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Guide to Manufacturing Processes for Plastics

Selecting the right plastic can be confusing because there are a lot of factors to consider. The type of plastics you use, as well as the process you’re using, will all play a role in how your plastic is used. Therefore, it is quite important to select the right plastic for your manufacturing process.

In today’s guide, we’ll cover all aspects related to selecting the right plastic for manufacturing process. Let’s take a look at the table of content below:

 

Importance Of Selecting The Right Plastic For Manufacturing

Selecting the right plastic for manufacturing is essential for several reasons. Firstly, it ensures that the product will perform as intended and meet the necessary safety standards.

Secondly, it helps to reduce manufacturing costs and waste by minimizing the risk of product failure and the need for rework or replacement. Thirdly, selecting the right plastic can also reduce the environmental impact of the product by ensuring that it can be recycled or disposed of properly.

In addition to these benefits, selecting the right plastic for manufacturing can also improve the overall quality of the product, increase its lifespan, and enhance its appearance. By carefully considering the properties of plastics and the manufacturing processes used, manufacturers can create products that are stronger, more durable, and more aesthetically appealing.

Therefore, selecting the right plastic for manufacturing is crucial for achieving success in any manufacturing process. It can save time, money, and resources while ensuring that products are safe, reliable, and environmentally friendly.

Properties Of Plastics That Affect Manufacturing

Plastics have a wide range of properties that can affect the manufacturing process. These properties include:

Melting Point:

The melting point of a plastic material determines the temperature at which it can be melted and molded. This property is important for determining the appropriate manufacturing process for a particular plastic.

Viscosity:

Viscosity is a measure of a plastic’s resistance to flow. This property is important for injection molding and extrusion processes where the plastic needs to be melted and then pushed through a mold or die.

Hardness:

The hardness of a plastic material determines its ability to withstand wear and tear. This property is important for manufacturing products that need to be durable and long-lasting.

Flexibility:

The flexibility of a plastic material determines its ability to bend or stretch without breaking. This property is important for manufacturing products that need to be able to withstand some degree of deformation.

Chemical Resistance:

The chemical resistance of a plastic material determines its ability to resist damage from chemicals or solvents. This property is important for manufacturing products that will be used in environments where exposure to chemicals is likely.

UV Resistance:

The UV resistance of a plastic material determines its ability to resist damage from exposure to sunlight. This property is important for manufacturing products that will be used outdoors or in environments with high levels of sunlight.

Transparency:

The transparency of a plastic material determines its ability to transmit light. This property is important for manufacturing products that need to be transparent or translucent.

Ultimately, understanding the properties of plastics is crucial for selecting the right material for a manufacturing process. Each property affects the performance and durability of the final product and should be carefully considered before making a decision.

Examples Of Common Plastics And Their Properties

There are many different types of plastics available, each with their own unique properties. Following, we’ve discussed some crucial examples of common plastics and their properties:

Polyethylene (PE): This plastic is known for its toughness, flexibility, and chemical resistance. It is commonly used in packaging, toys, and outdoor furniture.

Polypropylene (PP): This plastic is lightweight, flexible, and resistant to heat and chemicals. It is commonly used in packaging, automotive parts, and household appliances.

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC): This plastic is known for its durability and resistance to moisture and chemicals. It is commonly used in construction materials, electrical cables, and medical devices.

Polystyrene (PS): This plastic is lightweight and rigid, making it a good choice for packaging materials and disposable cups and utensils.

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS): This plastic is strong, rigid, and impact-resistant, making it a popular choice for automotive parts, toys, and electronic housings.

Polycarbonate (PC): This plastic is known for its high impact resistance and transparency, making it a good choice for safety glasses, automotive parts, and electronic housings.

Nylon (PA): This plastic is known for its strength and durability, making it a good choice for automotive parts, electrical components, and industrial applications.

These are just a few examples of common plastics and their properties. When selecting a plastic for manufacturing, it is important to consider the specific properties needed for the intended application.

Common Plastic Manufacturing Processes

There are several common plastic manufacturing processes used to create plastic products. Here is an overview of some of the most common processes:

Injection Molding: Injection molding is the most common plastic manufacturing process. It involves melting plastic pellets and injecting them into a mold to create a specific shape. Injection molding is used to create a wide range of products, from small toys to large automotive parts.

Extrusion: Extrusion is a process where plastic is melted and forced through a die to create a specific shape. This process is commonly used to create plastic pipes, tubing, and sheets.

Blow Molding: Blow molding is used to create hollow plastic products, such as bottles and containers. The process involves melting plastic and blowing air into it to create the desired shape.

Rotational Molding: Rotational molding is used to create large, hollow plastic products, such as tanks and playground equipment. The process involves melting plastic in a mold and rotating it slowly to evenly distribute the plastic and create the desired shape.

Thermoforming: Thermoforming is used to create thin plastic products, such as food packaging and disposable cups. The process involves heating plastic sheets and molding them into the desired shape.

Compression Molding: Compression molding is used to create large, high-strength plastic products, such as automotive parts and electrical components. The process involves placing plastic material in a mold and compressing it under heat and pressure.

Each plastic manufacturing process has its own unique advantages and disadvantages. The process used depends on the desired properties of the final product, the volume of production, and the cost of manufacturing.

Influence Of Manufacturing Processes On Plastic Manufacturing

The choice of plastic material for a particular manufacturing process is influenced by several factors related to the process. Following, we’ve discussed some crucial ways that the manufacturing process can influence plastic selection:

  • Molding Process: Different plastics have different melting points, flow properties, and viscosities. The manufacturing process used to create a product will determine the temperature and pressure needed to melt and mold the plastic. Some plastics, like polyethylene, are easily molded using low-pressure injection molding techniques, while others, like polycarbonate, require high-pressure injection molding.
  • Part Geometry: The shape and complexity of the product being manufactured will also influence the choice of plastic material. Some plastics, like polystyrene, are better suited for creating products with simple shapes, while others, like nylon, can be molded into complex shapes and structures.
  • Production Volume: The volume of production is another important factor to consider when selecting a plastic material. High-volume production runs may require a plastic that is more cost-effective or easier to process, while lower volume runs may allow for more specialized or higher-performance plastics.
  • Cost: The cost of the plastic material is also a factor to consider. Some plastics, like polyethylene, are relatively inexpensive and widely available, while others, like polycarbonate, are more expensive due to their unique properties and production processes.
  • Performance Requirements: The performance requirements of the final product will also influence plastic selection. For example, products that require high strength and durability may require a more rigid plastic like acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), while products that require flexibility may require a more pliable plastic like polypropylene.

Overall, the choice of plastic material for a particular manufacturing process is a balance between the desired properties of the final product, the constraints of the manufacturing process, and the cost of production.

How To Choose Types Of Plastics Manufacturing Process

Plastics come in thousands of varieties with different base chemistries, derivatives, and additives that are formulated to cover a wide range of functional and aesthetic properties.

To simplify the process of finding the material best suited for a given part or product, let’s look first at the two main types of plastic: thermoplastics and thermosets.

Thermoplastics

Thermoplastics are the most commonly used type of plastic. The main feature that sets them apart from thermosets is their ability to go through numerous melt and solidification cycles without significant degradation. Thermoplastics are usually supplied in the form of small pellets or sheets that are heated and formed into the desired shape using various manufacturing processes. The process is completely reversible, as no chemical bonding takes place, which makes recycling or melting and reusing thermoplastics feasible.

Common types of thermoplastic materials:

  • Acrylic (PMMA)
  • Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS)
  • Polyamide (PA)
  • Polylactic acid (PLA)
  • Polycarbonate (PC)
  • Polyether ether ketone (PEEK)
  • Polyethylene (PE)
  • Polypropylene (PP)
  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)

Thermosetting Plastics

In contrast with thermoplastics, thermosetting plastics (also referred to as thermosets) remain in a permanent solid state after curing. Polymers in thermosetting materials cross-link during a curing process that is induced by heat, light, or suitable radiation. This curing process forms an irreversible chemical bond. Thermosetting plastics decompose when heated rather than melting, and will not reform upon cooling. Recycling thermosets or returning the material back into its base ingredients is not possible.

Common types of thermoplastic materials:

  • Cyanate ester
  • Epoxy
  • Polyester
  • Polyurethane
  • Silicone
  • Vulcanized rubber

Types Of Manufacturing Processes

3D Printing

3D printers create three-dimensional parts directly from CAD models by building material layer by layer until a complete physical part is formed.

 

Manufacturing Process

  1. Print setup: Print preparation software is used for orienting and laying out models within a printer’s build volume, adding support structures (if needed), and slicing the supported model into layers.
  2. Printing: The printing process depends on the type of 3D printing technology: fused deposition modeling (FDM) melts a plastic filament, stereolithography (SLA) cures liquid resin, and selective laser sintering (SLS) fuses powdered plastic.
  3. Post-processing: When printing is complete, parts are removed from the printer, cleaned or washed, post-cured (depending on the technology), and the support structures removed (if applicable).

As 3D printers require no tooling and minimal setup time for a new design, the cost of producing a custom part is negligible in comparison with traditional manufacturing processes.

3D printing processes are generally slower and more labor-intensive than manufacturing processes used for mass production.

As 3D printing technologies improve, cost per part continues to fall, opening up a wider range of low- to mid-volume applications.

3D PRINTING
Form High degree of freedom
Lead time Less than 24 hours
Cycle time < 1 hour to multiple hours, depending on part size and volume
Setup cost $
Cost per part $$$
Volume Low to mid-volume applications (~1-1000 parts)

While most plastic manufacturing processes require expensive industrial machinery, dedicated facilities, and skilled operators, 3D printing allows companies to easily create plastic parts and rapid prototypes in-house.

Compact desktop or benchtop 3D printing systems for creating plastic parts are affordable and require very little space and no special skills, enabling professional engineers, designers, and manufacturers to speed up iteration and production cycles from days or weeks to a few hours.

Materials

There are many types of 3D printers and 3D printing technologies on the market, and the available materials vary by technology.

Fused deposition modeling (FDM) Various thermoplastics, mainly ABS and PLA
Stereolithography (SLA) Thermoset resins
Selective laser sintering (SLS) Thermoplastics, typically nylon and its composites

CNC Machining

CNC machining includes mills, lathes, and other computer-controlled subtractive processes. These processes start with solid blocks, bars, or rods of metal, or plastic that are shaped by removing material through cutting, boring, drilling, and grinding.

Unlike most other plastic manufacturing processes, CNC machining is a subtractive process where material is removed by either a spinning tool and fixed part (milling) or a spinning part with a fixed tool (lathe).

 

Manufacturing Process

  1. Job setup: CNC machines require an intermediary step of generating and validating toolpaths (CAD to CAM). Toolpaths control where the cutting tools move, at what speeds, and any tool changeovers.
  2. Machining: The toolpaths are sent to the machine where the given subtractive process begins. Depending on the desired shape of the final product, the workpiece may need to be set in a new position so that the tool head can reach new areas.
  3. Post-processing: After manufacture, the part is cleaned and deburred, trimmed.

Machining is ideal for low volume plastic part applications that require tight tolerances and geometries that are difficult to mold. Typical applications include prototyping and end-use parts like pulleys, gears, and bushings.

CNC machining has low to moderate setup costs, and can produce high-quality plastic components with short lead times from a wide range of materials.

Machining processes have more part geometry restrictions than 3D printing. With machining, cost per part increases with part complexity. Undercuts, pass throughs, and features on multiple part faces all contribute to increased part cost.

Machining processes require allowances for tool access and certain geometries, like curved internal channels, are difficult or impossible to produce with conventional subtractive methods.

Form Medium degree of freedom
Lead time Less than 24 hours
Cycle time < 1 hour to multiple hours, depending on part size, design, and complexity
Setup cost $$
Cost per part $$$$
Volume Low to high-volume applications (~1-5000 parts)

Materials

Most hard plastics can be machined, with some variation in difficulty. Softer thermoset plastics require specialized tooling to support the parts during machining, and filled plastics can be abrasive and decrease cutting tool life.

Some commonly machined plastics are:

  • Acrylic (PMMA)
  • Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS)
  • Polyamide nylon (PA)
  • Polylactic acid (PLA)
  • Polycarbonate (PC)
  • Polyether ether ketone (PEEK)
  • Polyethylene (PE)
  • Polypropylene (PP)
  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
  • Polycarbonate (PC)
  • Polystyrene (PS)
  • Polyoxymethylene (POM)

 

Polymer Casting

In polymer casting, a reactive liquid resin or rubber fills a mold which reacts chemically and solidifies. Typical polymers for casting include polyurethane, epoxy, silicone, and acrylic.

 

Manufacturing Process

  1. Mold preparation: The mold is coated with a release agent to facilitate demolding, and often preheated to a material specific temperature.
  2. Casting: The synthetic resin is mixed with a curing agent and poured or injected into the mold, where it fills the mold cavity.
  3. Cure: The casting cures in the mold until it solidifies (subjecting the mold to heat can accelerate the cure time for certain polymers).
  4. De-mold: The mold is opened and the cured part is removed.
  5. Trimming: Casting artifacts like flash, sprues, and seams are cut or sanded away.

Flexible molds made from latex rubber or room temperature vulcanized (RTV) silicone rubber are inexpensive when compared to hard tooling, but can produce only a limited number (around 25 to 100) of castings as the chemical reaction of urethanes, epoxies, polyester, and acrylic degrades the mold surfaces.

RTV silicone molds can reproduce even the smallest details, yielding high quality cast parts. Stereolithography 3D printing is a common way to create masters for molds directly from CAD designs, in part due to its high resolution and similar ability to produce fine features.

Polymer casting is relatively inexpensive, with little initial investment, but thermoset polymers for casting are usually more expensive than their thermoplastic counterparts and molding cast parts is labor-intensive. Each cast part requires some hands-on labor for post-processing, making the final cost per part high compared to automated production methods like injection molding.

Polymer casting is typically used for prototyping, short run production, as well as certain dental and jewelry applications.

Form High degree of freedom
Lead time Less than 24 hours to a few days
Cycle time Minutes to multiple days, depending on cure time
Setup cost $
Cost per part $$
Volume Low volume applications (~1-1000 parts)

Materials

  • Polyurethane
  • Epoxy
  • Polyether
  • Polyesters
  • Acrylic
  • Silicone

 

Rotational Molding

Rotational molding (also called rotomolding) is a process that involves heating a hollow mold filled with powdered thermoplastic and rotated around two axes to produce mainly large hollow objects. Processes for rotomolding thermoset plastics are available as well, however less common.

 

Manufacturing Process

  1. Charging: Plastic powder is loaded into the mold cavity, and then the remaining parts of the mold are installed, closing the cavity for heating.
  2. Heating: The mold is heated until the plastic powder melts and adheres to the mold’s walls, while the mold is rotated along two perpendicular axes to ensure a uniform plastic coating.
  3. Cooling: The mold is slowly cooled while the mold remains in motion to ensure that the skin of the part does not sag or collapse before fully solidifying.
  4. Part removal: The part is separated from the mold, any flashing is trimmed away.

Rotational molding requires less expensive tooling than other molding techniques as the process uses centrifugal force, not pressure, to fill the mold. The molds can be fabricated, CNC machined, cast, or formed from epoxy or aluminum at a lower cost and much faster than tooling for other molding processes, especially for large parts.

Rotomolding creates parts with nearly uniform wall thickness. Once the tooling and process are set up, the cost per part is very low relative to the size of the part. It is also possible to add prefinished pieces, like metal threads, internal pipes, and structures to the mold.

These factors make rotational molding ideal for short-run production or as an alternative to blow molding for lower volumes. Typical rotomolded products include tanks, buoys, large containers, toys, helmets, and canoe hulls.

Rotomolding has some design constraints and finished products have looser tolerances. As the entire mold has to be heated and cooled down, the process also has long cycle times and is quite labor intensive, limiting its efficiency for higher volume applications.

Form Medium degree of freedom, ideal for large hollow parts
Lead time Days to a few weeks
Cycle time Typically < 1 hour
Setup cost $$$
Cost per part $$
Volume Medium volume applications (~200-5000 parts)

Materials

The most common material for rotational molding is polyethylene (PE) which is used in 80% of applications, mainly because PE can be easily ground into a powder at room temperature.

Commonly rotomolded plastics include:

  • Polyethylene
  • Polypropylene
  • Polyvinyl chloride
  • Nylon
  • Polycarbonate

 

Vacuum Forming

Vacuum forming or thermoforming is a manufacturing method where a plastic is heated and formed, typically using a mold. Vacuum forming machines vary in size and complexity from low-cost desktop devices to automated industrial machinery. The steps below describe the typical process for industrial vacuum forming.

 

Manufacturing Process

  1. Clamping: A plastic sheet is clamped in a frame.
  2. Heating: The sheet and the frame are moved close to heating elements, which makes the plastic soft and pliable.
  3. Vacuum: The frame is lowered, and the plastic is stretched over the mold, while vacuum is activated to suck all the air out from between the plastic and the mold, thus forming the part.
  4. Cooling and release: Once the part has been formed over the mold, it must be given time to cool before removal. Cooling system like fans and sprayed mist are sometimes used to reduce cycle times.
  5. Trimming: Once the part is released, excess material is cut off either by hand or with a CNC machine.

Tooling costs for vacuum forming are low compared to other molding techniques, due to low forces and pressures involved. Molds are made from wood, plaster, or 3D printed resin for short production runs and custom parts. For high production volumes, manufacturers use more durable metal tooling.

Given the wide scale of thermoforming and vacuum forming machinery available and the possibilities for automation on the high end, thermoforming is ideal for any application from custom products or prototypes to mass production. However, the process offers only limited form freedom and can only be used to manufacture parts with relatively thin walls and simple geometries.

Commonly vacuum formed parts include product packaging, shower trays, car door liners, boat hulls, and custom products like dental aligners.

Form Limited freedom, only thin-walled parts, no complex geometries
Lead time Less than 24 hours to weeks
Cycle time Seconds to minutes, depending on the machinery
Setup cost $-$$$$
Cost per part $-$$$
Volume Any volume

Materials

Most thermoplastics can be used for thermoforming, offering flexibility in material selection.

Plastics commonly used for thermoforming include:

  • Acrylic (PMMA)
  • Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS)
  • Polyethylene terephthalate glycol (PETG)
  • Polystyrene (PS)
  • Polycarbonate (PC)
  • Polypropylene (PP)
  • Polyethylene (PE)
  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)

Injection Molding

Injection molding (IM) works by injecting molten thermoplastic into a mold. It is the most widely used process for mass manufacturing of plastic parts.

 

Manufacturing Process

  1. Mold setup: If the part has inserts, these are added either by hand or robotically. The mold is closed by a hydraulic press.
  2. Plastic extrusion: Small plastic pellets are melted and extruded through a heated chamber by a screw.
  3. Molding: The molten plastic is injected into the mold.
  4. Cooling and release: The part cools in the mold until it is solid enough to be ejected, either mechanically or by compressed air.
  5. Post-processing: Sprues, runners and any flash (if applicable) is removed from the part, often automatically as part of the mold opening.

Molds for injection molding are highly complex and need to be manufactured to tight tolerances to produce high-quality parts. Due to the high temperature and pressures involved, these molds are machined from metals like hardened steel. Softer aluminum molds are less expensive, but also wear faster, so are typically used for more moderate production runs.

Injection molding can be used to produce highly complex parts, but certain geometries will increase cost significantly. Following design for manufacturing (DFM) guidelines will help to keep tooling costs manageable. Creating new molds for injection molding can take months to complete, and their costs can run into five or six digits.

Despite the high initial costs and slow ramp up, injection molding has no match for high volume applications. Once the tooling is up and running, cycle times only take a few seconds, and millions of high-quality parts can be produced at a fraction of the cost of all other manufacturing processes.

Form Moderate to high degree of freedom
Lead time 2-4 months
Cycle time Seconds
Setup cost $$$$$
Cost per part $
Volume High volume applications (5000+ parts)

Materials

Injection molding can be done with almost any type of thermoplastic. A similar method known reaction injection molding (RIM) is used to manufacture parts out of thermosetting plastics.

Plastics commonly used in injection molding include:

  • Acrylic (PMMA)
  • Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS)
  • Polyamide (PA)
  • Polyethylene terephthalate glycol (PETG)
  • Polystyrene (PS)
  • Polycarbonate (PC)
  • Polypropylene (PP)
  • Polyethylene (PE)
  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)

Extrusion

Extrusion molding works by pushing plastic through a die. The shape of the die is a cross-section of the final part.

 

Manufacturing Process

  1. Plastic extrusion: Plastic is heated and pushed through a heated chamber by a screw.
  2. Molding: Plastic is forced through a die that creates the final shape of the part.
  3. Cooling: The extruded plastic is cooled.
  4. Cut or spool: The continuous shape is spooled or cut into lengths.

Extrusion machinery is relatively cheap compared to other industrial machines like CNC or injection molding as it is less complex and does not require such high levels of machine accuracy. Due to the simple shapes, dies are also less expensive, with tooling costs that are a fraction of molds for injection molding.

Much like injection molding, extrusion molding is an almost continuous process, which makes the price of extruded parts very low.

Forms and shapes that can be manufactured with extrusion are limited to products that have continuous profiles, such as T-sections, I-sections, L-sections, U-sections, and square or circular sections. Typical applications include pipes, hoses, straws, and window frame moldings.

Form Limited, only long continuous shapes
Lead time Weeks
Cycle time Seconds (or continuous)
Setup cost $$$
Cost per part $
Volume Medium to high volume applications (1000+ parts)

Materials

Almost any type of thermoplastic extruded, including:

  • Acrylic (PMMA)
  • Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS)
  • Polyamide (PA)
  • Polyethylene terephthalate glycol (PETG)
  • Polystyrene (PS)
  • Polycarbonate (PC)
  • Polypropylene (PP)
  • Polyethylene (PE)
  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)

 

Blow Molding

Blow molding is a manufacturing technique used to create hollow plastic parts by inflating a heated plastic tube inside a mold until it forms into the desired shape.

 

Manufacturing Process

  1. Mold setup: Small plastic pellets are melted and formed into a hollow tube, called the parison or preform (depending on the blow molding subtype).
  2. Molding: The parison is clamped into a mold and gets inflated by pressurized air until it takes the shape of the inside of the mold.
  3. Cooling and release: The part cools in the mold until it is solid enough to be ejected.

Blow molding operates at far lower pressures than injection molding, which contributes to a lower tooling cost. Much like injection molding and extrusion, blow molding is a continuous process that can be fully automated, resulting in high production rates and low unit costs.

Blow molding is the most common process for creating hollow plastic products at scale. Typical applications include as bottles, toys, automotive components, industrial parts, and packaging.

Form Limited freedom, only hollow, thin-walled shapes, no complex geometries
Lead time Weeks
Cycle time Seconds
Setup cost $$$$
Cost per part $
Volume High volume applications (5000+ parts)

Materials

Blow molding can be done with a variety of thermoplastic materials, with the most common examples being:

  • Polyethylene terephtalate (PET)
  • Polypropylene (PP)
  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
  • Polystyrene (PS)
  • Polycarbonate (PC)
  • Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS)

Important Factor To Consider When Selecting Plastic For Manufacturing

Following, we’ve discussed some important factors to consider while selecting plastic for manufacturing. Also, we’ve discussed how each factor influences the choice of plastic. Let’s learn:

Physical Properties:

The physical properties of the plastic play a crucial role in determining the choice of plastic for manufacturing. The stiffness, strength, flexibility, and temperature resistance of the plastic must be matched with the intended use of the product.

For example, a product that requires high stiffness and strength, such as a car bumper, would require a plastic material like ABS, while a product that requires flexibility, such as a plastic bag, would require a material like polyethylene.

Chemical Properties:

The chemical properties of the plastic material are also an essential factor to consider. The resistance of the plastic to chemicals, UV radiation, and water is critical in determining the longevity of the product.

For example, a product that requires contact with chemicals, such as a chemical storage tank, would require a plastic material that is resistant to chemicals, such as polypropylene or PVC.

Manufacturing Process:

The manufacturing process used to create the product must also be considered when selecting plastic for manufacturing. The plastic should be compatible with the manufacturing process, such as injection molding, extrusion, or blow molding. The process must be able to form the plastic into the desired shape and size without causing defects or material degradation.

Cost:

The cost of the plastic material must be considered to ensure the final product is cost-effective. Some plastics, like polyethylene, are relatively inexpensive and widely available, while others, like polycarbonate, are more expensive due to their unique properties and production processes.

Environmental Impact:

The environmental impact of the plastic material is also a crucial factor to consider. The plastic should be recyclable or biodegradable to reduce environmental impact. For example, products made from bioplastics, like polylactic acid (PLA), can help reduce the environmental impact of plastic waste.

Regulatory Compliance:

Depending on the industry and application, the plastic material may need to comply with certain regulations and standards. The plastic must meet safety and quality standards for its intended use. For example, food packaging plastics must be approved for contact with food.

Considering these factors when selecting plastic for manufacturing can ensure that the final product meets its intended use, is cost-effective, and is environmentally responsible.

How Cost Can Influence Plastic Selection And Examples Of Cost-Saving Measures

The cost of plastic is an essential factor that influences the selection of the appropriate type of plastic for a particular application. The cost of plastic varies depending on the type, quantity, and quality of the plastic used. Therefore, it is necessary to balance the performance requirements with the cost of plastic to select the most cost-effective option.

Following, we’ve discussed some ways cost can influence plastic selection:

Material Cost: The cost of plastic is directly related to the type of polymer used. Some polymers like PVC, Polypropylene, and PE are less expensive, whereas others like Polycarbonate, ABS, and Acrylic are more costly. So, depending on the budget and performance requirements of a project, a cheaper plastic may be chosen over a more expensive option.

Processing Cost: The cost of processing can also affect plastic selection. Some plastics may require special processing methods or equipment that can increase the overall cost of production. For example, injection molding is a common method for producing plastic parts, but some plastics may require more complicated molds, which can increase the cost of production.

Maintenance Cost: The maintenance cost of equipment used in the production process also influences the choice of plastic. Some plastics may be more abrasive or corrosive, which can damage processing equipment more quickly. Choosing a plastic that is less abrasive or corrosive can help reduce the maintenance costs of the equipment.

Examples of cost-saving measures in plastic selection include:

Recycling: Using recycled plastic is an effective way to reduce costs while also being environmentally friendly. Many manufacturers are now using recycled plastic in their products to reduce the cost of production.

Material substitution: Material substitution involves replacing a more expensive plastic with a less expensive option that provides similar performance. For example, replacing polycarbonate with PETG can reduce the cost of production while still providing a similar level of durability and impact resistance.

Bulk purchasing: Bulk purchasing allows for larger quantities of plastic to be purchased at a lower price per unit. This strategy is beneficial for large-scale production runs where the cost of plastic is a significant factor.

Design optimization: Design optimization involves optimizing the design of a product to reduce the amount of plastic used without compromising performance. This approach reduces the overall cost of production while also being environmentally friendly.

Environmental Impact Of Plastics And Examples Of Environmentally Friendly Plastics And Practices

The importance of considering the environmental impact of plastics cannot be overstated. Plastics have become an integral part of our daily lives, but their production, use, and disposal have significant environmental consequences.

Plastics are a major contributor to the pollution of our oceans, landfills, and waterways, and they also contribute to the emission of greenhouse gases during production and disposal.

Here are some reasons why considering the environmental impact of plastics is important:

Pollution: Plastics can take hundreds of years to break down in the environment, which means they can accumulate in our oceans, landfills, and waterways. This pollution can harm wildlife, damage ecosystems, and contribute to climate change.

Resource depletion: Plastics are made from non-renewable resources, such as oil and gas. The production of plastics requires significant amounts of energy and natural resources, which can lead to resource depletion and contribute to climate change.

Health impacts: Some plastics contain harmful chemicals, such as phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA), which can leach into food and water and have negative health impacts.

Sustainable development: Considering the environmental impact of plastics is crucial for promoting sustainable development and reducing our carbon footprint.

Examples of environmentally friendly plastics and practices include:

Bioplastics: Bioplastics are made from renewable resources, such as corn starch, sugarcane, or potato starch, and they are biodegradable. These plastics have a lower carbon footprint than traditional plastics, and they can help reduce waste in landfills and oceans.

Recyclable plastics: Some plastics are designed to be recycled, which can help reduce the amount of plastic waste that ends up in landfills and oceans. Recycling also conserves resources and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

Reduce, reuse, and recycle: The best way to reduce the environmental impact of plastics is to reduce our consumption of single-use plastics, reuse plastics where possible, and recycle plastics that cannot be reused. This involves making conscious decisions to purchase products with minimal packaging, use reusable containers instead of single-use plastics, and dispose of plastics responsibly.

Design for sustainability: Designing products with sustainability in mind can help reduce the environmental impact of plastics. This involves using minimal packaging, designing products to be easily recycled or composted, and using materials that are biodegradable and renewable.

By considering the environmental impact of plastics, we can make conscious decisions that reduce our impact on the environment and promote sustainable development.

Successful Plastic Selection

Successful plastic selection is crucial for the success of the manufacturing process. The choice of plastic can impact the performance, quality, and cost-effectiveness of the final product.

Following, we’ve discussed some examples of successful plastic selection and how the chosen plastic influenced the success of the manufacturing process:

Automotive Parts: Many automotive parts are made from plastic, such as bumpers, dashboards, and door panels. Polycarbonate (PC) is a popular choice for these parts because it is lightweight, durable, and impact-resistant. The use of PC has helped reduce the weight of vehicles, improve fuel efficiency, and enhance safety.

Medical Devices: Medical devices require materials that are biocompatible, non-toxic, and easy to sterilize. Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) is a commonly used plastic for medical devices because it is inert and can withstand high temperatures. The use of PTFE has helped improve the safety and effectiveness of medical devices.

Packaging: Packaging plays a crucial role in protecting and preserving products during shipping and storage. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is a popular choice for packaging because it is lightweight, transparent, and has good barrier properties. The use of PET has helped reduce the amount of packaging required and improved the shelf life of products.

Consumer Goods: Consumer goods, such as electronics, toys, and household appliances, require materials that are durable, lightweight, and aesthetically pleasing. Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) is a commonly used plastic for these applications because it is strong, impact-resistant, and can be easily molded into complex shapes. The use of ABS has helped improve the durability and functionality of consumer goods.

In each of these examples, the choice of plastic influenced the success of the manufacturing process. The selected plastic provided the required properties, such as strength, durability, and aesthetic appeal, while also being cost-effective and easy to process.

The use of the appropriate plastic helped improve the quality and performance of the final product, reduce the weight and cost of production, and enhance safety and functionality.

Tips To Keep In Mind When Selecting The Right Plastic For Your Manufacturing Process

Following, we’ve discussed some tips to keep in mind when selecting plastic for your manufacturing process:

Identify The Required Properties:

The first step in selecting plastic is to identify the properties required for your application, such as strength, durability, flexibility, and chemical resistance. This will help narrow down the options and ensure that the selected plastic meets the performance requirements.

Consider The Processing Requirements:

Plastic selection should also consider the processing requirements, such as molding, extrusion, or casting. Some plastics are more difficult to process than others, which can impact the cost and time required for production.

Evaluate The Cost-Effectiveness:

Cost is an important consideration when selecting plastic, as it can impact the overall cost of production. It is important to consider the cost of the plastic itself, as well as any additional costs associated with processing, tooling, and production.

Assess The Environmental Impact:

The environmental impact of plastics should also be considered when selecting plastic. It is important to choose plastics that are recyclable or biodegradable, and that have a lower carbon footprint than traditional plastics.

Consult With A Plastic Expert:

It can be helpful to consult with a plastic expert or a plastic supplier when selecting plastic for your manufacturing process. They can provide guidance on the best plastic for your application, as well as advice on processing and production.

By keeping these tips in mind, you can ensure that the plastic selected for your manufacturing process meets your performance requirements, is cost-effective, and has a lower environmental impact.

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, plastic selection plays a critical role in the success of the manufacturing process.

The choice of plastic can impact the performance, quality, and cost-effectiveness of the final product. Factors such as strength, durability, aesthetics, and cost must be considered when selecting the appropriate plastic for each application.

Additionally, it is important to consider the environmental impact of plastics and strive towards using more environmentally friendly plastics and practices. By making conscious decisions and selecting the appropriate plastic, we can improve the functionality, durability, and sustainability of products, while also reducing our impact on the environment.

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Final Takeaways

We’ve arrived at the last section of this guide. Let’s have a look at some of the most important points to remember:‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌

  • Selecting the right plastic for manufacturing can also improve the overall quality of the product, increase its lifespan, and enhance its appearance. By carefully considering the properties of plastics and the manufacturing processes used, manufacturers can create products that are stronger, more durable, and more aesthetically appealing.
  • Injection molding is the most common plastic manufacturing process. It involves melting plastic pellets and injecting them into a mold to create a specific shape. Injection molding is used to create a wide range of products, from small toys to large automotive parts.
  • Different plastics have different melting points, flow properties, and viscosities. The manufacturing process used to create a product will determine the temperature and pressure needed to melt and mold the plastic. Some plastics, like polyethylene, are easily molded using low-pressure injection molding techniques, while others, like polycarbonate, require high-pressure injection molding.
  • The physical properties of the plastic play a crucial role in determining the choice of plastic for manufacturing. The stiffness, strength, flexibility, and temperature resistance of the plastic must be matched with the intended use of the product.
  • The cost of processing can also affect plastic selection. Some plastics may require special processing methods or equipment that can increase the overall cost of production. For example, injection molding is a common method for producing plastic parts, but some plastics may require more complicated molds, which can increase the cost of production.
  • The best way to reduce the environmental impact of plastics is to reduce our consumption of single-use plastics, reuse plastics where possible, and recycle plastics that cannot be reused. This involves making conscious decisions to purchase products with minimal packaging, use reusable containers instead of single-use plastics, and dispose of plastics responsibly.
  • The environmental impact of plastics should also be considered when selecting plastic. It is important to choose plastics that are recyclable or biodegradable, and that have a lower carbon footprint than traditional plastics.

 

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We also have an ISO 9001:2015 certified Quality Assurance Program bolstered by cutting-edge equipment and an experienced team to ensure quality from design to production. In addition, all design and tooling work is done in-house, enabling us to establish tight control over all projects while reducing lead times.

Our experts can help you achieve high-quality plastic products for your requirements! Get in touch with us to learn more about our services and solutions.

FAQs

How Do I Choose The Right Plastic Manufacturing Process?

It is important to consider functional and aesthetic requirements, as well as cost. Make sure that you have considered the ideal characteristics for your specific application and compare them with the available choices in a given manufacturing process.

What Equipment Is Used In The Manufacturing Of Plastic?

A plastic injection molding machine is an industrial machine used to create plastic products from raw material. The plastic injection process involves melting the plastic material, then injecting it into a mold designed to produce the desired product.

How Do You Choose Plastic Materials?

Determine the best plastics materials for your specific application based on: physical strength, chemical resistance, impact strength, surface appearance, recyclability and cost of material.

Which Factors Should Be Considered When Manufacturing A Plastic Component?

Here are 8 important factors to consider to meet your plastic part design goals for a successful production process.

  • Material Considerations.
  • Radius.
  • Wall Thickness.
  • Gate Location.
  • Draft.
  • Inclusion of Ribs.
  • Mold Shrinkage.
  • Special Features.

Which Process Is Most Suitable For Machining Plastic Materials?

CNC machining has low to moderate setup costs, and can produce high-quality plastic components with short lead times from a wide range of materials. Machining processes have more part geometry restrictions than 3D printing.

What Is The Most Common Manufacturing Process For Plastics?

Injection molding (IM) works by injecting molten thermoplastic into a mold. It is the most widely used process for mass manufacturing of plastic parts.

What Are The Five Methods Of Processing Plastic?

There are various methods for processing plastic, each with its own unique advantages and applications. Here are five common methods:

  1. Injection Molding: A widely used process, injection molding injects molten plastic into a mold (typically metal) using high pressure. After cooling, the mold is opened and the solidified part is ejected. This method is ideal for mass-producing complex parts with high precision.
  2. Blow Molding: Blow molding forms hollow plastic objects by inflating a heated plastic tube (parison) inside a mold until it solidifies. Blow molding can be divided into three sub-types: extrusion blow molding, injection blow molding, and stretch blow molding. Common products include bottles, containers, and other hollow pieces.
  3. Extrusion: This method continuously pushes molten plastic through a die to create uniform cross-sectional shapes such as pipes, rods, sheeting, and films. The extruded product is then cooled, cut, or rolled onto spools.
  4. Rotational Molding: Also called rotomolding, this method involves placing a specific amount of plastic powder inside a hollow mold. The mold is then heated and rotated around two axes to evenly distribute the plastic. Once cooled, the solidified plastic is removed from the mold. This method is commonly used for large, hollow products such as tanks and playground equipment.
  5. Thermoforming: Thermoforming heats a plastic sheet until it becomes pliable and forms it over a mold. After cooling, the formed shape is trimmed and ejected. This method is suitable for producing thin-walled products such as food packaging, disposable cups, and trays.

What Are The Three Method Of Processing Plastic?

The most common methods are: Plastic extrusion. Injection moulding. Rotational moulding.

How Can You Tell The Quality Of Plastic?

The plastic is placed in water or another medium, then an electric transducer is used to release sound waves. The transducer assesses how the sound waves move across the plastic, noting any changes that may signify defects, flaws, or contaminants within the material.

How Do You Choose Plastic Material For Injection Molding?

If you need something a little tougher than ABS or able to withstand a little higher temperature, try polycarbonate (PC). PC is less forgiving than ABS if you don’t follow the standard design rules for plastic parts. If it needs to be nice-looking and transparent, try acrylic (PMMA). PMMA can be a little brittle.

What Is The Major Raw Materials In Plastic Industry?

Plastics today are mostly made from natural materials such as cellulose, coal, natural gas, salt and crude oil through a polymerisation or polycondensation process.

What Are Two Methods Of Plastic Fabrication?

Plastic fabrication refers to the process of creating finished products or parts from raw plastic materials. Here are two common methods for plastic fabrication:

  1. CNC Machining: CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machining involves using computer-controlled machines to cut away material from a plastic workpiece to create a specific shape or design. Some of the techniques within the realm of CNC machining include milling, turning, and routing. This method offers high precision and is suitable for producing complex parts and intricate designs.
  2. Plastic Welding: This method is used to join two or more plastic components together by heating the surfaces until they are molten, and then pressing them together until they fuse. There are various plastic welding techniques, such as hot gas welding, ultrasonic welding, and friction welding. These methods can be used to assemble complex structures, repair damaged parts, or bond plastic sheets.

What Manufacturing Methods Are Used To Manufacture Plastic Products?

There are numerous manufacturing methods used to produce plastic products, each with its own advantages and applications. Some common manufacturing methods include:

  1. Injection Molding: A widely-used method, injection molding injects molten plastic into a mold (typically metal), and applies high pressure to solidify the material. Once cooled, the part is ejected from the mold. Ideal for mass-producing complex parts with high precision.
  2. Blow Molding: This method creates hollow plastic objects by inflating a heated plastic tube inside a mold until it solidifies. Common products include bottles, containers, and other hollow pieces. Sub-types include extrusion blow molding, injection blow molding, and stretch blow molding.
  3. Extrusion: Extrusion continuously pushes molten plastic through a die, creating uniform cross-sectional shapes such as pipes, rods, sheeting, and films. The extruded product is cooled, cut, or rolled onto spools.
  4. Rotational Molding: Also known as rotomolding, this method involves placing a specific amount of plastic powder inside a hollow mold, which is then heated and rotated around two axes to distribute the plastic evenly. Commonly used for large, hollow products such as tanks and playground equipment.
  5. Thermoforming: This method heats a plastic sheet until it becomes pliable and forms it over a mold. After cooling, the formed shape is trimmed and ejected. Suitable for producing thin-walled products like food packaging, disposable cups, and trays.
  6. Compression Molding: Compression molding involves placing a pre-measured amount of plastic material into a mold, then closing the mold and applying heat and pressure to force the plastic to take on the shape of the mold cavity. This method is ideal for simpler designs and high-strength parts.
  7. CNC Machining: CNC machining uses computer-controlled machines to cut away material from a plastic workpiece, creating a specific shape or design. Techniques within CNC machining include milling, turning, and routing. Suitable for producing complex parts and intricate designs.

Each of these methods serves specific needs in the plastic manufacturing industry and allows for the creation of a wide range of plastic products.

What Are The Three Method Of Processing Plastic?

The most common methods are: Plastic extrusion. Injection moulding. Rotational moulding.

What Is The Process Of Production Of Plastic?

Two main processes are used to produce plastics – polymerisation and polycondensation – and they both require specific catalysts. In a polymerisation reactor, monomers such as ethylene and propylene are linked together to form long polymer chains.

What Can We Add To Plastics During The Manufacturing Process And Why?

Additives are substances that are added to polymers during the manufacturing process to enhance their properties, improve processing, or impart new properties. There are various types of additives used in plastic manufacturing, including stabilizers, plasticizers, fillers, pigments, and flame retardants.

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