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Topic: Anyone try 3D printed enclosures or low-volume molded ones? (Read 4504 times) previous topic - next topic

Anyone try 3D printed enclosures or low-volume molded ones?

Curious if anyone has tried doing this yet?
I haven't find any decent tutorials on this or at least anything better than this: http://www.inhale3d.com/2012/12/enclosu ... nt-panels/

Seems like something that belongs in the prototype category because it'd be too expensive to do for anything of more than a few :-)  But it'd be a nice way to check something before looking into molded enclosures...I'm not sure if there is even such a think as a low-volume injection molded enclosure because the mold is expensive ($10K?).

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Reply #1
Good day Kenyee,

A few years I looked at this and found that the 3D printed models are really only suited for prototyping/verification.  Some 3D processes are better suited for visible models only while others can be physically modified... Sadly, the modifiable ones have surface textures, etc and so do not look overly pretty.  FWIW the 3D printing (the version I could physically modify) I had done was rather cheap... like $200 (total) for a 2-piece enclosure with 24 hour turn-around.

That being said, I did talk to a company called ProtoMold (http://www.protomold.com and http://www.protolabs.com), etc and they offered options for those that did not want to go through the entire injection mold process.  Personally I found both methods rather pricey for what they offered and I just went with the injection molding process.

Cheers,

Sam

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Reply #2
[quote author="sam512bb"]Good day Kenyee,
Personally I found both methods rather pricey for what they offered and I just went with the injection molding process.
[/quote]

Thanks, Sam.
What was the cost of injection vs. ProtoMold?  I would guess the per unit cost of injection molding beats Protomold's initial costs after a thousand parts?  $1500 for a protomold doesn't seem bad if per unit costs are ok.

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Reply #3
Good day Kenyee,

I can't remember the specifics, but I think it was about 10x the cost...  Injection molded parts around $0.5 each and Protomold somewhere around $5 a piece ... This was a while ago and so maybe Protomold has reduced their price differential.  In my case looking at the NRE costs and the per unit cost, it just made a lot better economically going injection molded... and I had a lot more parts as well.  I do not recall the Protomold's setup fee, but it was certainly more than $1500... somewhere close to $2500 for my design (2-part enclosure)... and this was a recurring setup fee per order.

I never did try their FirstCut or other services, as the 3D printing I was getting suited my needs very well and was faster and cheaper.  Secondly I have access to a fairly big Industrial CNC and specialty machinist if I needed to make some pricer CNC parts ... which I have done as well.

On a secondary note, I am simply amazed at how much time and effort I spend looking at off the shelf enclosures for various projects.  I wish I had some extra $$$, as I would just create 3-4 standard enclosure styles and have them all injection molded.  The quality, finish, and fitment of injection mold enclosures cannot really be beat (at its price point and with a well engineered) and the per-unit cost is crazy low. 

Cheers,

Sam

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Reply #4
[quote author="sam512bb"]
On a secondary note, I am simply amazed at how much time and effort I spend looking at off the shelf enclosures for various projects.  I wish I had some extra $$$, as I would just create 3-4 standard enclosure styles and have them all injection molded.  The quality, finish, and fitment of injection mold enclosures cannot really be beat (at its price point and with a well engineered) and the per-unit cost is crazy low.[/quote]

The problem w/ "standard" enclosures is they work fine until you attach any connectors to your board.  I found some decent ones from Serpac, but they had the same issue...they centered the board in the case (making the assumption you were doing thru-hole) instead of offsetting it so you could fit a coin cell holder or DIP socket w/ chip and various connectors on top.

If the Protomold stuff is $5/case, for low volume, 3D printing probably makes more sense as that technology comes down in cost...assuming the printed cases are reasonably sturdy and not easy to squish :-)

Thanks for the ballpark numbers.

 ken

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Reply #5
Good day Ken,

I would still get a quote from Protomold, etc as my numbers are about 2-3 years old and so they could have made their process more competitive.  Submitting a quote is easy once your have your 3D design... simply upload your file and you will receive your quote promptly.  The issue for me was the cost per unit and the recurring setup fee... Going with the injection molding process was excellent and surprisingly it only took about 6 weeks (once my design was done of course) before I had enclosures...

As for the 3D printed enclosures...  I think the technology is just not there yet for production enclosures that can match injection molding in terms of per unit cost and durability, etc.  I could be wrong though, as I have only been monitoring the 3D technology on the periphery.  If you do find a 3D process/technology that would be a suitable replacement for injection molding please let me know!

Cheers,

Sam

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Reply #6
@Sam

How much did your injection mold cost?

I got an injection mold for a hand-held case done in 1999 and it cost about £30K (GBP), I would be interested in seeing if the costs have come down since then
Tony

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Reply #7
[quote author="TonyD"]@Sam

How much did your injection mold cost?

I got an injection mold for a hand-held case done in 1999 and it cost about £30K (GBP), I would be interested in seeing if the costs have come down since then[/quote]

Good day Tony,

Indeed, prices have come down tremendously... You can get the injection molding tooling done from as a low as $3000 USD, but is highly dependent upon your design, tooling material, etc.  As for the actual design (Solidworks)...  this too is extremely variable.  That being said given what it cost you in 1999, I would say the entire process can be done for 10% to 20% of what you paid.

Cheers,

Sam

 

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Reply #8
Wow, I never realised the costs had came down so much. $3000 is a fraction of what we originally paid. The one thing I do remember about getting the injection modelling tool done was the quotes we got were all over the place, cost wise. The most expensive quote came from Taiwan which was totally unexpected
Tony