Advancements in Manufacturing: The Integration of 3D Printing and Injection Molding

Introduction: The combination of 3D printing and injection molding, facilitated by Freeform Injection Mold (FIM) resin, is revolutionizing low-volume manufacturing. This innovative hybrid technology offers numerous advantages over conventional 3D printing methods.

Material Diversity and Cost Efficiency:

FIM technology taps into the extensive range of injection molding resins, providing access to a broader spectrum of materials compared to traditional 3D printing. This is crucial for meeting specific material requirements in manufacturing. The cost benefits associated with injection molding resins for 3D printing molds can be significant, surpassing the limitations of traditional 3D printing materials.

Mechanical Properties:

Injection molding, characterized by high pressure and density, produces parts with superior mechanical properties compared to many 3D printing processes. The isotropic nature of molded parts ensures consistent and reliable performance. FIM addresses limitations in certain 3D printing methods, enhancing structural integrity.

Surface Finish and Detail:

DLP resins, like the FIM resin in the liquid vat process, enable thin layers, high detail, and a smooth finish. Molded parts exhibit a level of detail and surface quality comparable to SLA 3D printing. The ability to transfer textures from digital files to molds enhances both aesthetic appeal and functionality.

Lead Time Reduction:

The capability to print molds overnight accelerates production timelines significantly. This rapid turnaround time is a critical advantage in meeting project schedules and responding swiftly to market demands.

Customization and Prototyping:

FIM technology facilitates quick and cost-effective production of custom molds, making it ideal for prototyping and low-volume manufacturing. This is particularly advantageous for industries requiring rapid iterations and customization.

Wall Thickness Guidelines:

Maintaining a consistent wall thickness ranging from 0.060″ to 0.200″ is essential for optimal part quality. Fillets should be applied to sharp edges and joints to reduce stress during shrinkage, preventing warping caused by concentrated mass contraction.

Parting Line and Draft Angles:

Careful consideration of mold separation is crucial to avoid interference or undercuts hindering part removal. Implementing a half-degree draft angle and ejector pins ensures efficient part ejection in repeat production molds, minimizing upfront engineering costs.

Ribs and Gussets for Enhanced Strength:

Ribs can be strategically used to enhance part strength and stiffness, allowing for thinner walls and reducing material use and cooling time. Designing ribs and gussets to be 50-60% of the wall thickness improves dimensional stability, minimizing issues like sink without adding extra cost.

Tolerancing and Limitations:

Acknowledging that 3D printing accuracy is not on par with machining is crucial. Printed molds typically hold tolerances between 0.010″ to 0.015″, compared to 0.001″ to 0.005″ for milled production molds. Accounting for resin shrinkage in molding processes is necessary, adjusting for additional part variance.

Finish Options and Limitations:

Understanding that 3D printing for molds has limited finish options compared to traditional methods is essential. While in-model textures are effective, customers may need to provide them, as chemical etch finishes offered by conventional injection mold tooling companies may not be available.

Ongoing Developments:

Staying informed about additional technical process information, which will be validated and published in the near future, is crucial. Recognizing that this is a dynamic and evolving process, ongoing advancements may bring new possibilities and refinements.