Digital contract manufacturer Protolabs recently posted a blog about whether it is better to 3D print thermoplastic shapes or machine shapes from aluminum. The Maple Plain, Minn., Provider of injection molding, CNC machining, 3D printing, and sheet metal fabrication services, concluded, “Most of the time, you use 3D printing for parts – prototypes or end uses – but not for molds . “
The company said shapes made using thermoplastic 3D printing “are a bit like the plastic storage sheds some of us have put up in our backyards. They are a little cheaper than metal sheds. They go up quickly and are fine with light loads. But if you pile too much snow on them, they collapse like a house of cards. “
Printed forms have their place, the blog continues, noting that some businesses have had good results with them. “Proponents argue that 3D printing can produce molds up to 90 percent faster and 70 percent cheaper than conventional mold-making processes. And while this may be true in certain circumstances, it is important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of plastic printed molds versus metal ones. “
The main advantage of a 3D printed form is its relatively low cost. However, Protolabs notes that “3D printed shapes require a new shape to be printed, machine assembled and tested every 50 to 100 shots. Aluminum tools do not have such restrictions and often see[s] Service well over 10,000 shots. “
Click here to read the entire blog.
More articles on the topic of 3D printing molds:
Plastic injection molds can be 3D printed quickly
Google’s advanced technology lab prints a shape in 3D