The Symbiosis Between Injection Molding and Additive Manufacturing
If you’re planning to create injection molded parts, consider working with a manufacturing partner who offers both injection molding (IM) and additive manufacturing (AM). You might find this combination at a single company, or through two companies working closely together.
When injection molders and additive manufacturers work together, the partnership can dramatically improve the finished product. Their complementary skills shorten the production timeline, reduce costs, improve product quality, and more.
Here’s a breakdown of some ways AM and IM can work together to create high quality parts:
Reduced Project Lead Time
Additive manufacturing can reduce lead time by speeding up the creation of injection molded elements such as hard tooling cores and mold inserts. Additive manufacturing doesn’t just speed up the fabrication of these elements—it speeds up the entire production process, from reverse engineering (if necessary) through model approval and build.
Additive manufactured mold inserts are made through PolyJet or other processes to achieve an extremely high level of detail. These are ideal for creating metal mold inserts as the injection molding process continues. On past projects, ProtoCAM has saved a month of development time when producing complex models with fine features.
Faster Time to Market
Additive manufacturers understand that you need to beat the competition to market. When speed is critical, choose an AM partner for rapid production tooling instead of traditional CNC machining.
Here at ProtoCAM, we’ve developed numerous processes that speed up the rapid tooling lead time. We’re happy to talk and explain how these processes can help your project. Contact us for a conversation.
Reduced Project Cost
Many additive manufacturers offer prototype and production injection molding services, including ProtoCAM. Different AM partners offer varying production capacities, so you’ll have to make sure their abilities match your needs.
ProtoCAM can provide production runs of up to 50,000 pieces of any thermoplastic part. This saves you time, lowers your shipping costs, reduces risk, and ensures consistent quality.
Improved Project Quality
An additive manufacturing partner can help you adjust your product’s design to make it easier and less expensive to mass produce. For example, AM production processes can create shapes and forms that traditional CNC manufacturing cannot. Often, a few design adjustments will increase your profits while maintaining the product’s functionality.
On a recent project for Sealeze’s CoolBalance CB11 cable seal product, we suggested improvements that made the product easier to injection mold. This change helped prevent product loss due to breakage, sped up production, and saved on raw material costs. It also improved the production timeline by avoiding a quality issue that would have slowed down production and required a redesign.
The team at Sealeze appreciated the way that additive manufacturing and injection molding worked hand in hand. They had no prior experience with injection molding, and were concerned about making “rookie mistakes”. ProtoCAM delivered the engineering and design expertise to keep Sealeze on budget and on schedule, without compromising product quality.
Innovation Throughout the Injection Molding Production Process
Because additive manufacturing makes it easy to quickly create low-cost new parts, some injection molders have used AM to improve their IM production processes. For example, one company used AM to make custom end effectors for robotic arms that improve the picking and packing of injection molded parts. Another used AM parts to better organize their IM shop.
Additive manufacturing also opens the door to highly customized products that were previously cost prohibitive with injection molding alone. A company can offer an infinite variety of custom snap-ons which pair with a standard injection-molded part.
How Can Additive Manufacturing Give You an Edge?
Whether you’re a customer or provider of injection molding, we’d be excited to talk to you about how we can work together. There’s no limit to the innovation possible by combining the flexibility of AM and the vast capabilities of IM. Contact us to get the conversation started. If you already know what you’re looking for, please request a quote here.