Additive Manufacturing Complements Injection Molding
Additive Manufacturing (AM) has garnered attention due to the certification and validation of AM processes and materials as a strong and viable option for conventional manufacturing. This recognition is propelling AM from one-off prototype form-fit-function use, to end-use production components in demanding applications and industries, with volumes in the millions per year.
Xcentric is in the business of providing time critical manufacturing services that address the different phases of our customers’ product launch cycles. Historically our focus has been on injection molded thermoplastic components; however, as our customers’ requirements change and manufacturing technologies advance, XME has evolved to offer the desired outcome using the best available approach. Because we have expertise in both injection molding and additive manufacturing we are able to propose the best approach for each phase of our customers’ projects.
3D Printing in the Product Development Cycle
Additive manufacturing—or 3D Printing—is a great solution when a component is needed immediately, in low volumes, and when the part design is highly complex and would be difficult to manufacture using conventional methods. 3D Printing also enables designers and engineers to iterate quickly, modify designs, and go to market quickly, without the need for costly inventory because parts can be printed on-demand. Additive manufacturing technologies include a wide range of directly printed polymers and metals and an even broader range of materials via intermediate processes such as thermoforming and sand casting. In recent years, increasing numbers of 3D printing companies—including our partner Stratasys Direct—are validating materials for end-use applications, and industrial-grade 3D printing services have risen that are able to produce small production parts in higher volumes.
Xcentric has perfected the art of producing injection molded components in extremely short timelines, making the decision between additive manufacturing and injection molding predominantly a matter of component cost, surface finish, accuracy, material properties, and productivity. Once molds are produced and set up to run, typically in 5-10 business days, injection molding is extremely efficient and cost effective compared to 3D Printing, and yields parts made in any commercially available thermoplastic material. Where 3D Printed components are produced in hours and tens of dollars per part, injection molding requires minutes and dollars (or less) per equivalent part in validated materials.
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