Injection Molding vs 3D Printing

Nathan Rizzuti Profile image

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Updated February 3, 2023

When selecting the best 3D printer, there are many different things to consider. However, sometimes, before picking out the best printer, you need to compare it to similar types of technology. There are a lot of adjacent devices to 3D printing, and below we’ll compare injection molding vs 3D printing.


  • 3D printing excels in its ability to make complex, intricate prototypes but lacks in terms of production speed
  • Injection molding is high-speed and excellent for producing large batches of products in little time but is limited in terms of design complexity.
  • Injection molding cuts cost only when used in settings in mass production; for creating small batches or individual parts, 3D printing is much more cost-efficient.

Check out more of our articles! We have plenty of helpful resources explaining the various 3D printers types, like MSLA vs SLA or FFF vs FDM.

Differences Between 3D Printer vs Injection Molding

3D printing is an additive manufacturing process where a device uses either a polymer filament or liquid resin to create an object layer by layer. On the other hand, injection molding is a machine that inserts melted plastic into a mold, then goes through a process of cooling.

Insider Tip

There are finishing products that can be incorporated into injection mold material to change the texture of the finish.

Both 3D printing and injection molding are techniques used to create objects via programmable designs. However, there are stark differences between the two in terms of protection volume, print time, print quality, and cost.

Anyone considering a 3D printer should understand the varying types of filaments. Only then can you select the right printer to suit your needs adequately. For more information on that, check out our articles comparing PLA vs PLA+ filament or our guide on SLA vs FDM.

Production Volume

Anyone planning to create bulk parts would be better off going with injection molding. While 3D printers are becoming more capable of printing at high speed, they are primarily used for prototyping.

On the other hand, injection molding is one of the fastest processes out there when it comes to making many parts quickly.

Design Restriction

While injection molding is excellent for producing parts on a large scale, the technology is very rigid regarding the ability to create complex designs. Additional tools and applications can be added to increase the versatility, but these are often costly options.

3D printing is outstanding for tweaking designs and creating complex objects. However, compared to other similar technologies, additive manufacturing makes it easy to alter plans and form complicated print models with intricate designs.


Changing the design of a print in injection molding, even slightly, costs a significant amount of money.

Print Time

Injection molding is one of the speediest manufacturing methods out there. 3D printers vary in print times depending on the type of printer and material, but they will be much slower because they are limited in production capabilities.


Evaluating cost all depends on the production volume. 3D printing technology presents a cheaper overhead cost if you’re making parts in small batches. However, plastic injection molding will be much cheaper if you manufacture it for mass production.

STAT: The first injection molding machine was invented in 1872. (source)

Injection Molding vs 3D Printing FAQs

What is the average cost of a 3D printer?

The price of a 3D printer ranges from $100 to $500,000.

How long does it take to make a part with injection molding?

The production speed depends on the part's size and complexity, but injection molding takes between 5 seconds and 2 minutes.

Is 3D printing going to make injection molding obsolete?

For the time being, the advantages of injection molding are significant enough to mean that 3D printing will not overtake injection molding anytime soon.
Debanjan Chowdhury Profile image