Although 3d printing seem to be the buzz today, the technology is actually over 30 years old. To compete with 3d printing services there has been a major shift in the rapid injection molding arena.
Quick turn or rapid injection molding has put a damper on the 3d printing market. Technology advances using automated software and processes have lead the way in disrupting the 3d printing market. For this reason, customers can now have real injection molded parts in their hands in as little as 1 to 15 days, depending on the complexity. The advantage is that the customer can use the injection molded parts for prototype or production. There is however a drawback as the parts have a tooling charge associated with them. If quantities are less than 25, then 3d printing may be the more economical choice depending on functionality and testing needs.
It is important to note, other than injection molding and cnc machining, that all other Rapid prototyping methods have limitations. It is noteworthy that 3D printing, Stereo-lithography and laser Sintering all have functionality limitations due to how the material is layered. Furthermore, Cast Urethane has a limitation of 50 parts or less per mold, which can drive tooling cost up. If part testing and functionality are important, then Injection Molding or cnc machining is the better choice. If just looking for proof of concept any of the other methods will probably suffice. It is a good idea to find a source that offers all or most of the rapid prototyping processes when determining the best process to use.
Some examples of Rapid Prototyping are: