August 28, 2020

Cost Analysis: 3D Printing Vs Injection Molding


As a customer, value is king. And to receive the best value, a customer must strike a balance against the cost — against the time, labor, efficiency, and quality — to create their product. So when looking at value versus cost, the question of which production method to pursue to create the highest value, at the lowest cost, will obviously arise — 3D printing, or injection molding?

Both 3D printing and injection molding serve a purpose in production. More often than not, the two are not competing against each other, but rather, each works best for different applications, and both can work together in manufacturing. This generally works best when 3D printing is used for prototyping, and injection molding is used for large-scale production runs. To understand which is purely better for producing a product, though, depends on the product itself.

Cost VS Time

For 3D printing, the upfront cost is generally lower than injection molding. It takes essentially the same skill to map the part itself in a CAD software, but 3D printing can print directly from the file, and injection molding requires the creation of mold or tooling, and then the injection process to create the piece. It takes significantly more skilled labor to run the equipment to create and injected molded part, but less material cost to create the individual parts versus the material used by a 3D printer. This means that, though the injection mold itself costs more to create, with each piece created by the injection molding process, the cost becomes cheaper for each additional unit compared to the flat production cost of the 3D printed parts.

Then there is the question of time. A 3D printed part can be produced relatively quickly, but the amount being produced at once is low, particularly compared to injection molding, where a much large magnitude of parts can be molded at once. Furthermore, injection molding has a much lower rate of part failure versus 3D printing, so parts being produced by injection molding are more likely to pass inspection up against their 3D printed brethren, meaning less time needed to produce the same amount of parts.

Overall Quality

Comparing at mass scale is one thing, but what about individually, head-to-head? 3D printed parts, while functional, tend to fall short of their injection molded rivals. This is largely due to the fact that the injection molding process is creating a singular unit in one shot of material, curing to create a solid piece. 3D printed objects are, by nature, additive manufactured, meaning they are built up in iterative pieces of material, creating potential for more issues to be introduced throughout the printing process of the piece. As such, injected molded parts are more likely to be produced en masse at industry-grade compliance standards directly from the mold, versus 3D printed parts that will need to be finished before seeing use.

In short, 3D printing for prototyping and very short run projects of 10–100 pieces, for very quick turn-around projects, makes some cost sense. But when crafting a part for a large scale, functional use with quality output that requires little, if any, finishing, injection molding is the option that can’t be beat.

At Hansen Plastics, there is a steadfast commitment to the customer as part of HPC’s overall mission to providing the highest quality injection molded products to a diverse range of customers, ensuring satisfaction, trusting relationships, and sustainable, profitable growth.

These are values held by each employee-owner of HPC, dedicated to providing the highest
level of value to all customers. For over 40 years, Hansen Plastics has been committed to
building long-lasting relationships, which requires unwavering dedication to quality and
consistency in injection molding, to help establish and retain trust with all HPC customers. If you are looking for a trusted, experienced plastic injection molder to handle your products, reach out to HPC today, or visit HansenPlastics.com for a full view of HPC’s capabilities.

To learn more about Hansen Plastics Corporation, their techniques, and their business philosophy, visit Hansenplastics.com and click to learn more about our markets served, like the injection molding for appliances and automotive industries.