Plastic Machining

Plastic machining has a host of benefits compared to the traditional metal machining or plastic molding. Industries across the board, from aerospace to automobiles, need to produce high quality components on time and on budget. The integration of plastic into each facet of the design and engineering process can help reduce weight and improve the efficiency and efficacy of your projects.


When Molding Cannot Provide

When you need plastic components that require precision fabrication that molding cannot provide, whether because of close tolerances, low quantities, or nonstandard shapes, machining is an ideal alternative. It negates tooling costs and the need for molds. In addition, designs can be reconfigured with less cost, materials that are unsuitable for molding can be used, and closer tolerances are possible. Machining also has the advantage of providing faster turn-around times, allowing products to get to the market that much sooner.

Plastic molding is better suited when you need to churn out massive quantities of devices, like cell phones or toys. In this case, molding is more cost effective. However, in industries where the utmost precision is required, custom machining provides superior results and performance. This is why machining is so often the first choice of those in the medical, aerospace, nuclear, and fluid handling industries, among others.


Is Plastic Durable

Another concern is whether plastic is as durable, strong, and effective as metal machined components. Plastic can provide more function at 30 to 40 percent less weight. More advanced materials, including polymers like Torlon® and Vespel®, can withstand heat better, and again, tooling costs are lower for high volume projects. Another consideration is contamination. In shops that handle plastics exclusively, there is not the risk of mixing plastic coolants and metal coolants; metal coolants can damage plastic, rendering the parts unusable. For sensitive projects, it is best to go with a shop that handles only plastic and nonmetallics because of the superior quality.

The use of CNC milling, turning, and Swiss screw machining further cuts costs and increases efficiency. Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines are exactly what they sound like: machines that have been automated to run from preprogrammed data instead of manual operation. The technology, developed in the fifties, was slow to catch on because machinists worried about the tolerance requirements, which are routinely to thousandths of an inch. Even then, though, Boeing found that “numerical control has proved it can reduce costs, reduce lead times, improve quality, reduce tooling, and increase productivity.” This is exactly what has made CNC machining vital in the machining of plastics.

To ensure that plastic machining does help you stay on target and budget, ask the following questions:

  • Do you handle plastics and nonmetallics exclusively? This is important so you avoid contamination, and so that you have the opportunity to ensure that the company is capable of providing a finished part that meets your requirements, both dimensionally and functionally.
  • Can you advise as to the plastics material I should use for my project? Choice of material is crucial to the cost and integrity of your product. Companies with experience with plastics should be able to provide material options to suit your needs.
  • Will machining be the most cost effective method of production for my product? In some cases, molding may be better and less expensive. Ask before hand. In general, though, precision parts are very well suited to machining.
  • Do you have minimum and maximum order limits? When can I expect my product?

When you need to save time and money, plastic machining can help with faster turn-around times, high quality materials, and very tight tolerances.

Want to save money and fast turn-around times? Contact our consultants at Tamshell today!