While 3D printing certainly has revolutionized prototyping, it still has its limitations when compared to CNC machining and Injection Molding. 3D printings greatest features are low cost and quick turnaround time, other than those it fails in comparison to having a CNC machined or injection molded part. With CNC machining or injection molding you can use the actual plastic that your application calls for, 3D printing is limited to a handful of different resins. Tighter tolerances can be achieved, better repeat-ability from part to part, finer and crispness of features, better surface finishes, strength and durability are much greater. Parts can be used for functional testing where chemicals and high pressures are required.
Sometimes 3D printing is the cheapest, easiest, quickest way to get you up and running, provided it meets your criteria....
The client had come to CD&D with a part that they had already prototyped with 3D printing and was looking to have a small prototype mold built for a benchtop molding machine so that they could run off many parts with the actual resin that would be used in production and have a working product that they could use to apply for patents and shop the product around. After reviewing the part design CD&D redesigned the pocket area that accepts a metal clip to avoid a steel condition that would not hold up in a production mold. The prototype mold required a hand loaded side action so the decision was made to build it out of P-20 steel as opposed to aluminum. The end result was what you see here, molded in ABS with very minimal flash in the difficult seal off area and just about zero flash at parting line.
Formlabs Form 2 (SLA) 3D Printer
Lulzbot Mini (FDM) 3D Printer