Injection Molding: Aluminum vs. Steel Tooling
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
- Standard lead times as fast as 7 days
- 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 your 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.
At Protolabs, 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 Protolabs, check out protolabs.com or contact one of our application engineers at 877.479.3680 or [email protected].