Injection Molding has been the primary means of producing large quantities of plastic parts for nearly 100 years. 3D Printing has been a means of prototyping for only about 30 years. But they are beginning to overlap. And there are many reasons that 3D Printing is starting to become a better alternative to injection molding.
The key advantage of production 3D Printing is that it does not require molds. A design can be changed simply by changing a CAD design. This means that companies can produce several versions of the same physical product at scale and test how they sell. This is much how internet companies test different versions of a website to see how they perform.
The ability to iterate without setting a part into stone, allows companies to test products, and make changes based on customer needs. It also allows companies to have many variations of the same product made without extra cost in order to address different customer niches.
3D Printing is able to produce hundreds of thousands of parts at a cost similar to injection molding. But it is also able to produce just a few parts at a price that is much less than injection molding. This means that a company company can make 10 pieces of a product, test market those, and then make 100 pieces. Then a 1000, then 10,000.
3D Printing is very scalable. So a small business can start with small production runs and then scale up to whatever the demand for the product is. This means that no cost is ever wasted. The parts can be made as needed without much need for warehousing or inventory or any kind.
The way most 3D printing printing processes work, especially FDM, there are far fewer constraints on geometry than with molding. Parts can be made thick with a hollow honeycomb interior so that they are stronger than molded parts. Holes can be cut that curve through the parts, again impossible with injection molding.
Something as simple as a solid 2 inch cube is impossible to produce with injection molding. But is simple and very affordable with 3D Printing.
Another large advantage of 3D printing is the precise control of the surface of the part. 3D Printed parts can have a texture applied to them while they are being made. So the texture is basically free to add to the part.
There is a common misconception that 3D Printing is far more expensive than injection molding. This may have been true 5 years ago. But it is no longer.
At Slant 3D we find that on average we can produce up to 20-50,000 parts or more before a mold becomes more economical than 3D printing. This is not only because of the cost of the mold. But the cost of warehousing and wasted product. Generally 10% of the cost of a final product is in the inventory. And often 10-20% of all inventory is just not sold.
Since production 3D Printing allows parts to be made on demand it is possible to produce parts only as needed. So less warehousing is needed and there is never unsold inventory. In some cased Slant 3D will only produce parts for a client once those parts are sold, so there is never any inventory or wasted product.
The fact that production 3D printing is reaching a point where is is simply more efficient to produce parts with than injection molding, and give companies the ability to better address product problems makes is very compelling compared to molding.
There is also the fact that the design freedom of 3D printing allows businesses to address individual niches very affordably. So even though 3D printing can't yet make the Millions of parts that molding can, the necessity for that volume may not be necessary. Why sell 1 million of a single product when you can sell 1000, of 100 different products that each customer would like better.
3D Printing very likely will drive the market away from injection molding. The high up front cost and lack of flexibility will simply become to expensive.
Interested in having your product manufactured with Production 3D Printing. Get a free quote from Slant 3D within 1-2 business day.
3D Printing offers a great resource for quickly and affordably creating end of arm tooling for the many tasks that collaborative robots take on.
Collaborative robots are a great resource for smaller companies looking to automate. They are a flexible resource for completing repetitive tasks in assembly and sorting because of their flexibility and ease of training. The trouble is that robot grippers are not very versatile. Often each task needs its own specialty gripper to be created to grasp the objects in that task.
Creating these grippers is both expensive and difficult due to CAD requirements and machining costs. 3D Printing makes the creation of EOAT much easier and flexible.
End of Arm Tooling Created with 3D Printing
3D Printing is a very flexible means of manufacturing EOAT. It allows users to very quickly create custom fingers or parts nests without many machining concerns or time input. That is why Schunk has started providing resources to create custom 3D Printed end effectors. EMI has also started selling 3D Printed EOAT solutions. And there is the Slant 3D Part Mason Project that provides customisable Grippers for Collaborative robots.
Since there are so few design constraints on 3D printed parts you also don't have to worry about high costs of engineering and design bottlenecks.
How to get 3D Printed EOAT
Get a Model
At Slant 3D we maintains a team of 3D modelers that can help you design a gripper for your application within hours or days. You can also access pre-made 3D models for gripper fingers and pads at Part Mason. The models are ready immediately to be printed by a service or on your in-house 3D printer.
One other option is to use online resources such as eGrip by Schunk which can generate .STEP files that can be 3D Printed very affordably.
Print the Part
Once you have the model you can print it on your In-house 3D printed, such as the Mason. If you need higher volumes of the part to outfit an assembly line, or if you need specific material properties you can submit the design for a quote. Generally it only requires 2-4 days to turn around 100 pieces at Slant 3D.
Use Your Robot
When the parts arrive they can immediately be mounted onto your collaborative robot and put to work. If you ever need more pieces they can be ordered instantly without redesign or setup.
Reduce the Cost of International Shipping by Teleporting Parts Via 3D Printing
The internet has allowed the sale of products to anyone in the world. Whether those be consumer or industrial products. But that access is ruined when the products have to cross borders or oceans. Shipping a crate overseas then paying tariff and warehousing fees significantly increases the cost of a product to the end-user. Wouldn't it be great if Parts and products could be "teleported" to the destination country with just an e-mail to save those shipping costs. With Production 3D printing that is possible.
3D Printing allows 3D models to be emailed and manufactured anywhere in the world. The trouble has always been there has never been a formal entity that can print your parts in the country where they are to be sold and ensure they are shipped to customers. 3D Printing services like Slant 3D allow products designed in one country to be produced and fulfilled in another country without the cost of shipping. And Slant 3D can hold your model in our digital inventory and produce it only when it is needed.
How it Works
By using Slant 3D you can take your product international and not have to deal with international shipping costs. And you have the huge production scale of Slant 3D. So you know that when demand rises we are able to back you up. This is a great resources of companies and entrepreneurs outside of the United States to send their production to the US without the high cost of shipping.
3D Printing is quickly becoming a best option for production of plastic parts. You have little-no inventory. You can send your parts anywhere in the world for free, and you are able to grow without any high up-front investments.
Who is Doing It.
Slant 3D already doing this with dozens of companies and entrepreneurs. They include companies like Uncommon, a project call Part Mason, and Etsy stores such as BakersStreetCuters. All of these products are manufactured and fulfilled from Slant 3D. But most of them are designed outside of the United States
High Volume 3D Printing allows companies to produce products at any scale without the cost of tooling. For new companies and products this eliminates the high initial cost of tooling. And for companies making complex hardware, or low volumes of products 3D printing can allow them to access new markets faster and with far less risk.
So how is high volume 3D printing able to replace injection molding. There are a number of ways. Fast 3D printers or Lots of 3D Printers.
Fast 3D Printing
Fast 3D Printers are systems that are able to adiditvely produce parts very quickly. These are systems like HP Multi-jet Fusion (MJF) or Carbon's Digital Light Synthesis (DLS).
These technologies are able to produce parts very quickly with 3D printing. But they are limited in geometry and require a lot of post processing, so they remain quite expensive. Though when compared to the high up front cost of molding, these processes can be very useful in high margin products. The design freedom they offer with lattices and light-weighting are also big advantages.
Lots of 3D Printers (or 3D Printing Farms)
3D Printing Farms, like the ones created at Slant 3D, used hundreds or thousands of 3D printers all working in parallel to create parts very quickly at scale. A single part may take an hour to produce, but with hundreds of machines working on that part, you are now making hundreds of parts per hour.
3D Printing farms are able to achieve a much greater scale and a much better cost advantage than other systems because they take advantage of scale. They source larger amounts of more common materials and high automation eliminates the labor costs that can make other processes very expensive.
While fast 3D printing systems may only be affordable compared to molding up to about 1000 parts, 3D Printing farms have achieved cost parity with molding up to 100,000 parts. And that is just by eliminating the need for molds. Long term the savings can be even greater with better supply chain management that 3D Printing allows.
Choose the Process for your Product
It is important to understand that each manufacturing process is not a perfect substitute for any other. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. As you plan your product consider everything from design attributes to ultimate scale and production needs.
High volume 3D printing is great for getting started and scaling up. It also can provide many interesting engineering advantages. Injection molding, is great at high volumes and also provides certain engineering advantages. It is all a matter of what you product needs to be when it gets into customer's hands and your budget for making that happen.
Production 3D Printing is a new technology. And not everyone has interacted with it or understands what kind of pieces and features can be made with it. That is why we designed the Slant 3D Sample Brick. This 3D Printed part demonstrates many of the key features and capabilities of the additive manufacturing process. Everything from complex internal geometries to complex surface textures.
The sample Brick can be ordered for free with the form below. Just let us know where to send it and we will get it to you.
Clients may use the 3d printed sample brick as a reference for proper design of 3D printed parts. As well as a way to evaluate our high volume 3D printing processes.
Features on the Brick
3D Printing is increasingly being used by businesses. And it is not just being used for prototyping. The ability to iterate on products and create complex geometries are both enticing to create parts at production scales. And with technologies such as our Production 3D printing Farm, large scales are feasible. But during the design and prototyping stage sampling, verfication, and design can increase up-front costs to create a 3D printed product. That is why we created the Mason 3D printer for businesses
The Mason is a 3D printer derived from the production 3D printers used in our large scale 3D printing farm. Because of that, any part made on the Mason will be identical to the parts coming out of the Slant 3D Printing Factory. This means sampling is no longer necessary. Clients only need to make a prototype on the Mason that is up to Spec, and then thousands more can immediately be produced with identical settings and characteristics on the Slant 3D farm. Prototype to production with no steps in between.
There only leaves the problem of getting those settings right on your prototype. Design for production 3D printing is an entire discipline, and very few truly understand how to optimize a part for large volumes. And while the machines may be identical from prototype to production, materials could vary if the client is using a spool of filament off of Amazon.
So to standardize the workflow completely. We created OnSite. Onsite is program that connects a Mason 3D printer directly into Slant 3D. An Onsite Subscription provides stardaized materials and access to profession file preparations and optimization. So every variable is eliminated in the prototype stage. Mason+Onsite gives you completely final production-ready prototypes. Not to mention machine insurance, discounted setup, zero sampling costs, and low cost high quality filament.
With the Mason 3D printer combined with an Onsite subscription we have made is possible for businesses to create, and quickly scale 3D printed products as easily as a software company might make an app.
Production 3D Printing offers a low-cost-of-entry and flexible alternative to injection molding when creating new toys. Allowing designers and businesses to more readily break into the global toy market and scale up.
Toys are one of the largest markets for final plastic products in the world. Valued at nearly 89 Billion dollars per year, toys are also lucrative. The trouble is that toys are risky and subject to little more than the whim of the consumer. Literally one weeks consumers will be buying the latest fidget spinner, and then the next week stocking up on branded Avengers Endgame action figures.
The toy industry is dominated by the Likes of Lego, Hasbro, and Mattel. Organizations that can afford the cost of design, tooling, and marketing of literally hundreds of SKU's of toys from 1 month to the next. With 10's of thousands of dollars for each variations, the cost to create a toy is very high. And when the toy is made there is really no guaratee of its success. They are subject to the 50-70% failure rate of any business.
So how does a small company, startup, or lone inventor break into the toy industry, when the the cost of entry and risk is so high?
The problem is in the tooling. That high upfront cost to get started. And the high cost to change if a product is not successful. Molding and traditional tooling are what makes the cost-risk relationship so bad. But there is a process that does not have that high initial tooling fee but will allow you to grow should your toy take off. Additive Manufacturing or Production 3D printing.
Additive manufacturing is when a part is literally grown from a feed of plastic. Traditional manufacturing carves of stamps a shape. 3D printing just makes it appear. Additive is also a digital process. Meaning that, to use it, all you need is a 3D model of your product and it can be created.
Another benefit of the Digital nature of 3D printing is that if a product needs to be changed, updated, or completely replaced, all it takes is an e-mail with the updated 3D design. With no new tooling or molding costs a physical part can be tweaked while it is being made.
Production 3D printing has also reached a scale where if you gain success and are selling thousands, 10's of thousands or more, it can keep up and maintain pricing comparable to injection molding. If a part costs $0.25 for 10,000 units with injection molding after the mold costs, it is likely that production additive can have a similar cost profile without the molding costs.
Additive manufacturing also eliminates the need to create 10,000 pieces. This might be more expensive per part that making large quantities, but it allows a business to experiment and test a market, and not be stuck with the high cost of having to ship and store thousands of pieces. Companies like Slant 3D also often have fulfillment systems, so you create a product and upload it to our system and then when a customer makes an order, the part is printed and shipped right from one of our facilities. (You can learn more about 3D printed product fulfillment here.)
Toys are a risky business. But they can be very lucrative when they are successful. But startups and inventors need a resource that allows them to experiment with production quantities and scale easily without high up-front costs. Traditional manufacturing does not meet those needs. Production Additive manufacturing does allow for this. It lets toy designers make 10 toys and test them, make 1000 toys and sell them, and then make 100,000 and get rich. Just imagine what you could create if the cost to make a toy was not so high
Slant 3D is one of the leaders in high-quantity additive manufacturing. We work continuously with small business and corporate clients to bring new products to market affordably using our production 3D printing farm. Learn more about our capabilities here.
Have an idea for a Toy. Contact us and our team will help you with the design and manufacture, without using the cost of molds.
Already have a toy Design? Submit it for a quote for production 3D printing and out engineers will work with you to get it into production.