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WHEN IS 3D PRINTING MORE ECONOMICAL THAN INJECTION MOLDING?

June 05, 2019

SLS and SLA 3D printing methods are capable of producing objects at a quality comparable to injection molding. But, at what stage does it become advantageous to opt for 3D printing in place of conventional manufacturing methods? The short answer to this question is: mass customization. SLS and SLA are both enabling manufacturers to produce multiple entirely unique, end-use products and functional prototypes within a single build volume.

As a leading 3D printer OEM and service provider with over three decades in the business, 3D Systems is well equipped to help businesses realize these aims. Through 3D Systems On Demand, manufacturers can unlock mass custom production without the overheads associated with machine acquisition, re-training and post processing.

Detailing how to leverage SLS in particular, the company has recently published a free-to-download white paper titled The New World of Thermoplastic Manufacturing.

SLS 3D printed ductwork created by 3D Systems On Demand. Photo via 3D Systems
SLS 3D printed ductwork created by 3D Systems On Demand. Photo via 3D Systems

What are the rules of SLS 3D printing?

3D printing is of course the method of choice when design complexity, custom parts and multiple design iterations are required. More specifically SLS gives a greater degree of design freedom where support structures are concerned. Part nesting is also achievable with SLS, making full use of the entire volume of the print bed. But there are some cardinal rules to keep in mind. Design for SLS is one of the key areas discussed in The New World of Thermoplastic Manufacturing.

Another topic with great detail in the white paper is SLS materials. As a manufacturer of its own feedstocks 3D Systems assures the quality of all parts printed on demand, and there is a wide variety to choose from. Working with thermoplastics, SLS 3D printing can be applied to make both rigid and flexible parts, objects resistant to high temperatures, and those suitable for food contact or medical use. DuraForm®EX  is a material from 3D Systems that actually exceeds the impact strength of injection molded polypropylene (PP). Full detail of all the available SLS materials, and which materials to select can also be found in 3D Systems’ dedicated whitepaper.

Clip 3D printed using DuraForm ProX EX BLK material. Photo via 3D Systems
Clip 3D printed using DuraForm ProX EX BLK material. Photo via 3D Systems

Why choose 3D Systems On Demand?

3D Systems On Demand is a manufacturing service for conventional production methods as well as 3D printing. With a team of dedicated application engineers, the company helps customers determine which manufacturing method, and materials are fit for purpose. Design advice is also available on request.

3D printing at 3D Systems is fulfilled by machines capable of producing parts measuring 1,500mm in a single piece. At 9 sites located across Europe, Australia and the Americas manufacturing is local to the customer, delivering parts as fast as 24 hours. A wide range of proprietary materials are available, assuring part quality, and there are extensive choices for secondary finishes.

Online quoting, typically within 24 hours of submitting a design, is available directly through 3D Systems On Demand by uploading a 3D CAD file. Get a quote now, or for help and consultation on part orders, contact 3D Systems here.

Featured image shows a 3D printed duct made using DuraForm® HST  for Renault. Photo via 3D Systems.