Mar 31, 2016 | By Kira

Additive manufacturing or Injection Molding? It’s a debate that has been going on for years, particularly since 3D printing became known as Fourth Industrial Revolution, promising to displace the cost, time, and material waste associated with traditional scale-production techniques. What has become apparent over the years, however, is that 3D printing and injection molding don’t necessarily have to compete—they can co-exist, and even complement one another.

Whereas 3D printing is best used for rapid prototyping or last-minute, low-volume production, injection molding is the industry standard for high-volume manufacturing at unmatched speeds. Each has their strengths and weaknesses, which are sure to be improved on as technology advances, however at the moment, it seems that there is room even with a single business for both, whether they are used to create common household goods or aerospace-ready parts.

To exemplify this idea, 3D modeler Luca Toson has created a unique 3D printed model that, to an extent, symbolizes additive manufacturing and injection molding living together in perfect harmony: a 300-piece, miniature injection molding machine, created entirely with a Zortrax M200 desktop 3D printer.

Though not functional, the 1.36 scale model is quite intricately detailed and even features some moving parts.

Apparently, Toson got the idea to create the 3D printed model after a co-worker brought up the discussion of additive manufacturing versus injection molding. Toson wanted to find an unexpected way to show that, thanks to additive manufacturing, it is possible to create highly complex models that can reflect existing industrial machines.

He began by creating the elaborate 3D model using the NURBS modeling technique, a mathematical model that allows for the freeform yet precise creation of curves and surfaces. Because the parts were so small, Toson called on the assistance of another experienced 3D designer, Ronny Raimondi, who is used to working with minuscule 3D printed jewelry parts. Though they initially didn’t know just how intensive this process would be, by the end, there were 300 individual parts to 3D print.

Using his Zortrax M200 and a variety of materials, including Z-ULTRAT, Z-ABS and Z-GLASS, Toson was able to 3D print each miniscule part in a total of 25 batches. The combination of various materials and colors gives the machine quite a realistic look, and, as the finishing touch, he even added a few aluminum pipes at the very end. The final 3D printed model’s dimensions are 370 x 166 x 155 mm.

Though more of a fun project than an actual statement on injection molding versus 3D printing, this 3D printed injection molding machine is certainly an unexpected way to show how the two technologies can co-exist.

Toson also took advantage of this project to show off the power of 3D printing technology, demonstrating that it is possible to create highly complex models using a desktop 3D printer. The designer stressed that right now, the technology's biggest advantage is that it makes desktop manufacturing more accessible to a bigger group of people, allowing individuals to fully express their creative ideas without financial restraints.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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