The Difference between Plastic Injection Molding and 3D Printing

Which One is Better for Manufacturing Plastic Parts?

3D Printing vs. Plastic Injection MoldingOn its face, plastic injection molding and 3D printing sound very similar – both processes use CNC machines to mold, shape, and design plastic components into a particular shape for a specific purpose. Industries from all over the world use both processes to manufacture plastic parts for specific purposes and into complex shapes, but there are many significant and distinct differences between the two processes that require different levels of production.

So what are the main differences between plastic injection molding and 3D printing, and which one would you want for your business?

The Process

For the plastic injection molding process, melted plastic is injected into a pre-designed mold cavity inside a steel box which forms the part. The melted plastic, once in the mold, hardens and cools rapidly so it can be removed quickly and the process can begin again for the next part. Because of this, plastic injection molding is good for mass production in plastic parts since it happens quickly.

On the other hand, the process of 3D printing allows melted thermoplastic material to be ejected through a spout and fabricated layer by layer inside the printer. It uses special technology to cure resin material into a solid shape or melt layers of powder into a particular part. This process can take several hours per component, meaning 3D printing isn’t as useful for mass production; however, oftentimes it is better for creating a more precise part than can be achieved with plastic injection molding.

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The Time

When it comes to plastic injection molding, creating the part only takes about several seconds to a minute. This makes the manufacturing process much easier for mass production, and many businesses like Retlaw Industries can help businesses all over the country by fabricating large amounts of plastic components with their specialized machinery.

3D printing, on the other hand, can take up to several hours to make only one complex component. While a 3D-printed plastic part is more precisely made than a plastic injection molded part, the time it takes to make it can be a major factor as to whether or not you want to use a 3D printer to make your plastic parts. 

The Cost

Because of the expensive machinery involved and the materials being used, plastic injection molding is significantly more expensive than 3D printing. The costs of plastic materials, molds, machinery, automation, and the operation facility all need to be factored in for injection molding processes. The 3D printing process, however, only requires a 3D printer and enough melted plastic material for the part being produced, making it a much more affordable method.

Which Process is Better?Composite plastic Pulley Wheels

There are many pros and cons to both methods of plastic molding – if you need to mass-produce plastic parts or components for industrial applications, plastic injection molding services from manufacturers like Retlaw Industries are what you need. However, if you want to save money and only need a limited amount of plastic parts, 3D printing may be the solution for you.

Plastic molding methods continue to advance day by day, and better technology for both plastic injection molding and 3D printing continues to develop from industry professionals. Plastic injection molding is becoming more and more affordable for businesses in need of thermoplastic part production, and 3D printing continues to innovate with better, more versatile machines for faster turnover times.

If you want information about plastic components for your industry, call the experts at Retlaw today to learn more.

Contact the plastic injection molding professionals at Retlaw Industries today to get a quote on plastic parts.
For over 40 years, Retlaw has produced quality injection molding tools which has led us into thermoplastic injection molding for a wide variety of industries. With over 19 injection molding machines, decades of collective experience, and over 50,000 square feet under roof and room to expand, we are always ready for your new projects.
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