Major Difference Between Injection Molding & 3D Printing

Table of Contents

Well, 3D printing and injection molding are two unique processes that work by generating plastic parts and other components. Each of these manufacturing processes has its own benefits. In short, injection molding and 3D printing can be used in tandem as one of the complementary manufacturing methods.

Plastic injection molding employs a mold filled with molten material that cools and solidifies to manufacture parts and components. Whereas 3D printing is an additive printing method that generates items by building up layers of material.

Although 3D printing and injection molding, both can be used for prototyping, you can still find some significant distinctions between the two methods. Below we have discussed the variability among the two techniques. 

The Most Significant Differences

Injection molding is more efficient for high-volume production with minimum waste. On the other hand, 3D printing is a more time-consuming procedure, but it is easier to set up and allows for frequent design modifications. It is also better for intricate designs.

Injection Molding 

We all know that injection molding takes a long time when it comes to parts fabrication. It might take up to 5 to 7 weeks for a bunch of simple parts). At the same time, it is not at all well adapted to any of the frequent design modifications. 

Despite the lengthy turnaround periods, this technique is suited for generating large quantities of parts (1,000 or more each run). The mold tool can also be used to make huge or little complex components by any reputable injection molding manufacturer

For example, if you want to sell valves and are keen to know what is a full port valve, the material used in it, and where to get it in bulk, an injection molding manufacturer will guide you the best. 

Major Advantages 

  • Capable of mass-producing a large number of pieces. Injection molding allows for the simultaneous use of a large number of molds, making it more cost-effective for mass production.
  • Objects have more strength when molded. Injection-molded pieces are made from a single layer of poured material, thus there are no cracks or weak spots. This method perfectly works with dense materials as well. Such material usually would need to be diluted or it can be modified for 3D printing. The best example is concrete.

Major Disadvantages

  • Design skills are limited. The usage of a mold implies that this mode of production has design constraints. Because of the right angles in the design, removing an object from the mod without breaking it can be challenging. Injection molding is also unsuitable for making delicate and accurate designs that may stand alone.
  • It’s difficult to update designs or remedy faults. Due to the fact that the duration associated with injection molding is lengthy, it is challenging as well as costly to correct errors in design. To change designs or rectify faults, the mold must be fully recreated, and any things produced must be discarded.

3D Printing 

3D printing is simply defined as a method that manufactures three-dimensional objects. Fast turnaround rates of 1-2 weeks are possible with 3D printing (also known as additive manufacturing), making it perfect for rapid prototyping and designs that change frequently. 

The 3D printing technology has the ability to produce mini plastic products along with elaborate and complicated structures. However, it is best suited for printing parts for short production runs of 100 or fewer pieces, as larger runs can be time and money-demanding.

Major Advantages

  • The cost of getting started with 3D printing is inexpensive. Injection molding equipment is more expensive than a desktop 3D printer and material supply. The widespread availability of open-source software and hardware can also give low-cost or no-cost continuing maintenance.
  • It’s simple to change the design. Due to the fact that 3D printing is an additive process, a manufacturer is free to make design changes during his final manufacturing. The best thing about this option is, it saves time as well as money on a batch of faulty components. Because you may pause the process in the middle and make design modifications, you don’t have to restart the entire manufacturing run from the beginning. 3D printing is particularly useful for quick prototypes because it requires less setup before manufacturing.

Major Disadvantages

  • Despite the speed with which it can be set up, 3D printing is slow manufacturing technology. The CAD-based, detail-oriented method limits the number of elements that can be created at once; most printers can only build one or two items at a time.
  • Because the method is limited by the size of the printing area, 3D printing cannot manufacture larger products. So it is not suitable for major product making companies such as an electrical insulator company. If components hang off the border of the printing area, the design becomes progressively unstable. Therefore while large-scale 3D printing is conceivable, it is not the best use of this technology.


Both techniques have advantages and disadvantages, thus they should be viewed as complementary rather than rival technologies. 

Small batch, sophisticated products that require frequent design modifications or personalization are better suited to 3D printing. Injection molding, on the other hand, is suitable for the high-volume manufacture of simpler items that have passed the design stage.

Related Stories