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With your design ready and optimized for injection molding, what’s next?

Start Injection molding

With your design optimized and ready for injection molding, you can begin testing your prototype. In this section, we will walk you through the steps needed to begin manufacturing with injection molding.

Step 1: Start small & prototype fast

Before committing to any high-cost injection molding tooling, it is recommended that you first create your design and test your prototype’s functionality. This will keep your cost down as it allows you to identify any design errors and fix them to ensure the launching of your product is successful.

There are three different solutions for prototyping:

1. CNC machining in plastic

2. 3D printing (with SLA, SLS, or Material Jetting)

3. Low-run injection molding with 3D printed molds

These three processes typically help to create a realistic prototype for form and function that looks a lot like the final Injection molding product.

Decide which of these solutions is best for your application by using the following information as a guide to compare the processes.

Prototyping with 3D printing

Typical cost: $20 – $100 per part

Min. quantity: 1 part

Lead time: 2 – 5 days

Pros

• Designs that are optimized for injection molding are ready to be easily 3D printed.

• The prototyping solution offers the fastest turnaround time and the lowest cost.

Cons

• Not all injection molding materials are available for 3D printing.

• 3D printed parts are at least 30-50 percent weaker than injection molded parts.

Prototyping with CNC machining

Typical cost: $100 – $500 per part

Min. quantity: 1 part

Lead time: 5 – 10 days

Pros

• Material properties are identical to injection molded parts.

• Excellent finishing and accuracy.

Cons

• Since different design restrictions apply, design modifications may be needed.

• Longer lead time and more costly than 3D printing.

Prototyping with Low-run Injection molding

Typical cost: $1000 – $4000 total

Min. quantity: 10 – 100 parts

Lead time: 5 – 10 days

Pros

• It offers accurate material properties and produces the most realistic prototypes.

• The actual mold design and the process are simulated.

Cons

• This is the most expensive prototyping solution.

• Smaller availability than 3D printing or CNC machining.

Step 2: Make a “pilot run” (500 – 10,000 parts)

Once your design is finalized, you can begin a small pilot run with injection molding. 

A minimum order volume of 500 units is required for injection molding. Generally, at this amount, molds will be CNC machined with aluminum as aluminum is easy to manufacture, can withstand injection cycles of up to 5,000 to 10, 0000, and is basically low in cost where the price usually ranges from $3,000 to $5,000. 

The cost per part varies at this stage and depending on the selected material and geometry of your design, it can range anywhere from $1 to $5. Orders like this usually take around 6-8 weeks to fulfill.

Don’t let the term “pilot run” confuse you. If you only need a few thousand parts, then this will be your final production step.

The parts manufactured from “pilot” aluminum molds have accuracy and physical properties identical to “full-scale production”.

Step 3: Scale-up production (100,000+ parts)

Producing massive quantities of identical parts ranging from 10,000 to 100,000+ units will require special Injection molding tooling.

The molds are CNC machined with tool steel for these volumes that can withstand millions of injection molding cycles. In addition, they are equipped with some advanced features to help maximize production speeds, such as intricate cooling channels and hot-tip gates.

Due to the manufacturing and designing complexity of the mold, the typical waiting time for sheet metal prototyping is 4 to 6 months, and at this stage, the cost per unit will vary from a few cents to $1.

Step 4: Get an Injection molding quote online!

Outsourcing your sheet metal prototyping production project is fast, easy, and very price-competitive with 3D Hubs.

For the best possible lead times and rates of injection molding services, you can access the production capacity that’s readily available by combining the smart sourcing engine with our network of manufacturing services. 

When your injection molding services designs are uploaded to 3D Hubs, the automated Design for Manufacturability analysis tools detect potential issues and will give you a quote instantly based on the Manufacturing Neural Network powered by AI, before production begins. This way you will always get the fastest turnaround times and the best price in the market for your injection molding parts. 

To get an injection molding quote, follow the steps below…

Step 1 Upload your 3D CAD format, ensuring the format is supported.

Step 2 Specify your requirements, including the material, quantity, mold finish, etc.

Step 3 Get an instant quote then start injection molding.

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