3 Ways to Improve Operations with On-Demand Production

On-demand production of parts not only accelerates time to market, but reduces total cost of ownership since it eliminates the large capital expenses of traditional injection molding. Here are three ways on-demand production reduces your design risk, accelerates your product’s time to market, and saves you money along the way.

1. Bridge Tooling
Once you’ve finalized your product design, there’s often a gap between the end of product development and production. Leveraging rapid injection molding with cost effective, aluminum tooling can help you get to revenue more quickly while you wait for your production manufacturer to finalize steel tooling.

2. Supply Chain Emergencies
On-demand manufacturing provides a reliable alternative if global shipping delays or other disruptions in your supply chain arise—minimizing any potential loss of revenue. Further, products with high demand volatility can be more easily managed with on-demand manufacturing.

3. Low-Volume Production Runs
Before committing to large-volume production runs, validate your product design with low-volumes. Pilot runs can aid in testing assembly processes or gauging market demand. And, on-demand production is an economically viable solution for products with relatively low sales volumes—typically in the few thousands or hundreds of units.

Click to enlarge the on-demand manufacturing infographic:

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Injection Molding: Aluminum vs. Steel Tooling

Aluminum molds are milled in rapid CNC machines.

Conventional injection molding typically uses steel tooling capable of producing millions of parts, however, it often takes months to manufacture a mold and a capital investment of $50,000 or more. But what if production demands call for smaller quantities? That’s where aluminum tooling is ideal. Here’s a quick look at the differences between steel and aluminum tooling.

Low-Volume Production with Aluminum Tooling

  • Mold production AND parts within 15 days or less
  • Low manufacturing costs with molds beginning around $1,500
  • Production quantities of up to 10,000 parts or more; depending on material type and geometry, some molds are capable of producing hundreds of thousands of parts
  • Simplified mold designs decrease manufacturing time and cost
  • Single and multi-cavity tooling: 1-, 2-, 4- and 8-cavity molds are possible depending on part size and complexity
  • Thermoplastic and thermoset materials identical to that of high-volume production materials; more than 100 different materials can be used including ABS, PC, PP, LCP, POM, and liquid silicone rubber
  • No maintenance fees and lifetime replacement of mold if damaged
  • Improved heat dissipation and without the need for messy cooling lines
  • Inexpensive mold-safe tooling modifications

High-Volume Production with Steel Tooling

  • Lower part cost when quantities increase
  • Part production in the millions
  • Multi-cavity tooling greater than 8 cavities
  • Part complexity can be increased
  • More finishing options

If you part volumes don’t stretch into the millions, if you need on-demand production parts within days, and if you’re looking to avoid risky tooling investments before your part design is truly validated, low-volume injection molding with an aluminum tool might be good option.

Once an aluminum mold is ready, part production begins almost immediately. This allows manufacturing to finish every order in three weeks or less.

At Proto Labs, we include a free interactive design for manufacturability (DFM) review within a few hours in every injection molding quote. In the time it takes to get the initial quote from a high-volume production molder, you can have several design reviews and a mold already in production.

If you have any further questions about rapid manufacturing at Proto Labs, check out protolabs.com or contact one of our application engineers at 877.479.3680 or customerservice@protolabs.com.