Die Casting vs. 3D Printing

For decades, die casting has been accepted as an extremely effective and reliable way to manufacture parts, especially metal parts. While die casting has stood the test of time, other methods of parts manufacturing have come to the forefront with technological advances, specifically 3D printing. If you need quality parts manufactured for your operations, you may wonder which of these methods is more appropriate for your business. What are the pros and cons of die casting vs. 3D printing?

Investment Costs: Die Casting vs. 3D Printing

If you are doing your own parts manufacturing, naturally, one of the first things you will want to consider is the cost of investing in die casting vs. 3D printing. With die casting, the cost of the die requires a significant upfront investment, while 3D printing has minimal upfront costs. On the other hand, the unit price for printing is much higher than die casting. With either one, you will have to clean and replace parts occasionally, which generates an additional expense.

The distinction occurs in how these processes work. Die casting is much like sculpting. It involves the injection of liquid metal into a mold or die, which results in a faster cycle time (30-45 seconds) than printing. 3D printing layers on the material (common materials are metals, as well as plastics such as thermoplastic polymer, polylactic acid and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) to create your part, which is why it is also called additive manufacturing. The process involves the deposition of thin layers of the heated material on top of each other to produce the 3D object.

What does this mean as far as cost? Die casting creates more waste, so you incur the cost of removing that waste. On the other hand, one die lasts for 80,000 shots, which means you don’t have to make a new die every time you create a new part. Die casting is also much faster if you need large quantities of the same part. Thus, it is more cost-effective once you amortize the cost of the mold/die across the entire quantity.

If you are trying to make multiple parts of the same type out of the same material, die casting is much faster, so high volumes are often more cost-effective.

Benefits of 3D Printing

There are some clear benefits to 3D printing. One is that there is no requirement to create a die for each part you want to make. A 3D printer can create any part with virtually no limits to complexity simply by programming the printer appropriately. 

This capability means you may prefer a 3D printer when making many different types of parts, especially complex items. You may not want to invest the time and money in making a die for a hundred different small parts, particularly if the parts are very intricate. Similarly, many parts may be too complex to make with a single cast but are easier to make with a 3D printer. 

The biggest advantage of 3D printing is time savings. The ability to create a part in a few days is invaluable for industries with products that have short life cycles or need to beat the competition to the marketplace.

If you choose to make some or all of your parts with a 3D printer, be aware that all 3D printers are not created equal. Some are very low cost, which can be appealing in the short-term but can affect the quality of your final product. If you do opt for 3D printing, it’s important to know what kind of printer you are using and what the limitations are for that particular machine.

If it fits your budget, consider purchasing a high-end 3D printer. These models typically provide enhanced quality and offer more functionality. Regarding materials, metals are better suited for achieving the fit and function of the product when proving out the design before beginning high-volume production.

Benefits of Die Casting

Die casting has just as many, if not more benefits, especially if your manufacturing business mass produces similar parts. With simple parts, you can make one die to cast nearly perfect copies of your part over and over again. Die casting also helps you create hundreds or thousands of parts if necessary, at a much greater speed (30-45 seconds) than it takes an additive manufacturing machine to print out the same parts.

It’s also important to note that some 3D printers have a limit to the range of materials you can use and still maintain part integrity. For example, some plastics absorb moisture from the air, which can impact printing resistance and performance. Die casting allows you to make parts out of a variety of strong metals, including aluminum and zinc, as well as other materials such as plastic.

The parts you can produce with die casting are typically strong, metal parts that will last a long time and work in your various production applications. If you have quality automated die casting machinery, an effective method for recycling your scrap and talented engineers who can easily and quickly create the molds you will need, you can mass-produce high-quality parts quickly through die casting.

When to Use Die Casting and When to Opt for 3D Printing

When you make plastic parts, you will often opt for 3D printing, as these are typically precise parts that may require the detail offered by a 3D printer. Also, plastic is not quite as receptive to die casting as metal, although it is certainly possible to injection-mold high-quality plastic parts. If you are making small batches of custom parts, 3D printing may be the way to go. However, if you need many copies of a specific type and size of part produced quickly, there is no question that die casting is the superior choice.

Many companies are opting for a combination of die casting and 3D printing for their manufacturing applications. There is no reason why you cannot use die casting for your major operations, mass-producing the strong aluminum or zinc parts that are the backbone of your operation. Then, you can use 3D printing services for the projects requiring more finesse or the low-quantity parts of your product.

When You Need Die Casting, Come to Premier Engineered Products Services

If you are looking for a company to reliably manage your die casting needs in the New Jersey area, get in touch with Premier Engineered Products. For over 70 years, Premier has been die casting high-quality parts for a range of industries, including the medical industry, automotive industry, firearms, telecommunications and even traffic lights. We perform all the work at our state-of-the-art die casting plant and are extremely efficient in our process, meaning we can offer you very competitive rates and fast turnaround times.

To learn more about the benefits of die casting and how Premier Engineered Products can serve your part production needs, contact us today.

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