Machining Processes

Precision in Plastic: A Guide to Machining Processes

Precision in Plastic: A Guide to Machining Processes

Explore Excelite plastic machining ability with insights on processes, benefits of using Polycarbonate and Acrylic, key characteristics, and properties. Learn about plastic processing methods, types of machining for creating components, and the advantages of machined plastic components with a focus on dimensional accuracy and tolerance considerations. Contact us and customize plastic components.

Machining Processes
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    Overview of Plastic Machining Processes

    Plastic machining processes offer a wide range of capabilities for shaping and fabricating plastic materials such as polycarbonate and acrylic to meet precise design specifications and functional requirements. These processes encompass CNC machining, drilling, milling, and more, catering to a wide array of applications across industries ranging from aerospace and automotive to electronics and everyday use. Its biological, chemical, and mechanical properties make it an optimal choice for various engineering applications.

    Precision and quality in plastic machining are crucial for ensuring the dimensional accuracy, structural integrity, and functional performance of machined components. It also needs proper handling techniques, tooling, and thermal conditions.

    Benefits of Using Plastic Materials in Machining Applications

    Plastic is a highly regarded material in the world of modern industry. Polycarbonate and Arcylic(PMMA) are the most readily available plastic materials. They have high impact resistance, transparency, and ease of fabrication. PC materials are lightweight, durable, even flame retardant requirements making them ideal for a wide range of machining processes, such as cutting, drilling, and thermoforming. Additionally, polycarbonate and acrylic exhibit excellent chemical resistance, UV stability, and optical clarity, making them suitable for applications requiring precision, aesthetics, and performance.

    Properties of Polycarbonate and Acrylic

    • Key Characteristics and Properties of Polycarbonate

    Polycarbonate is a thermoplastic material, it knows for its unbreakable glass. It is available in transparent and opaque sheets.

    Durable, impact-resistant thermoplastic. It is an excellent choice for those looking to higher security measures. Polycarbonate sheets are 250 times stronger than glass and exhibit high shatter resistant.

    High optical clarity for excellent light transmission. Polycarbonate sheet is indispensable in applications where superior optical perspectives are crucial, especially in certain medical contexts.

    Lightweight, easy to fabricate, and heat-resistant. Polycarbonate outperforms glass by trapping heat up to 60 percent more effectively. Moreover, its malleability allows it to be molded into a wide variety of shapes.

    Polycarbonate finds its ideal applications in industrial, automotive, and consumer sectors with its remarkable properties and versatility.

    • Key Characteristics and Properties of Acrylic

    Compared to polycarbonate, acrylic offers a distinct advantage in terms of its superior optical clarity and aesthetic brilliance. It is almost clear when polished. Acrylic enhanced transparency and light transmission, with polycarbonate typically achieving 92% light transmission while acrylic can reach up 96% light transmission, nearing that of glass. This making it ideal for applications where clear visibility and a pristine appearance are essential. Acrylic exhibits high tensile strength, making it durable and robust. Additionally, it is scratch-resistant and readily accepts adhesives for easy bonding. While acrylic is resistant to cracks, it is important to note that it may break under excessive compression.

     How are Plastics Processed?

    (Simple processing technology introduction from TITANS)

    There are several types of machining for creating plastic components.

    • Cutting and Sawing Plastic Material

    Key Points for Plastic Cutting Machining

    1. Choose proper tool selection
    2. Set cutting parameters to minimize heat generation
    3. Prevent material deformation or melting

    What Excelite competitive advantages? Indeed, the size and capabilities of the machine used for cutting plastic materials can influence the complexity and intricacy of the products that can be produced. Moreover, the experience and expertise of the mechanician play a crucial role in ensuring efficient and high-quality cutting processes, leading to the successful fabrication of intricate and challenging plastic components.

    Cutting and Sawing Plastic Material

    Drilling and milling are common fabrication processes used to create holes, slots, and intricate shapes in plastic materials.

    1. Drilling involves using a rotating cutting tool to remove material and create round holes in the plastic.
    2. Milling uses a rotating cutting tool with multiple cutting edges to remove material in a controlled manner, producing flat surfaces, slots, and complex shapes in the plastic. Down-milling is one of the preferred options when machining plastic specifically.

    Both drilling and milling are essential processes in plastic machining, allowing for precise and accurate fabrication of plastic components for various applications.

    Drilling and Milling
    • Turning and Lathe Operations

    Turning and lathe operations are machining processes used to create cylindrical shapes and profiles in plastic materials.

    1. Turning involves rotating a workpiece on a lathe machine while a cutting tool removes material to create cylindrical shapes, such as rods, shafts, and discs.

    2. Lathe operations refer to the use of a lathe machine with live tooling, 3-, 4- and 5- Axis machining, including turning, facing, grooving, and threading on plastic materials. Even interrupted cuts, contours, and other difficult features.

    Turning and lathe operations are fundamental in plastic machining, enabling the production of circle components with high precision and surface finish.

    Grinding, Lapping or Polishing
    • Grinding, Lapping or Polishing

    There are all the techniques to finish the abrasive surface. The distinctions for these three methods can help you in selecting the most suitable approach for your product.

    Lapping and grinding are typically utilized for metal surfaces, while polishing is commonly applied to plastic material surfaces. Polishing, which involves the gentle removal of a small amount of abrasion scratches.

    • Thermoforming and Heat Bending

    Thermoforming and heat bending are plastic forming processes that involve the application of heat to shape plastic materials.

    1. Thermoforming uses heat to soften a thermoplastic sheet, which is then formed over a mold to create a specific shape or contour.

    2. Heat bending involves heating a plastic sheet or rod to a specific temperature and then bending it into the desired shape using a mold or a jig.

    Both thermoforming and heat bending are versatile techniques used in the fabrication of plastic products, such as packaging, signage, and displays, allowing for the creation of complex shapes and designs with ease. See more thermoforming guide in our blog page.

    Thermoforming and Heat Bending

    Advantages of Machined Plastic Components

    Plastic is a versatile and essential material used in a wide range of industries, including electronics, packaging, transportation, and construction. More and more company choose plastic material to make products, its versatility, durability, and cost-effectiveness make it a popular choice for various applications.

    • Faster production times compared to molding plastic or machining metal parts.

    • Lower overall costs due to less material usage, and ability to make low-volume production at first time. Plastic Machining is perfect for production of 1-10,000 parts.

    • Tight tolerances and high quality through precision machining and quality control processes. Offers high-precision tolerances ranging from +/-0.001″ – 0.005″, depending on customer specs.

    • Ability to add processing works like trimming, de-gating, and tapped holes during machining.

    • Cost savings in production and assembly processes due to the design flexibility of machined plastic components.

    Considerations of Plastic Machinery

    To achieve a durable, high-performance part, it’s important to consider the machining processes and plastic materials for your product and to ensure that the process and material are compatible.

    • Type of Plastic Material

    Ensuring that the machinery is compatible with the specific type of plastic material being processed. We need to take consider to chemicals or machining stress, and even cost. We must select a material that suits the needs of our intended application to ensure that the plastic will hold up well for a strong, lasting end product.

    • Equipment Selection During Machining

    Machining results in vibrations that can create burrs, chatter marks, and cracks in plastic components as the material doesn’t have the same rigidity as metal. Choosing the right plastic machinery is important to gain optimal results in the manufacturing process. Machinery should be capable of precise and accurate operations to meet the desired specifications of the final product.

    • Temperature Management

    Compared to metals, which can withstand high temperatures, plastic materials have a much lower melting point. For plastic materials to endure the heat to which machining processes may expose them, thermal regulation such as utilizing coolants is key.

    • Available Finishing Processes

    Annealing, coating, polishing, and similar finishing processes will not only improve the look of your end product but also help protect it and enhance its functionality and longevity.



    Dimensional Accuracy and Tolerance Considerations

    When machining plastic sheets, maintaining dimensional accuracy is important, and stress relief is critical. During the manufacturing of polycarbonate sheets, stress is inevitably generated. Excelite choose the Omipa extrusion line excels in stress relief, boasting a lengthy production line that allows for precise temperature control, effectively mitigating stress. In the machining, we also need to relieve thermal stresses. Annealing times and temperatures for specific materials are different.

    Plastic material, like polycarbonate, acrylic(PMMA) also has high moisture absorption. We need to pre-drying before use it, It is important to note that most plastics have significantly higher coefficients of thermal expansion compared to metals. The precision parts should be manufactured in temperature-controlled environments. We needs to take consider the using environments due to the thermal expansion. 

    We provide fabrication, machining, and combine services to our customers nationwide. Excelite achieves your parts which ISO 9001:2015, ISO 13485 and AS9100D certified parts delivered right to your door without the hassle of sourcing, project management, logistics, or shipping. Contact Us and custom your own fabricated parts. 


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