is polyolefin resin material such as polystyrene and ABS.

(4)color plastic products, injection molding, in order to melt two different colors can be good in the molding in the mold of welding, to ensure injection products, molding quality, should be a higher melt temperature, higher mold temperature, the higher the injection pressure and injection rate.

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Plastic Injection Mould Process

With the modern industrials development, the plastic products industry, agriculture and daily life, and other fields are widely used; quality requirements have become more sophisticated. Plastic products, the production and quality of mold design, advanced mold manufacturing equipment and reasonable processing, mold quality materials and modern equipment are molding quality plastic parts forming an important condition.

In the Injection plastic mould process, hot molten plastic is forced under pressure by a hydraulic ram into a closed mold. The mold is cooled to freeze the plastic in the desired shape, and no chemical reaction takes place.

Plastic injection mould Process, including pressure plastic, blow, extrusion, etc., plastic injection mould processing is the most commonly used methods, apply to all parts of thermoplastic and thermosetting plastics. With the injection mold industry, mold cavity mold and shape the increasingly complex, precision die increasingly high demands, the production cycle requirements become increasingly short.

Plastic injection mould process demands precise control of melt temperature, melt viscosity, injection speed, injection follow-up pressure, switch over point from speed to pressure, cycle time. It is found that different polymers have different characteristics and different limitations in processing. Shear rate and shear stress influence melt temperature, viscosity, density and flow behavior of polymer. Some polymers are hygroscopic, some polymer have limited thermally stable time which is different at different temperature. Such polymers have limited residence time. The changes in each parameter has its own influences on other parameters.

Plastic injection mould process includes a number of factors, some of them are important. They play a decisive role for the quality in the plastic injection mould processing. Such as freezing time and injection time; maximum injection speed; maximum injection pressure; injection power; plasticizing rate; etc.

And plastic injection mould machine application shaping products directly affect the efficiency of production, quality and cost.

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Different Types of Plastic Mould

Plastic mould is an important method, which is primarily applicable to thermoplastic plastic mould; Molding can be a complex shape of precision plastic parts.

The necessity to cool or chill plastics processing machinery is mainly related to thermoplastic materials. At room temperature thermoplastic materials (polypropylene, nylon and PET etc) are solid. In order to shape them they must first be heated to their molten temperature. When molten, they can then be manipulated (injection molded, extruded etc) to a new shape. When for med to their new shape they must then be cooled to solidify them. Considerable amounts of heat energy have to be extracted from the material, the tooling and the machinery that is doing the forming.

plastic mould produce components by using techniques such as thermoplastic or injection mould, blow molding, rotational molding, thermoforming, structural foam molding, compression molding, and resin transfer molding (RTM). They also provide services such as mold prototyping, low-volume production, high-volume production, insert molding, micro-molding, large-part molding, two-shot injection mould, reel-to-reel molding, machining, hot stamping, assembly, bonding, packaging and shipping.

There are many different types of plastic mould services. Examples include blow molding services, compression molding services, dip molding services, film injection mould services (FIM), and gas assist molding services. plastic mould services may also perform reaction injection mould (RIM), resin transfer molding (RTM), rotational molding, structural foam molding, thermoplastic injection mould, thermoset casting, thermoset injection mould, and thermoforming. Vacuum assist resin transfer molding (VARTM), vacuum bag molding, and vacuum forming services are also available. In terms of material capabilities, plastic mould services address considerations such as impact strength, high and low temperature characteristics, warpage, and resistance to ultraviolet (UV) light. Commodity grade resins are more widely used than other graded resins and include polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Engineering grade resins are more difficult to process than other graded resins, but have characteristics that make them desirable for specialized use. Widely used engineering grade thermoplastics include acetal, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), nylon, noryl and polycarbonate.

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Basics of The Injection Molding

One of the most common methods of shaping plastic resins is a process called injection molding.

injection molding is the process of forcing melted plastic in to a mold cavity. Once the plastic has cooled, the part can be ejected. It is useful when the parts are too complex or cost prohibitive to machine. With this process, many parts can be made at the same time, out of the same mold.

The general injection molding process almost includes some parts, that’s molding behavior of thermoplastics; molding functions – plastication & injection, forming & solidification; machine & mold operations, machine sequence; process sequence & variables – plastication, injection, packing & holding, cooling.

injection mould is accomplished by large machines called injection molding machines.
Resin is fed to the machine through the hopper. Colorants are usually fed to the machine directly after the hopper. The resins enter the injection barrel by gravity though the feed throat. Upon entrance into the barrel, the resin is heated to the appropriate melting temperature.

The resin is injected into the mold by a reciprocating screw or a ram injector. The reciprocating screw apparatus is shown above. The reciprocating screw offers the advantage of being able to inject a smaller percentage of the total shot (amount of melted resin in the barrel). The ram injector must typically inject at least 20% of the total shot while a screw injector can inject as little as 5% of the total shot. Essentially, the screw injector is better suited for producing smaller parts.

The mold is the part of the machine that receives the plastic and shapes it appropriately. The mold is cooled constantly to a temperature that allows the resin to solidify and be cool to the touch. The mold plates are held together by hydraulic or mechanical force. The clamping force is defined as the injection pressure multiplied by the total cavity projected area. Typically molds are overdesigned depending on the resin to be used. Each resin has a calculated shrinkage value associated with in.

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Staying Competitive Using Mold Flow Analysis

The pressure on the supply chain is unrelenting for all things faster, better and cheaper. For moldmakers, getting molds built right the first time is critical to meeting these increasing demands. But how?

Mold flow analysis is a sophisticated practice that’s gaining popularity. It helps identify a variety of potential problems and improvements for a mold before it gets built. The results are less risk involved, more time and money saved in adjustments and faster delivery. Here’s a look at how Norwich, CT manufacturer Plas-Pak is enjoying these advantages through mold flow analysis.

Challenge and Solution

Plas-Pak make disposable syringes, dual syringes, cartridge dispensing systems, adhesive dispensers, static mixers and spray systems. The company operates 24 hours a day, five days a week, but even with all that production time, every second counts.

Plas-Pak was looking for a way to meet the increasing demand for one of its large cylindrical parts for the industrial epoxy market. The company set a goal to decrease cycle time and minimize part warping by changing the gating system and cooling channels for the mold. To make sure it got these precise changes right upfront, Plas-Pak and its moldmaker, B&D Machine of Tolland, CT, turned to D-M-E Company to run a mold flow analysis.

Based on projections, a new mold using mold flow analysis could reduce cycle times by 17 percent while also eliminating part bowing. Through mold flow analysis, Plas-Pak identified the need to switch to a valve gate system, change gate position and modify the cooling channels. In the end, cycle time exceeded expectations and was reduced another 18 percent on top of the projections.

‘Without this analysis, there are adjustments and location changes we never would have done,’ says Brent Giansanti, product development manager and engineering manager at Plas-Pak. ‘It was really exciting to be able to get the cycle time for this challenging part reduced by 35 percent.’

Computer Simulation of Injection Molding
Moldflow Plastic Insight (MPI) is a computer simulation of injection molding that ‘helps us begin to understand what is going on inside the mold,’ according to Rick Millette, D-M-E field service representative.

Simulating the way a material will actually flow through a mold before it’s ever built ends up saving time and money in the long run. It’s particularly valuable for any product with varying wall thicknesses, surfaces or challenging part geometry.

‘Any time I have a product that has some difficult geometry, I always want to make sure I pick the right place for the gate, core and flow,’ notes Giansanti.

This accuracy becomes even more important when competing with low-cost overseas moldmakers. Plas-Pak doesn’t find itself in that position at the moment, but it’s an increasing concern for moldmakers across North America. Even though a complete mold flow analysis costs between $1,000 and $2,000 and takes a few extra days, the practice can pay off quickly, in both time and money.

Without mold flow analysis, the whole process is more about trial and error. Moldmakers have to start with small gates to fill their mold and keep increasing the size little by little until the mold gate is the correct size. Besides wasting time and money, that also creates more backpressure in the mold, which creates core shift. It’s an expensive, inefficient way to determine the appropriate gate size: you have to take the mold out of the machine each time, modify the gate and put it back in. In the process, you also create more scrap and bad parts.

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10 Injection Molding Terms Every Engineer Should Know

The plastic injection molding process is extremely complex with (quite literally) thousands of moving parts. As a manufacturing engineer, it’s not critical for you to know every finite detail of mold-closing mechanisms or the difference between every polymeric substance used in injection molding—but understanding the following 10 terms will make a conversation with a potential plastic manufacturing partner much simpler.

1. PRECISION MACHINING

In injection molding, precision machining refers to the process by which an injection mold is created with very narrow part tolerances. Creating a snug mold with a tolerance of +/- .0005” keeps the liquid plastic from flashing (e.g. seeping into crevices and ruining the final part).

2. 3D PRINTING

3D printing is an additive manufacturing process that deposits layers upon layers of material to build up a part. While 3D printing has become mainstream, it still can’t compete with the speed or sheer output of injection molding. However, it does play an important role in the injection molding process, and is often used to prototype a design concept so customers understand what their finished product will look like.

3. RAPID TOOLING

Rapid tooling describes the process of quickly creating a mold with a 3D printer or more traditional machining methods. The issue with rapid tooling lies in part accuracies and tolerances. While a 3D printer can create a mold accurate enough to produce a close replica of a part, the mold won’t have the tight tolerance needed to create hundreds of thousands (or millions) of perfectly shaped plastic parts.

4. THERMOSET

To create a thermoset part, cold material is shot into an extremely hot injection mold. This process cures the part so it can never melt again. This heat resistance is the primary function of thermoset material (most often silicone), but thermoset materials are unable to be recycled.

5. THERMOPLASTIC

To create a thermoplastic part, plastic material is melted and shot into an injection mold. Once this part cools, the mold opens and the part drops out. Thermoplastics like styrene and polycarbonate can withstand warm or even hot conditions—but at certain temperatures they will eventually melt again, and thus are able to be recycled.

6. TRANSFER MOLDING

Transfer molding involves placing a cold, putty-like material inside a cavity in an injection mold. Once the mold is closed, the machine forces the cold material into the hot mold cavity. This transference of the cool material into the hot cavity causes the material to disperse quickly. Once it has cooled, the mold is opened and the part is removed.

7. CLEAN ROOM MOLDING

Clean room molding is the process of creating plastic parts in a special room optimized to reduce the risk of contamination by dust or other particles. Clean rooms are used for injection molding projects that require a sterile environment, like medical equipment. The room is devoid of any fibrous or corrugated material, uses only electric machines, and filters air through positive airflow to maintain a certain level of cleanliness.

8. HORIZONTAL MOLDING

There are two types of plastic injection molding machines: Horizontal and vertical.

In horizontal molding machines, the mold clamps horizontally. Once the plastic part is created and the mold opens, the part drops into a bin and is taken away on a conveyer belt. Or, if the part is sensitive and can’t be dropped, a robot removes it from the mold.

9. VERTICAL MOLDING

Vertical molds lie flat so the part doesn’t fall out once the mold is opened. Because of this, it must be removed by hand or by robot.

The advantage to vertical molding is that parts can easily be added into the mold. For instance, if you want to add a round washer to your plastic part, simply insert the washer and close the mold—because of gravity, the part stays in place.

10. TWO-SHOT MOLDING & OVERMOLDING

Two-shot molding or overmolding are processes used to create parts that require two different kinds of plastic—like a toothbrush or a computer mouse.

In two-shot molding, the more rigid of the two materials fills the mold cavity. Then the top of the mold shifts and the second, more pliable material is injected. In overmolding, the rigid material is injected into a mold cavity, then removed after it has cooled and put into a separate mold, where the second, more pliable material is added.

The primary difference between these two molding techniques is cost, as overmolding takes twice as long as two-shot molding.

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Medical Device Injection Molding: How To Find The Right Partner

Medical device injection molding is used in everything from syringes to IV roller clamps to dialysis machine components.

While you must ensure that your medical device is manufactured to FDA standards and is ISO 13485 compliant, you also need to be certain that the company you select is the right one for your needs. A great medical plastic molding partner is indispensable, as they can help you ensure your part cost stays low while maintaining the highest standards of quality. Below, we’ve outlined a few things to keep in mind during the selection process.

CONSIDERATIONS WHEN SELECTING A MEDICAL DEVICE INJECTION MOLDING PARTNER

1. Clean Room Requirements

Depending on the function of your plastic part, you may need to ensure that it is manufactured in a clean room. Clean room molding is the process of creating plastic parts in a special room optimized to reduce the risk of contamination by dust or other particles. Clean rooms have a constant positive air flow, use electric (not hydraulic) machines, and are devoid of any corrugated material that could cause dust, all in an effort to ensure cleanliness. It may, for example, be necessary to use a clean room for your medical plastic device if the part is implantable, will come in contact with bodily fluid, or will be used in an operating room.

If your device does not need to be clean room manufactured but does require a more controlled manufacturing environment, look for a partner that is flexible with their manufacturing environments. Micron, for example, has a class 7 clean room, but can also use mobile enclosures over the plastic molding machine (by placing a curtained device over the area that offers positive air flow) and have machine operators wear a hat, gown, and mask.

2. Your Product Performance Requirements

A medical device injection molding partner should be able to assist you in determining what raw materials you need based on the specifications of your product. For example, if your medical apparatus  will not be implanted nor come into contact with a patient’s bloodstream, your plastic injection molding partner should steer you away from a class 6, implantable-grade material and toward something more appropriate for your needs and less expensive. Or if you’re creating a dental tool with a colored handle, the partner you speak with should ensure you select the right FDA-approved, food-grade-contact material.

3. The Injection Molding Company’s Area of  Expertise

Bigger is not always better when it comes to the size of your injection molding company—but attention to detail and an emphasis in the area you’re working with are critical.

Whether you need to create a smaller batch of specialized plastic parts or millions of plastic parts each day, you’ll want to find a medical molding company that has a solid track record for producing high-quality parts similar to yours.

For example, here at Micron, we are very effective at producing high-volume medical disposables due to our robust manufacturing process. In fact, we manufacture billions of parts used in medical devices each year. Our vast experience in process validation for medical plastic injection molding has given us deep insight into the nuances of the production process. We are constantly finding new ways to control the flow of materials, and we use automation throughout the entire manufacturing process (including inspection and packing), which enables us to pass cost savings along to our customers.

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How Does The Injection Molding Process Work? A Breakdown For Product Engineers

As an engineer, your focus is on taking a product idea and figuring out how to get it manufactured so it fits all your specifications and stays within your budget. But before you select an injection molding partner, it’s a good idea to brush up on what the injection molding process looks like.

The process outlined below lists the two most critical phases of the injection molding process; you’ll also find a list of things to consider before you partner with an injection molding company.

INJECTION MOLDING PROCESS STEPS

The process has come a long way since 1872, when the first injection molding machine was created by American inventor John Wesley Hyatt. Hyatt’s machine was very simple—it used a plunger to push plastic material into a mold.

The plunger was replaced in 1946 by James Watson Hendry, who added an auger in the injection barrel. While machines are now run with far more advanced machining, this same basic mechanism is used in the injection molding process today.

Step 1: Create your injection mold.

Before you can begin the injection molding process, you must have a mold with the shape of the part you want inside it. The injection mold is most typically made of steel (though some parts may require another material) and is created with very narrow part tolerances, +/- .0005 of an inch (to put it in perspective, a human hair is about +/- .0003”). This requirement keeps the liquid plastic from seeping into crevices, which helps avoid potential quality or visual issues with the completed plastic part.

If you are creating a high volume of plastic parts, you may require multiple cavities inside a mold, so every cycle creates many plastic parts. Here at Micron, we have the capability of creating a mold with up to 96 cavities—which can create millions of parts every day.

Step 2: Manufacture your plastic product.

  • The completed mold is placed in the injection molding machine.
  • The plastic pellets are heated until they are liquid.
  • The liquid plastic goes through a dryer, if necessary (as moisture in the plastic might cause splay or hydrolysis in the finished product).
  • The liquid plastic is conveyed into the injection molding machine through a vacuum.
  • The liquid plastic goes through a heated injection barrel, which is attached to a feed throat.
  • The liquid plastic is injected under pressure through the feed throat into a mold.
  • The mold—which is cooler than the liquid plastic—causes the plastic material to cool to a solid state, which forms the plastic part.
  • The mold opens and the cooled plastic part is ejected from the mold either by hand (in a vertical injection molding machine) or by force of gravity (in a horizontal injection molding machine).

SELECTING AN INJECTION MOLDING PARTNER: 6 THINGS TO CONSIDER

If you’re ready to make your product become a reality, you have to find the right partner for your injection molding needs. Below, we’ve outlined a handful of things to consider so you select the right partner.

1. Expertise

When beginning your search for an injection molding partner, narrow the possibilities by honing in on companies with experience in your industry or with similar products. A company with relevant experience probably has both the knowledge and technology necessary to develop or even improve your prototype, create it correctly, and manufacture it on schedule.

From there, you can narrow your search to a specific niche, for example: high-volume molding, over-molding, or two-shot molding. Also, be certain to ask about an exact technology you may need specific to your project. If they don’t have said technology, find out if they’re willing to acquire it.

2. Proximity

Many people wonder whether they should partner with a company in the U.S. or overseas for the injection molding process. If you’re asking this in your organization, consider these two questions:

  • Can the mold-making service you’re considering meet your quality standards? Quality U.S.-based mold-making shops source only the highest quality steel for their molds. If you do not specify the grade of steel you want from an injection molding company in China, you may end up with poorer quality materials.
  • Does the company you’re considering have tooling expertise, and are they willing to make tooling adjustments along the way? Ideally, the company you select to work with you on your injection molding process should be able to create your mold for you, or have the expertise necessary to ensure that your existing mold will hold up to the quality standards you require. Some companies—in the U.S. and in China—outsource for molds, which means less quality control on your end.

3. Capacity

Before choosing a partner for your injection molding process, consider how much volume the company can handle. If you need to produce 10 million units each year and the molder only produced 1 million units last year for all its customers combined, you should look elsewhere. Without that ability, you could end up with increased lead time, quality issues, and stock shortages. Alternatively, if you only need 5,000 units produced each year, you might not want to select a molder that deals primarily with multi-million-unit orders.

4. Capability

Is the molder able to build your mold, test it, help you select materials, assemble the finished product, and package, label, and ship it post-production? We highly recommend looking for an injection molding company that has these capabilities, as it makes your job a lot easier.

5. Customer Service

You’ll be working hand-in-hand with your molder for an extended period of time, so it’s important that the company values honesty, integrity, and transparency. To test this:

  • Watch how quickly the molder responds to small issues you identify.
  • Find out if they have a process for escalation of any issues during the injection molding process.
  • See how long it takes for the molder to return your phone calls or send you updates. If the company is slow to respond at the beginning of your relationship, imagine what it will be like down the road!

6. Precision

The pricing of the plastic injection molding process can be thought of as a combination of renting a company’s injection molding machine in addition to the cost of the operators, the cost of materials, and the cost of tooling and machining. The quicker a machine goes through a cycle time, the more parts you can create.

If a company has a solid injection molding process, it will have stringent standards regarding how to ensure every part is expelled from the mold at the right time to avoid defects, rejects, and cosmetic issues.

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6 Types Of Injection Molding Technology

Plastic isn’t the only thing that can be injection molded—metal can as well. This new technology is substantially more expensive than plastic injection molding and usually serves a niche market. The cell phone market, for example, sometimes uses metal injection molding to shield the cellular electronics from radio or microwaves.

4. Liquid Silicone Injection Molding

The majority of plastic injection molding is thermoset, meaning cold material is injected into an extremely hot mold to create a part. This process cures the part so it can never be melted again. But if you need a part to withstand very high temperatures or chemical agents—as you might with certain medical devices or car parts—you may need thermoplastic injection molding, which frequently uses liquid silicone.

5. 3D Printing

3D printing is a notable injection molding technology because of the role it plays in prototyping an injection molded part. Here at Micron, we create a 3D-printed prototype of a client’s part before we move the design to production. This allows us to discuss potential improvements in more depth than we could while reviewing an online rendering, for example. It’s also worth noting that 3D printing can be used to print actual injection molds using plastic or metal. Currently, the available 3D printing technology does not enable us to print with the narrow part tolerances required in an injection mold—but we imagine it may in the future.

6. Unique Material Formulations

While this isn’t a plastic injection “technology” in the traditional sense, the use of unique material formulations does advance molding capabilities. Injection molding companies may, for example, use a carbon or mineral filler, a blowing agent, and a lubricity additive to add certain properties to a part. For example, here at Micron, we have run 40% carbon-filled ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) to achieve a degree of electrical conductivity in a plastic stud or sensor. The temperature of the mold and the plastic material are both important when adding a filler, additive, and blowing agent, so we are constantly refining our process to achieve the best advantage for these unique materials.

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The Use Of 3D Printing In Manufacturing Now & In The Future

In recent years, 3D printing has become extremely useful in manufacturing—and, more specifically, in plastic injection molding. Injection molding companies often use a 3D printer to create a part from a model, drawing, or concept plastic part. Depending on the size and complexity, it can take anywhere from 20 minutes to 48 hours to create a single 3D-printed part—but in most cases, you’d be able to hold a finished replica of your part in a matter of hours.

While it may seem like creating a 3D printed part before production is unnecessary, it’s actually a worthwhile time investment. The benefits of the 3D printing manufacturing process are:

  • You get to examine a physical replica of your part before you go into mass production, instead of relying on a drawing or concept.
  • You can see how your multiple plastic parts fit together and make any necessary corrections before your molding partner cuts an expensive piece of steel for your injection mold.
  • Your injection molding partner can consider potential issues before your product hits the manufacturing floor. For example, the plastics expert could bring up any potential issues with the way plastic will flow through the mold to create your final part.

3D printing is evolving rapidly—and we’re expecting big changes on the horizon. Here are three areas we think will revolutionize how 3D printing (also called additive manufacturing) will impact the plastic injection molding industry.

THE FUTURE OF 3D PRINTING & ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING

1. 3D-Printed Plastic Injection Molds

One major development in 3D printing today is the ability to print a plastic injection mold. Today’s 3D molding technology does not have the narrow part tolerances required to create a plastic injection mold that can withstand high volume, but we expect this to change in the near future.

Once part tolerances are solved, 3D mold-making will become a more viable option—and will have a number of benefit. For example, you cannot drill bit around a corner inside a block of steel—but you can can create virtually anything you imagine with a 3D printer. Additionally, the material used to create a mold in a 3D printer is less expensive than high-grade steel. The added functionalities and cost savings will impact what you’re able to mold and how much it’ll cost to mold it.

2. Using 3D Printing For Your First Run-Off

During the manufacturing process, the first run-off of your plastic part ensures that the part meets quality standards and works as far as fit and function. In the future, we expect 3D printers will be efficient enough to replace an injection molding machine for small production quantities, which could eliminate the upfront investment required for molds and reduce the lead time for the first articles.

3. Alternate 3D Printing Methods

FDM (fused deposition modeling) is the most commonly used 3D printing form. To create a 3D part using FDM, a thin string of plastic feeds into a heated tip (similar to a pen tip). The heated tip melts the plastic on contact, and then pushes the melted plastic onto the 3D printing tray in a certain direction to create a part. The plastic dries in layers as it comes out of the tip, and each layer dries quickly enough to hold the next layer—hence the term 3D additive manufacturing.

While the majority of 3D printing is currently FDM, we expect that a number of additional 3D printing methods will be innovated in the next 5-10 years. The more forms of 3D printing available, the more options you’ll have when it comes to prototyping, mold-making, and manufacturing your part.

KEEP IN MIND, 3D PRINTING WON’T REPLACE PLASTIC INJECTION MOLDING FOR DECADES—IF EVER.

While the 3D printing manufacturing process has evolved rapidly and will continue to do so, it will be many, many years before a 3D printer can match the volume, speed, and efficiency of a plastic injection molding machine. Currently, it could take roughly 30 minutes to print a 3D part that would take only seconds to make using injection molding.

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