Low-volume manufacturing remains a challenge, especially for parts that need to be injection-molded. Freeform injection molding (FIM) is a novel method that combines elements from direct additive manufacturing (DAM) and injection molding (IM) to resolve some of the challenges seen in low-volume injection molding. In this study, we use a design science approach to explore the suitability of FIM for the manufacturing of low volume injection-molded parts. We provide an overview of the benefits and limitations of traditional IM and discuss how DAM and indirect additive manufacturing (IAM) methods, such as soft tooling and FIM, can address some of the existing drawbacks of IM for short series production. A set of different parts was identified and assessed using a design science-based approach to demonstrate how to incubate FIM as a solution to address the challenges faced in short series production with IM. This initial process innovation was followed by solution refinement, involving the optimization of the FIM processes. Finally, a “cross-case” analysis was conducted using the framework of context, intervention, mechanism and outcomes to generate insights about the generalizability of the results. It is concluded that FIM combines the short lead-times, low start-up costs and design freedom of DAM with the versatility and scalability of IM to allow manufacturers to bring low volume products to the market faster, more cheaply and with lower risk, and to maintain the relevance of these products through easy customization and adaptations once they have been launched.
Bibliografisk noteFunding Information:
Funding: This research was funded by Innovationsfonden, grant number 8053-00116B.
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