3D Printed Molds for Injection Molding

Author: Date Published: May 11,2024

Injection molding remains the dominant process for high-volume plastic part manufacturing due to its speed and efficiency. However, traditional metal molds can be prohibitively expensive for prototypes and short-run production. 3D Printing offers a compelling alternative, enabling the creation of functional injection molding molds at a fraction of the cost.

Why Consider 3D Printed Molds?

While not suitable for mass production, 3D printed molds provide several advantages for low-volume applications:

Cost-Effectiveness: Additive manufacturing eliminates the need for complex machining, significantly reducing upfront costs compared to metal molds.

Rapid Prototyping: 3D printing allows for quick design iterations and mold production, accelerating the development cycle.

Low-Volume Manufacturing: 3D printed molds are ideal for producing small batches of parts without the high cost of traditional tooling.

3D printing molds

Limitations of 3D Printed Molds

It's important to acknowledge the limitations of this approach:

Durability: 3D printed molds are not as durable as metal molds and may wear out faster, especially with repeated use.

Temperature Resistance: The material chosen for the mold must have a high enough heat deflection temperature to withstand the molten plastic during injection.

Surface Finish: While some 3D printing technologies offer good surface finishes, they might not achieve the same level of detail as metal molds.

Suitable 3D Printing Technologies

FDM printing, commonly used for desktop printers, is not ideal due to its layer lines. Here are two preferable options:

Material Jetting: This technology offers high accuracy and detail, resulting in smooth mold surfaces for optimal part quality.

Stereolithography (SLA): SLA printers produce high-resolution parts with excellent surface finishes, making them well-suited for mold creation.

3D Printable Mold Materials

The chosen material must be able to withstand the heat of molten plastic and maintain its shape during injection. Here are some popular options:

Material Jetting: Stratasys Digital ABS is a widely used material with a high heat deflection temperature, ideal for various applications.

SLA: Formlabs High Temperature Resin offers compatibility with a wide range of plastic types and maintains its stiffness during part ejection.

3D Printing

Designing a 3D Printed Mold

Successful mold design requires considering printability and functionality:


Position support structures on the mold's exterior to minimize post-processing on the molding surface.

Utilize the highest resolution and lowest layer heights for smoother curved features.

Include air vents to prevent trapped air and bubbles.


Maintain consistent wall thickness throughout the mold.

Incorporate draft angles to facilitate part removal.

Design smooth radii; avoid sharp edges and corners.

Aluminum Mold Frames (Optional)

Aluminum frames enhance the lifespan of 3D printed molds by:

Protection: The frame shields the mold from the pressure and heat of the injection nozzle.

Warp Prevention: The frame minimizes mold warping from repeated use.

Injection Channel: The frame incorporates a channel for connecting the nozzle to the mold's sprue, eliminating direct contact.


3D printed molds offer a cost-effective solution for low-volume injection molding. By understanding the suitable technologies, materials, and design considerations, manufacturers can leverage this approach to produce High-quality parts for prototypes and short-run applications.

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