Lately with COVID and all the supply challenges that have come from that. Manufacturers have been looking for new ways to figure out how to manufacture the parts that they need, especially smaller batch manufacturers that may have a custom PCB that needs a box. Historically, this has always been done with molds and you would go through you would design the mold, you would probably send that design off to some place overseas where they would cut a mold of it, they would then send you some sample parts, and then you would say okay we need 1000 or 10 000 parts. They'd send those to you and then if you ever wanted to reorder you would either modify that mold for the updated design or you would just use the exact same mold and have them make more parts so order a thousand at a time but then you have tooling and setup charges every time. This is a really cumbersome way to do it and actually limits what you're able to do. Molds are not able to work with highly abrasive materials which are often ESD safe materials or solid materials like carbon fiber-reinforced parts. Molds are molds you have to pay for, the cost of the mold even though the PCB itself that you're putting inside one of these boxes is changing very quickly. Molds are a very rigid way of doing it and right now, they're just a very unreliable way to do it because it might get stuck on a boat in a harbor someplace.
There are other ways to get it done. 3D printing is at a point where it can mass-produce tens of thousands of parts as cost-effectively as injection molding quite easily. But there are some things to be concerned about and to be aware of. Number one you do need to design for the process. 3D printing is a different process for molds. It has no inferiority if you're designing for that process. But if you have an injection molded design that you then try to 3D print you will probably run into challenges there. There are a few basic things to know about 3d printing number one fill it all the edges make the part as rounded as you can possibly get to something like this. Number two, take advantage of some of the advantages of 3D printing. You can have really thick walls, you can have chunks like this that you could not mold otherwise because that would be too much material would cause shrinkage. You can create complex mechanisms if you need a box or enclosure that has a latch on top you can do that and this is all printed as a single piece. Here at Slant 3D, we offer design services that can help you create these types of mechanisms where you can open it up latch it closed and now it's set forever. Those types of things are not possible with molds but it allows you to do even more than that because there is a wide range of materials. You do not have to commit to it your box no longer has to be a generic box that your PCB inside has to conform to. You can have the box change with the PCB. If you shave off half of it you can take the box down to half the size and save the cost on the next thousand pieces that you make. With 3D printing, as far as material options are concerned you can do ESD safe you can do ul 94 rated fireproof parts you can do carbon fiber nylon that is exceptionally durable and useful. If you're even doing something where you might need some sort of bounce resistance or drop resistance, you can print parts out of hydrometer that is difficult to mold with or expensive to mold with and gives you a level of security and durability in your enclosure that you couldn't get otherwise.
Printing has a lot of advantages over molding, and then aesthetically if you're designing a final product that houses your chip if you have something that plugs into a wall but needs to be displayed or something along those lines 3D printing allows the options for textures and all kinds of different patterns and embedded designs that again you could not do with molds. This part, this simple bump on the outside would prohibit this or this little ladder part right here would prohibit this part from ever being molded because there's no way to eject it from the mold. Also, it's a perfect square and you can't make a perfect square with molds. You have to have a draft angle on it all the way through, which really limits what you're able to design. If you're making a consumer product and housing to enclose a PCB for a consumer product, you have many more options with 3d printing as far as textures patterns and designs. 3D printing is able to hit the scale that you need it is able to create design components that you need so that you can create custom enclosures of various sizes that are able to be competitive with injection molding and get here quicker because of a print farm can be closer to you. Slant 3D has costs because you do not have to hold those 10 000 pieces for a year and a half or two years as you make all the product to move out the door or the hundred thousand pieces pick your number you instead can order them on demand saying we need a thousand pieces a month for the foreseeable future and just order those as they come. This completely simplifies your supply chain, reduces the cost of the parts, and eliminates the amount of cash stored in a warehouse from parts just sitting there waiting to be used so it streamlines the supply chain in ways that were never possible before. That's kind of a summary of it as far as the parts that you can make. This is a really good example of a good spread of pieces. We can obviously do different colors but it doesn't really come up very often because most people doing custom enclosures like black usb safe fireproof whatever it happens to be but you can have parts in various size ranges. You can of course have standoffs that you would normally have in any sort of enclosure. You can get more and more creative with it to where you either have special designs and rounded components or get into the really exceptionally detailed designs where you need all kinds of features for either functional or aesthetic needs.
That's kind of a summary of what can be done with 3D printing. As far as the scale of what it can hit obviously everybody's used to prototyping parts with 3D printing. But what is the maximum number? It depends on the design. It really does but very often these parts are made for a couple of dollars when they're in mass production with 3D printing. A few dollars for a 3D printed part might be a few cents more than the injection molded part. It gives you all of that supply chain flexibility. They show up on time and they give you the flexibility long term to where you don't have to buy a new mold every time you change the design of the chip inside of it which should be able to change as often as it needs to keep up with technology. 3D printing is a really good way to make custom enclosures in a way that was never possible before it simplifies your supply chain. It's more reliable it gives you more material choices and since you're not buying molds anymore. It very easily and very quickly becomes more affordable than traditional molding because you get that flexibility. You eliminate the warehousing cost and you eliminate the mold cost comment down below.
If there are other topics in mass production 3D printing that you want to talk about or let us know about the types of products or designs that are interesting to you
Thank you and happy printing!
9/18/2022 08:10:28 am
anks for sharing the article, and more importantly, your personal experience mindfully using our emotions as data about our inner state and knowing when it’s better to de-escalate by taking a time out are great tools. Appreciate you reading and sharing your story since I can certainly relate and I think others can to
1/25/2023 01:34:18 am
I have read your article, it is very informative and helpful for me.I admire the valuable information you offer in your articles. Thanks for posting it..
1/30/2023 08:04:08 am
You would just use the exact same mold and have them make more parts so order a thousand at a time but then you have tooling and setup charges every time. Thank you for the beautiful post!
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