Sep.2023 07
Views: 101
Is 3D printing gonna replace tradional mold building?

As is well known, the mainstream manufacturing process in today's world is mold manufacturing, which has been our primary production technology for decades.

In the manufacturing process, 3D printing technology provides efficient and cost-effective support for mold design. For example, 3D printing can be used to create mold prototypes and can be modified based on test results. Additionally, 3D-printed sand molds can serve as transitional products for metal casting.

With the rapid development of 3D printing technology, it has even shown disruptive potential in some areas, competing directly with traditional mold technology.

However, 3D printing has not truly replaced mold manufacturing in the market. What factors have slowed down this process? In fact, this is because 3D printing technology still has some issues in the production process.

  1. Accuracy: If the accuracy of 3D-printed molds is not high, there will be layer-by-layer textures on the surface, affecting the usability of the molds. Post-processing steps such as machining or sandblasting are often needed to eliminate these layer textures, which significantly reduces the speed advantage of 3D-printed molds.

  2. High-Temperature Resistance: Traditional molds, typically made of aluminum or steel, often need to withstand temperatures of 260°C or higher. A set of metal molds can produce thousands of parts without issue. If 3D-printed materials like photosensitive resin are used to make molds, they can degrade rapidly at high temperatures. In mild environments, 3D-printed molds may fail after just 100 uses, and for high-demand engineering materials, they can only produce a few parts.

    Cooling systems can somewhat speed up production but won't significantly increase the lifespan of 3D-printed molds.

  3. Cost of 3D Printing: If the cost of industrial molds is $20,000, a similar 3D-printed mold might cost $1,000. However, this comparison is not entirely fair as the evaluation of 3D printing mold costs usually only considers material consumption, not labor, assembly, and other factors. For example, a factory using 3D printing for aluminum molds may need to reprint and test new molds every 50-100 products.

    On the other hand, aluminum molds typically remain in service after producing 10,000 parts. Therefore, in terms of production costs, it appears that 3D printing may not be more cost-effective than traditional mold manufacturing methods.

  4. Lack of Industry Experience and Standards: Traditional injection mold manufacturing principles have over a century of history, and the industry has extensive knowledge of them. In contrast, 3D-printed molds for injection molding face some challenges and require extra care and trial and error during installation due to a lack of well-established standards.

  5. Difficulty in Mass Production: The unit cost for producing one piece versus producing ten thousand pieces is relatively similar in 3D printing, and 3D printing often takes longer. 3D printing technology is better suited for low-volume production and situations with tight production schedules, while large-scale production still predominantly relies on traditional mold manufacturing.

In conclusion, it's clear that 3D printing won't replace traditional mold manufacturing technology in the short term. However, there's no need for disappointment, as 3D printing still has a place in manufacturing for low-volume production, customization, and reducing development cycles. When used in conjunction with traditional manufacturing, 3D printing can harness its significant potential as a complementary technology.