Many factors affect the cosmetic appearance of injection-molded plastic parts. Some of these are within the control of the part designer, and some are not. In this white paper we describe several of the factors affecting cosmetic appearance, the interactions between those factors, and steps the designer can take to improve final appearance.
The majority of today’s consumer products — and many commercial ones — are composed of thermoplastics. When designing a new product, engineers can best predict its end performance by prototyping with a material as similar to it as possible. That’s why 3D printing with thermoplastics is so widely practiced. Using Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM®) machines, engineers have the option of making parts with the most commonly used thermoplastics, such as ABS, polycarbonate, a variety of blends, as well as engineered thermoplastics for aerospace, medical, automotive, electronic and other specialty applications. When using 3D printing for the production of finished goods, using a thermoplastic is all the more important, and it may be the only choice for many applications.
Injection molding (IM) — the process of injecting plastic material into a mold cavity where it cools and hardens to the configuration of the cavity — is best used to mass-produce highly accurate, and often complex, three dimensional (3D) end-use parts and products. However, the development of molds for this process is often painstaking, highly expensive and time intensive.