There are many different types of manufacturing methods that are used to make products for consumers. A common question asked by new designers is, which method should I use?
The answer usually comes down to what you are trying to produce and how much money you have available for production.
This article will go over some of the more popular methods used to help new designers choose the best one based on their needs.
This is by far the most common manufacturing method used by new designers because it’s affordable and versatile.
The final product is produced through injection molding in two stages. First, plastic pellets are fed into a large barrel called an extruder.
The material then passes through several smaller barrels which heat the plastic using metal heating coils.
This allows the material to become very fluid before it is forced out of a small opening on the end of the barrel (hence ‘injection’ molding).
As the plastic is forced through this opening, it is shaped into the mold that has been cut out of a large block.
This mold contains all of the necessary details to make the final product. The material then flows into these details and takes its shape after cooling down.
There are many varieties of this method depending on what is being produced. One of the most successful types called peek injection molding, allows designers to produce very intricate parts that could not be otherwise printed or machined.
It offers flexibility and precision for all your custom plastic needs. Peek injection molding is the most versatile method of production because almost any type of material can be used.
This means you can produce anything from cups and food containers, to automotive components.
Laser Cutting & Engraving
Laser cutting works by directing an extremely precise laser beam onto flat sheets of material, typically metals or plastics, to form them into 3D shapes using the cut lines as guides.
The use of laser engraving allows designers to create fine details and features on flat surfaces.
To produce parts using this method, first, a computer-generated plan needs to be created to serve as a blueprint for the machine to follow.
This can be done by hand or with the help of CAD software. The material is then secured into a machine which will then coat it in a thin layer of powder on its top side.
This powder is a special type of paint that will later be removed with a vacuum. Next, the laser beam then traces out the blueprint by following cuts in the material which have been programmed into the machine beforehand.
Depending on what material is being used, this can create very detailed items including jewelry, gifts, and awards all with a very precise and shiny finish.
Vacuum casting is a process in which liquid resin is poured into a closed mold, and then a vacuum is created inside the container to make sure that no bubbles or impurities are trapped within your final product.
This method creates very smooth surfaces and requires very little post-processing because it only uses one type of resin instead of multiple parts that need to be stitched together during production.
The main limitations for this method come from its higher costs due to the need for sophisticated molds and lower outputs than most other manufacturing methods since it can only produce smaller-sized products at a time.
Also, some resins such as polyurethanes may require additional steps such as degassing to prevent air bubbles from becoming trapped within finished products.
3D Printing (SLA, DLP, FDM)
3D printing is an additive manufacturing process that produces complete parts layer by layer, starting with the creation of a digital data set that contains all the information the machine needs to construct your product based on its CAD file. Many types of machines can be used for this function including stereolithography (SLA), liquid resins (DLP), and fused deposition modeling (FDM).
SLA involves shining ultraviolet light through a mask onto resin which causes it to harden wherever the light was projected.
DLP works much in the same way except that it does not use any masks and instead relies on a digital projector to shine light in very short bursts at the resin.
FDM, which is the most commonly used method in this industry because it’s not only faster and cheaper than other methods, uses a heated plastic filament that is pushed through a nozzle to create layered shapes one after another until your final product is formed.
All of these methods produce plastic parts which are great for creating small-sized items such as jewelry, gifts, awards, or custom-made products.
The main limitation of this method is the need to create a digital 3D model before production can begin, which means you will need to account for the cost of creating your CAD files upfront.
However, this can be less expensive than outsourcing production and allows you to produce multiple iterations of the same product for faster redundancy.
CNC Machining (Turning, Milling)
CNC stands for computer numerical control and involves using machines that are programmed to move certain ways to remove material from your workpiece in the same way that a handheld tool would be used on wood or metal.
These machines can come in many different forms, but the most common of them all is the lathe which uses rotating tools on both sides of a part in order circular shapes out of larger products.
This process has similar limitations to 3D printing. You need CAD files that won’t allow small details within finished products because any areas smaller than about 1/10th the diameter of a cutting tool will not end up being cut out.
Also, rough edges are more common when using this method due to the nature of how it works when compared to other methods that instead use sanding or polishing to smooth things out during post-processing.
There are a ton of different 3D printing and manufacturing methods available for those who want to get their products out on the market, but it’s important to understand what makes each one unique as well as where they excel over other options.
This will allow you to make the best possible decisions when choosing which one is right for your product line so that you can be sure that your customers won’t be let down due to subpar quality or unrealistic expectations.