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Guide to Manufacturing Processes for Plastics
Plastics are the most common materials for producing end-use parts and products, for everything from consumer products to medical devices. Plastics are a versatile category of materials, with thousands of polymer options, each with their own specific mechanical properties. But how are plastic parts made? For any designer and engineer working in product development, it is critical to be familiar with the manufacturing options available today and the new developments that signal how parts will be made tomorrow.
This guide provides an overview of the most common manufacturing processes for producing plastic parts and guidelines to help you select the best option for your application.
Some manufacturing processes have high front costs for tooling and setup, but produce parts that are inexpensive on a per-part basis. In contrast, low volume manufacturing processes have low startup costs, but due to slower cycle times, less automation, and manual labor, cost per part remains constant or decreases only marginally when volume increases.
Some processes create first parts within 24 hours, while tooling and setup for certain high volume production processes takes months. The optimal material for a given application is determined by a number of factors. Cost must be balanced against functional and aesthetic requirements.
Consider the ideal characteristics for your specific application and contrast them with the available choices in a given manufacturing processes. 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. 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. 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.
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. As 3D printing technologies improve, cost per part continues to fall, opening up a wider range of low- to mid-volume applications.
There are many types of 3D printers and 3D printing technologies on the market, and the available materials vary by technology. See and feel the quality of SLA 3D printing firsthand. 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. 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. 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.
In this webinar, learn how to design and 3D print jigs and fixtures to replace machined parts, and five ways to improve the efficiency of your factory floor with 3D printing.
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. 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 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. 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.
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. 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.
Vacuum forming 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. Tooling costs for vacuum forming are low compared to other molding techniques, due to low forces and pressures involved.
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.
Injection molding IM works by injecting molten thermoplastic into a mold. It is the most widely used process for mass manufacturing of plastic parts. 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. 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. 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.
Extrusion molding works by pushing plastic through a die. The shape of the die is a cross-section of the final part.
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 inexpensive, 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. 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.
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.
Blow molding can be done with a variety of thermoplastic materials, with the most common examples being:. Plastic manufacturing processes are constantly evolving and the inflection points where it makes sense to move from one technique to another are shifting due to improvements in equipment, materials, and economies of scale.
Learn more about how leading manufacturers leverage 3D printing to save money and shorten lead times from design to production. Change Region. All Posts Guides. Guide to Manufacturing Processes for Plastics. Table of contents. Download White Paper.
Types of Plastics 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. Thermoplastics Thermoplastics are the most commonly used type of plastic. Request a Free Sample Part. Webinar Innovation on the Production Floor: 3D Printed Jigs and Fixtures In this webinar, learn how to design and 3D print jigs and fixtures to replace machined parts, and five ways to improve the efficiency of your factory floor with 3D printing.
Chemistry is the Science Behind Sustainability — the products, technologies and innovations enabled by the chemical industry are essential to a sustainable future. ACC is investing in research to improve understanding of how chemicals impact health and the environment. The agency continues meet key TSCA deadlines and requirements, and marks another milestone in that process. Learn more. A blog of the American Chemistry Council: driving innovation, creating jobs, and enhancing safety.
Paint is a term used to describe a number of substances that consist of a pigment suspended in a liquid or paste vehicle such as oil or water. With a brush, a roller, or a spray gun, paint is applied in a thin coat to various surfaces such as wood, metal, or stone. Although its primary purpose is to protect the surface to which it is applied, paint also provides decoration. Samples of the first known paintings, made between 20, and 25, years ago, survive in caves in France and Spain.
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Biologics are bacterial and viral vaccines, antigens, antitoxins and analogous products, serums, plasmas and other blood derivatives for therapeutically protecting or treating humans and animals. Bulks are active drug substances used to manufacture dosage- form products, process medicated animal feeds or compound prescription medications. Diagnostic agents assist the diagnosis of diseases and disorders in humans and animals. Diagnostic agents may be inorganic chemicals for examining the gastrointestinal tract, organic chemicals for visualizing the circulatory system and liver and radioactive compounds for measuring the function of organ system. Drugs are substances with active pharmacological properties in humans and animals. Drugs are compounded with other materials, such as pharmaceutical necessities, to produce a medicinal product. Ethical pharmaceuticals are biological and chemicals agents for preventing, diagnosing or treating disease and disorders in humans or animals. These products are dispensed by prescription or approval of a medical, pharmacy or veterinary professional.
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Materials processing , the series of operations that transforms industrial materials from a raw-material state into finished parts or products. Materials processing by hand is as old as civilization; mechanization began with the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century, and in the early 19th century the basic machines for forming, shaping, and cutting were developed, principally in England. Since then, materials-processing methods, techniques, and machinery have grown in variety and number. The cycle of manufacturing processes that converts materials into parts and products starts immediately after the raw materials are either extracted from minerals or produced from basic chemicals or natural substances.
The range of topics covered by the more than articles is Bolero Ozon. Poultry Processing Tory Ashdown 67
Thermal cleaning is a combined process involving pyrolysis and oxidation. As an industrial application, thermal cleaning is used to remove organic substances such as polymers , plastics and coatings from parts, products or production components like extruder screws, spinnerets  and static mixers. Thermal cleaning is the most common cleaning method in industrial environment. Heat is supplied for pyrolysis and air is supplied for oxidation.
A coating is a covering that is applied to the surface of an object, usually referred to as the substrate. The purpose of applying the coating may be decorative, functional, or both. The coating itself may be an all-over coating, completely covering the substrate, or it may only cover parts of the substrate. An example of all of these types of coating is a product label on many drinks bottles- one side has an all-over functional coating the adhesive and the other side has one or more decorative coatings in an appropriate pattern the printing to form the words and images. Paints and lacquers are coatings that mostly have dual uses of protecting the substrate and being decorative, although some artists paints are only for decoration, and the paint on large industrial pipes is presumably only for the function of preventing corrosion. Functional coatings may be applied to change the surface properties of the substrate, such as adhesion , wettability , corrosion resistance , or wear resistance.
Блестящий замысел. Выходит, Стратмор был зрителем теннисного матча, следящим за мячом лишь на одной половине корта. Поскольку мяч возвращался, он решил, что с другой стороны находится второй игрок.
Но Танкадо бил мячом об стенку. Он превозносил достоинства Цифровой крепости по электронной почте, которую направлял на свой собственный адрес.
Да вы просто с ума все сошли, что ли? - закричал Джабба. - Звоните Танкадо. Скажите, что мы сдаемся.
Стратмор, несомненно, постарается проверить все лично и найти пароль из шестидесяти четырех знаков. Затем он его уничтожит, и Цифровая крепость навсегда исчезнет из Интернета. - Действуй своим маячком очень осторожно, - сказал Стратмор. - Если Северная Дакота заподозрит, что мы его ищем, он начнет паниковать и исчезнет вместе с паролем, так что никакая штурмовая группа до него не доберется.
Через сорок пять минут. Беккер замахал руками. Ну и порядки.
Основанное президентом Трумэном в 12 часов 01 минуту 4 ноября 1952 года, АНБ на протяжении почти пятидесяти лет оставалось самым засекреченным разведывательным ведомством во всем мире. Семистраничная доктрина сжато излагала программу его работы: защищать системы связи американского правительства и перехватывать сообщения зарубежных государств.
Вы уверены, что на руке у него не было перстня. Офицер удивленно на него посмотрел. - Перстня. - Да.
Но еще более страшной ей показалась другая фигура, прятавшаяся в тени, где-то в середине длинной лестницы. Ошибиться было невозможно. Это мощное тело принадлежало Грегу Хейлу. ГЛАВА 58 - Меган - девушка моего друга Эдуардо! - крикнул панк Беккеру. -Держись от нее подальше. - Где она? - Сердце Беккера неистово колотилось. - Пошел к черту.
Неплохо, но есть одно. Он не пользовался своими обычными почтовыми ящиками - ни домашним, ни служебными. Он бывал в Университете Досися и использовал их главный компьютер.