Slideshow: Watch Out, Hobbyist 3D Printing – Here Comes DIY Injection Molding

  • A $1,500 hand-operated, bench-model plastic injection machine funded via Kickstarter can be used to mold small, quality, plastic parts inexpensively, on demand. Shown here is the prototype with the basic manual (screw tightening) mold vise that comes stan
  • A closeup of the PIM-SHOOTER Model-150A shows a quick-release toggle clamp vise that will be available as an option to both it and its predecessor, the smaller hobbyist Model-20A. The toggle vise can speed up the molding process to a maximum of 180 parts
  • A front view of the Model-150A shows its themocouple digital temperature controller and plastic pellets being loaded into the machine.
    (Source: LNS Technologies)
  • Compared to low-end 3D printers that cost about the same, inexpensive injection molding machines can offer better detail in finished parts, as shown here, along with higher production rates and lower per-item costs.
    (Source: LNS Technologies)
  • Plastic puzzle pieces made with the Model-150A demonstrate the quality and precision of finished parts.
    (Source: LNS Technologies)
  • Fishing lures are another example of precision parts that can be made with aluminum molds on the crowdsourced injection molding machine.
    (Source: LNS Technologies)
  • Plastic screws and their molds were made using the bench-model Model-150A injection molder.
    (Source: LNS Technologies)
  • LNS Technologies has successfully injected-molded parts using an epoxy mold with a support frame, such as this yellow fish. Epoxy molds are often used for making action figures.
    (Source: LNS Technologies)
  • Custom-designed switchplates can be made of a variety of plastics using the hand-operated Model-150A injection molder.
    (Source: LNS Technologies)
  • LNS Technologies' first injection molding machine was built so its inventor could make small plastic parts in his own home machine shop for his home-based business. The hobbyist PIM-SHOOTER Model-20A is aimed at schools, hobbyists, or small companies that


Although many people now think of hobbyist 3D printers when they want to make small quantities of plastic parts at home, 3D printing isn't the only way to go. A $1,500 benchtop injection molding machine has been funded via Kickstarter's crowdsourcing funding process. The hand-operated machine, which reminds me of an innovative, professional-looking Gadget Freak project, can be used to mold small, quality, plastic parts on demand. For materials, users can either purchase plastic pellets or recycle their own plastic milk and water containers, assuming these are made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE).

John Warobiew, president of LNS Technologies and the machine's inventor, told Design News he built the PIM-SHOOTER Model-150A to fill a gap in the market:

    If you want to make small, commercial-quality plastic parts or prototypes, it can cost $5,000 to $10,000 or more to make a steel mold. Then you send the mold to China, where a manufacturer will use large hydraulic molders to make 10,000 parts at 1 cent each. But if I only need 10 parts a week and want to make them quickly, on demand, there's no practical way to do that.

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The Model-150A makes me think of Design News's Gadget Freak columns, because its inventor built the Model-150A's predecessor -- the smaller hobbyist PIM-SHOOTER Model-20A -- to make small plastic parts in his own home machine shop for his home-based business selling electronic kits. Priced at $595, that smaller product is aimed at schools, hobbyists, or small companies that already have a drill press. When some of those customers said they wanted to make larger parts than the Model-20A's 0.4 cubic inch capacity, Warobiew designed and built a prototype of the larger benchtop model. The Model-150A molds parts of up to 1.25 cubic inches and doesn't require a drill press.

To build production quantities of high-quality molding machines that are also reasonably priced, Warobiew wants to use a local CNC milling shop to make the Model-150A's metal parts in volume quantities, instead of machining each of them himself. That's where Kickstarter came in. Originally, LNS Technologies' goal was $10,000 to get production off the ground. As of June 3, funding had already reached just under $20,000 with 37 backers. The project will be funded on June 16, and machines will be available to the public beginning in late July through LNS Technologies' website.

Since hobbyists and students were the main buyers of his electronic kits, Warobiew said he expected similar customers for his injection molding machines. But more than 90 percent of sales of the Model-20A have been to companies or universities, either for parts used in products they sell, or for making prototypes or parts used in research.

Although low-end 3D printing has been receiving a lot of press recently for producing finished objects, not just prototypes, high-quality parts are still reserved for the high end of the spectrum , such as those used in automotive and aerospace applications. Warobiew said that before deciding to build his own injection

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