Plastic Injection Molding vs 3D Printing
When it comes to producing complex parts for production, many companies debate between using plastic injection molding technology or 3D printing the pieces instead. Each are viable options with their own benefits. 3D printing uses additive technology, adding material a bit at a time from scratch, using software prototypes. Plastic injection molding injects molten material into a mold that shapes it as it is cooled quickly. If you are looking to fill an order and wonder which process is better, here are some factors to consider.
The Size of the Job
For jobs that are small, meaning less than 100 parts or require small design changes to your prototype, 3D printing is the better option. The reason for this is because making the molds for plastic injection molding requires building molds that may cost more than you are willing to spend. With 3D printing, you can create the prototype in a program and then build up the pieces without molds or excess waste. The less material used means that there are less material costs.
For small projects that need fast, small changes, it is best to do it with 3D printing because of the ease required to make them. Everything done in the program is fast, where changes to the molds in plastic injection molding means creating an all new mold. This not only increases the costs for the mold but also takes more time to accomplish.
Jobs that require 100+ parts, it makes more sense to use plastic injection molding. This is because one mold is made to quickly produce a lot of the pieces. 3D printing does not take a long time for a few pieces, but creating the same pieces repeatedly is slowly built one at a time. With a mold and plastic injection machinery, the same piece is produced the same each time, precisely and quickly. It is also easier to use
The Level of Quality
Not all parts require a high level of quality finish. With 3D printing, parts are not typically finished, which means they need extra steps before they are considered complete. If it is going to be covered in plastic or another finishing product, it can take more time to complete the job and cost more for materials. It is still a fast and convenient option, especially if building the piece from scratch. However, if the part is going to be used in a visible place on a product, 3D printing may not be the most efficient option.
Plastic injection molding creates parts that cure as a single piece and use additive manufacturing. This process produces finished products that will not delaminate in general. Parts are finished faster and able to be used when curing is complete. There are less steps and are still high-quality products.
Finding the Best Production
When 3D printing was first introduced, these two production methods were considered competing technologies, but instead, companies are finding that they complement each other well. While many times one or the other must be used, there are jobs that can combine both processes. Combining the technologies can help shorten pre-production time by creating molds with 3D printing then using plastic injection molding for larger orders. As manufacturing continues to improve, it is easy to see that both will still be used for a long time, hopefully helping each reach their full potential.
The Uses of Plastic and Rubber Extrusions in the Military
Plastic and rubber extrusion products are commonly used in the military. Defense systems require a lot of different components for various applications. To create both simple and complex parts, the extrusion process is used to meet exact specifications over repeated creations. This is especially important in the military and defense industry.
The Extrusion Process
The process for creating plastic and rubber extrusion parts are different but are ideal for both products. This is because the process helps ensure that products come out the same each time since dies are used in the formation process. With consistent results being produced, mass orders can be fulfilled in less time and with better results than creating each one individually.
During plastic extrusion, the process requires melting plastic first and then forcing it through the die to create a specific shape. The molten plastic cools, becoming a solid form. Machinery then slices the plastic into appropriate lengths to fill the order to exact specifications.
Creating products with rubber extrusion is different because the die is created in a shape with a cross section, forcing the rubber through it. Since the rubber is soft and pliable, the immense pressure shapes the rubber into the appropriate form before it hardens. From there, it can also be cut to meet order specifications.
Plastic has advantages over rubber because it is harder and more rigid. It can withstand colder temperatures and even be recycled. Rubber is better under high temperatures and is lighter than plastic. Each have their own benefits that fit different applications.
Why Plastic and Rubber Extrusion Parts
For defense products, products must meet high standards to make sure that they can meet compliance requirements. With all the regulations that are needed for testing and improving performance, it is important to make sure each piece of every product is up for the task.
Military plastic extrusions and military rubber extrusions, products have unique testing requirements. Pieces must be able to meet rugged demands, such as:
- withstand extreme temperatures
- being stored for months at a time without losing function
- being used every day for prolonged periods of time
- function under extreme temperatures
- reliably keep out sand, dust, and mud
- perform as expected even when in contact with fresh and saltwater
Since defense products help protect soldiers in different life-threatening situations, dependable products are required for these uses.
There are many different areas in the military that use plastic and rubber extrusion products for defense. Some of the parts go to uses in the aerospace, tanks/vehicles, marine, and solar areas of defense. Other applications include insulation for engines, armaments, and munitions.
Quality and Reliability
The most important aspects of creating products for military and defense is that they are high quality and reliable. This all comes down to using cutting-edge equipment for creation, meeting safety requirements, and creating consistent products, each time they are produced. For short lead times, flexibility in operations, and a fast turnaround, it is important to partner with the right company. If you need a quote for your job, let one of our customer service representatives help you today.
Signs of High-Quality Plastic Extrusions
Partnering with a plastic extrusion company is a serious commitment. Whether it is a single order or a long-term arrangement, it is important to pick a partner who produces quality results at a reasonable price. Many products made with plastic extrusion are buried in automotive products, aerospace machinery, solar industry components, or another high-pressure performance product, so high-quality pieces are important. To understand quality, it is important to first understand the plastic extrusion process.
The Production Process:
While there are various additives that work together to create a different end result, the basic process for plastic extrusion includes these six steps.
- First Step: Raw thermoplastic pellets are loaded into the machine with any required additives. This helps create a quality construction to the product.
- Second Step: Pellets are sorted as they move through the machine to ensure the right amount of material in each product.
- Third Step: High heat is used to gradually melt the plastic pellets for an even result without any burning, then passed through a filter to remove any contaminants.
- Fourth Step: The melted plastic is forced into the die where it is formed into its final shape. Any faults will result in warping and sub-par results.
- Fifth Step: The product is passed through water baths to make sure it cools correctly and holds its shape.
- Sixth Step: This is when any finishing touches and fabrications are added. Some examples are punching, drilling, printing, and adding adhesive, but there are more available for different applications. Some in-line supplementary processes include tubing and sleeves that are made with UL approved materials and military grade dual-durometer products.
Signs of Quality Products
When an order arrives, you should do a quick inspection of the order. Do the pieces all seem to have uniform density, consistent coloring and plastic distribution? Does each individual piece meet the exact specifications that you ordered? If not, you should look for a new plastic extrusion partner who will give your order the attention to detail required for quality products.
Some of the more popular uses for plastic extrusion products are for uses in appliances, solar panels and equipment, and for the automotive and military defense industries. These each have their own requirements for products, but a great plastics partner will match each one. Make sure that there is someone who sits down individually and goes over your needs, goals, and gives a clear quote on the price.
A great company for partnering will always deliver on their promises and have the machinery capabilities to fulfill orders that are high and low volume productions. With high customer service, a plastics company will have an ISO/TS 16949:2009 quality assurance program, which helps you know that you will get exactly what you order.
If you are looking for a high-quality plastic extrusion partner, contact us today. We would love to talk to you more about the needs of your company’s custom plastic extrusion needs. Our production team is ready to answer any questions you have as well. Let us help you get the products you need for an unmatched quality at a competitive price.