One of the huge advantages of high volume 3D Printing is its ability to produce custom parts at scale without the cost of molds. This freedom allows for products to evolve during production, and reduces inventory holding requirements since parts can be made on demand. This is especially true for parts in industrial settings. These types of parts include custom hardware like gears, rollers and handles. But here we are going to focus on custom electrical enclosures. Large Scale 3D Printing is able to produce custom electrical enclosures reliably and quickly using all types of materials.
Creating New Enclosures
Electronics enclosures cannot accommodate the millions of PCB designs that are created every year. Often certain custom boards are just placed into a generic box enclosure. While this can be affordable. It can compromise the longevity of the part, and diminishes the brand of the board inside. If possible every company would prefer to use custom enclosures. This way the enclosure can complement the board inside. Both on engineering specs and company identity. But custom enclosures require custom molds. This leads to minimum volumes to amortize the cost of the mold. And the enclosure is obsolete as soon as the PCB is. 3D Printing, on the other hand, allows just the right number of parts to be produced for what is sold. They can be made on demand as the parts are sold, so there is no inventory carrying cost. And as the PCB changes or diversifies the case can immediately be updated. And of course with 3D Printing there is no molding cost. So for most simple enclosures 3D Printing is generally less expensive or at least matches the cost of molding.
Recreating Old Products
The benefits if 3D Printed enclosures does not only extend to the new. Old systems can be revitalized. If an enclosure has gone out or production, or out of style, it can be quickly and efficiently recreated. Then it can be put back into to production without the startup and carrying costs that molding requires.
The process of injection molding is quite limited. Or at least with special materials, quite expensive. At Slant 3D we have worked with clients searching for ESD safe or even Carbon Fiber enclosures to be manufactured. Few molding systems can support the abrasive characteristics of these types of materials. Molders very often specialize in only one material. Whereas 3D Printing is much more flexible. Literally we can print in rubbery materials, hardhat TPU, carbon fiber, and biodegradable, to name just a few. This allows clients to iterate and diversify while only have to establish and maintain one relationship rather than one for each SKU. And then, within material, there is always color. Again with molding minimums play a roll. The distributed nature of 3D Printing allows clients to order 1000 parts, but make 250 of red, blue, yellow, and green.
All told 3D Printing is a way to improve efficiency with products that require a large number of SKU's. But it can scale to large volume. But really if you are making more than 100,000 pieces at a go then go get a mold. But 3D Printing is able to produce many variants quickly and easily. Changing material, color, and very importantly geometry. And it is able to easily adjust to supply and demand. 3D Printing does not require an order of 100,000 pieces. 100,000 pieces that must then be shipped and stored. Instead, parts can be produced at a rate that meets demand. Less cash is tied up in inventory, and there is less risk for new products. 3D Printing is simply a more efficient process.