Molded prototypes and low-volume production parts in as fast as 1 day
Ready for a more cost- and time-efficient way to manufacture parts? Our affordable aluminum molds (starting at $1,500) and quick turnaround times (in as fast as 1 day) help you reduce design risks and limit overall production costs along every step of the product cycle. At Protolabs, our injection molding service is tailored for your manufacturing needs including low-volume production of end-use parts, bridge tooling before high-volume production, mass customization of product lines, and functional prototyping.
Prototyping or Low-volume Production for Molded Parts?
We provide two injection molding service options—one is best suited for those who need smaller part quantities often associated with prototyping and the other a good fit for those who require larger part quantities common in low-volume production. While the molds themselves are similar, part quantities, lifetime maintenance, quality documentation, and pricing vary depending on which service option is chosen. The right one depends on your project needs.
Which Molding Process Should I Use?
Why Injection Molding at Protolabs?
What is injection molding?
Injection molding is a manufacturing process used to economically mass produce plastic parts, often from thermoplastic and thermosetting polymers. The first step in the process is to machine a mold from a block of metal material—typically steel or aluminum. The mold consists of two sides—an a-side and b-side—which enclose to form a cavity that is filled with plastic resin. After the tooling has been fabricated, it's placed into the injection molding machine, the a-side and b-side of the mold are clamped together, and the mold cavity is filled with a thermoplastic or thermoset resin. Within the mold, the liquid plastic solidifies into the final part. The mold is then opened and ejector pins help to remove the plastic part from the tooling.
Why use injection molding?
Injection molding is most commonly used for production runs of plastic parts that exceed volumes of 1,000. It can also be used for functional testing and bridge tooling. Common components manufactured with injection molding include housings and enclosures, snap-fits, optical lenses, . It's often used in industries such as medical devices, automotive, and consumer electronics.
How much does injection molding cost?
While injection molding may seem costly compared to processes like CNC machining and 3D printing. The ability to scale and manufacture thousands of parts makes it a cost-effective solution for mass production of plastic parts. There are two elements to determining injection molding cost: the price of tooling and piece-part price.
Determining the cost of injection molding is a combination of several factors. The main determinant of molding cost is the amount of time it takes to produce the tooling. This means, the more complex the part's geometry, the higher your manufacturing costs will be. Simple parts, without undercuts or more advanced surface finishes, will be the most affordable.
Material can also play a significant role in overall costs. There are several affordable thermoplastic and thermoset material options available, but more specialized, high-performance materials can increase piece-part price.
What materials are used in injection molding?
There are two main types of materials used for injection molding processes—thermoplastic and thermoset. These are the most common injection molding material families.
|Thermoplastic||Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS)|
|Thermoplastic||Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene/Polycarbonate (ABS/PC)|
|Thermoplastic||Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU)|
|Thermoset||Liquid silicone rubber (LSR)|
|Thermoset||Thermoplastic elastomer (TPE)|
“It has been very enlightening to us here at HP that we are able to get parts so rapidly out of the actual materials that we’re going to use in the final production.“