Injection molding is undoubtedly the quickest way to produce plastic parts however it is not the cheapest. The cost involved in preparing a mold can be extremely high for product developers especially startups and young companies such that making minor changes even after an issue has been detected is a very unpleasant experience.
It is therefore not surprising how quickly 3D printing technology has been adopted by startups, product developers and even big names in the consumer electronics industry. Not only does 3D printing speeds up the process of product development but it also allows for multiple revisions to be done at various stages.
However, some materials such as rubber and other flexible materials can be very difficult to print even at very slow speeds. A clever way to solve this is the use of 3D printed molds. The mold is designed using a CAD software and then 3D printed with plastic. A mold usually consists of two parts or even more depending on the complexity of the model to be cast. The casting material, which in our case study is rubber comes as a two-part solution which is required to be mixed in a specific ratio to achieve a certain hardness when fully cured. The curing times varies widely depending on the type of material. These days there are two-part solutions that cure in few minutes.
It must be pointed out that during the curing process, the solution does generate some amount of heat in the mold hence plastics with higher melting points such as ABS is preferred over PLA. In our case study here at 3DQ PRINTING, the mold was printed with high-quality ABS plastic. It was then polished to achieve smooth surfaces. The importance of polishing the mold cannot be overestimated. It helps to achieve smooth and presentable surfaces for the casted object and also makes it easier to remove the part from the mold after it is fully cured.
The 3D printed molds did not only allow multiple revisions of the design to be done but also sped up the development process of the prototype. Most startups, makers and even some companies rely on foreign manufacturers to get molds prepared for injection molding. The back and forth communication involved can really slow things down. 3DQ PRINTING exists for this reason. To drastically reduce the time required for product development. With over 10 professional 3D printers, we are able to print models and molds with amazing turnaround times.
3D printing is really pushing the borders of product design and manufacturing and making what was previously considered impossible, possible today.