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What will 3D printing mean for plastic manufactured parts?

The mid-20th century developments in chemical technologies resulted in an explosion of new plastics and the ability to mass manufacture plastic products. Today these parts are ubiquitous but they typically have a common manufacturing characteristic - they are mass produced.

3D printing is far more than a prototyping solution

The value of prototyping is becoming better understood, but it’s combining the needs of manufacturing with prototyping that makes 3D printing an essential tool for organisations to be agile and competitive in today’s rapidly changing world.

3D printing is revolutionising plastic injection moulding tooling

With metal ‘additive manufacturing’ becoming more prevalent. Metal additive and machining technology, combined with continually developing expertise in this emerging field is generating more innovative solutions for producing plastic injection mould tooling. The ability to create complex conformal cooling to enhance part quality and moulding performance - plus potentially reducing plastic injection mould tool lead times by up to 50%.

3D printing is the opposite of subtractive manufacturing which is cutting out / hollowing out a piece of metal or plastic with for instance a milling machine. 3D printing enables you to produce complex (functional) shapes using less material than traditional manufacturing methods. The result is a new generation of mould tools, with consistent and accurate cooling across the entire forming area, even within small or awkwardly shaped pockets.  In turn, this eliminates many of the problems of distortion and poor part quality, which are traditionally associated with inefficient cooling.

3D printing is revolutionising plastic component manufacturing

3D printing is on course to change the way we make things. Plastic injection moulding is the most efficient way of mass producing simple things. However, here the 3D printing technology is making a big impact in high end manufacturing – a sector Britain specialises in. Designers are really beginning to embrace its advantages as it allows you to be innovative in design and the way you develop components and structures.

We will be able to make shapes and parts that can‘t be made in any other method, such as triangular holes merging into a square or combining components thus reducing the number of parts. It will challenge engineers to think about the way components are designed.

3D printing is revolutionising manufacturing

With traditional manufacturing methods, it’s not practical to manufacture a single item or short-run of products — it’s simply too expensive, in terms of both time and money. Securing factory space, setting up a production line and procuring jigs and fixtures, all incur substantial costs that can’t be justified for a few items. Regardless of their size or their focus, all manufacturers need to improve their product quality and their speed to market as well as the prototyping and tool creation. Short-run production capabilities of 3D printing technology can help them do just that.