Injection molding is one of the most popular processes for manufacturing plastics alongside 3D printing and CNC machining. Typically used for mass-producing identical parts with tight tolerances and a cost-effective technology that yields high-quality parts for large series production. Usually, the cost driver in injection molding is the cost of the mold, known as the tooling cost. However, the cost of building and designing a mold depends on the mold material, the complexity of the part design, the required production volume, and the process used to create the mold.
Below we’ll explain more about the cost of the injection molding process and the different types of costs.
How much does the process of injection molding cost?
The process of injection molding is one of the most cost-efficient forms of manufacturing. For example, a low-volume 3D printed mold can cost as much as $100, while the cost of designing and manufacturing complex molds may hit the $100.000 mark. Note that despite the fixed start-up costs, this process has low variable costs due to the short cycle times and inexpensive thermoplastics materials. Therefore, the variable costs are low, and the process becomes more efficient.
The costs per part decrease at higher volumes as they are distributed among hundreds or thousands of parts. Make sure to look for cost-effective injection molding services and high-quality products. Find fast and efficient production that ensures a low cost per part, and providers that offer experienced engineers and have advanced facilities that can make the most precise moldings.
Breakdown of injection molding costs
If you want to make an accurate calculation of the cost, you’ll need to factor in all the manufacturing processes that they entail. The factors include the type of materials used, cost of labor, tooling costs, etc.
The mold costs are usually the main cost driver in injection molding. The molds are made using three methods including CNC machining, EDM, and 3D printing.
- CNC machines are the most commonly used tools for manufacturing stainless steel and aluminum molds with high precision levels. Note that these machines might require multiple tool changes to slow down the process, thus increasing the costs in line with complexity.
- The EDM (electrical discharge machining) method is used to create highly complex mold designs and cannot be easily reproduced using standard machining methods. It’s an accurate process and doesn’t require any additional post-processing.
- 3D printing is a powerful solution to make injection molds rapidly and at a low cost. Many manufacturers can benefit from the flexibility and speed of 3D printing to create molds that can be used on both industrial and desktop molding machines. Note that simple low-volume 3D printed molds can be produced for as little as $100 on an SLA 3D printer. However, for molds with more complex geometries and larger production runs of about 10.000+ units, the cost can range from $5.000 to $100.000.
The process of injection molding requires special-purpose machines that can range from smaller desktop machines to large industrial injection molding machines. Industrial machines are typically operated by contract manufacturers, large manufacturers, and service providers. Producing low volumes of parts with 3D printed molds and smaller desktop injection molding machines is the most cost-effective way.
Keep in mind that large industrial injection molding machines may cost from $50.000 to $200.000+. They come with more stringent facility requirements and seek skilled labor for operation, monitoring, and maintenance. Most enterprises outsource mass production to contract manufacturers and service providers, in which case the equipment costs are included in the service costs.
Material and labor costs
There’s a wide range of plastics that can be used for injection molding such as ABS, PE, PC, PS, PP, or TPU, depending on the requirements of the final parts. The cost can differ according to the material chosen, a model’s design, and the amount of material used to execute the process of injection molding. For example, thermoplastic pellets can cost approximately $1 to $5 per kilogram.
The equipment associated with the process of injection molding is mainly self-regulating and relies on automation to get the job done. The costs of labor include setup/configuration cost, repair cost, and monitoring costs. When producing in-house, the costs are calculated into the labor costs. Keep in mind that the cost of labor will be partly included in the quotation you receive.
Injection molding is a great technology due to its cost-effective solution and producing a large number of parts. However, it can be quite costly, depending on the complexity and the amount of time it takes to produce. Therefore, make sure to follow a few tips to reduce the injection molding costs with some collaboration with your manufacturer and mold designer.