Developed for the purpose of replacing short run or manual processes that currently exist in industrial injection molding, the Inj3ctor from Structur3d is reportedly the first additive manufacturing system to combine the principles of injection molding with 3D printing.
According to Structur3d, the Inj3ctor uses curated material cartridges to mix and inject 2-component flexible materials into any customizable shape, enabling turnkey, small-batch manufacturing of rubber materials.
Charles Mire, Structur3d’s CEO and co-founder, said, “This overcomes challenges manufacturing has faced as it seeks to embrace 3D printing. Currently, 3D printed rubbers fail to meet necessary manufacturing standards, which has held the rubbers industry back, in some regard, from finding a legitimate seat at the table in advanced manufacturing. The Inj3ctor platform brings desktop injection and 3D printing together to deliver a feasible solution for manufacturing functional parts. This approach, combined with the professional quality materials, means the models are viable for every step of manufacturing, from prototyping to production.”
The Inj3ctor platform was created with input from Stanley Black & Decker. Harry Zhong, technical lead on the infrastructure innovation team at Stanley Black and Decker, said, “We’re constantly on the lookout for new tools to help take our ideas from concept to reality. The main challenge that the Structur3d technology solves is the speed and ease of use of working with rubber or elastomer materials.”
Zhong added that he sees Structur3d advancing prototyping by “opening up the arsenal we have available to tackle rubber components that are both easy to use, turnkey, and can produce a real, usable geometry prototype with the actual material you tend to use in production.”
As manufacturers move toward increased production of custom and on-demand products, 3D printing is expected to play a larger role in manufacturing. But 3D printing alone is not enough to develop factory-grade flexible parts, said Andrew Finkel, Structur3D’s chief technology officer and co-founder. “That’s why Structur3d launched the Inj3ctor platform to provide a way of injecting 3D-printed molds with factory-grade liquid materials to create flexible parts,” he said.
Finkel said product developers can “design a hyper-detailed mold using standard CAD software and 3D print the part with standard, durable or dissolvable plastic. Then users can choose from tens of thousands of liquid rubber materials, customizing it based on desired durability, flexibility, and cure time. After programming the mixing ratio and injection volume, the Inj3ctor fills in the mold, creating a fully customized, flexible product.”
Mire noted that, prior to the release of Inj3ctor, “manufacturers have either hand-casted or invested in expensive mass production tools—if they didn’t choose to forgo the part altogether in design. As such, this development stands to impact many industries, including automotive, industrial products, aerospace, energy, medical and various consumer products where the buyer can customize some portion of the design.