Plastic Machining- Art or Science?

Plastic machining is both an art and a science. Plastics can change dimensionally due to humidity, temperature and machining process and there is an “art” to keeping machined components within stated tolerances. All polymers and copolymers react differently to coolant and machining technique- the science required to properly machine plastic.

Plastic can be machined or molded to create plastic components. Plastic machining is typically used for low volume components or components that may have a short life span. While creating a mold is costly up front, each individual component created from the mold is a cost effective way to produce high volume, long life span components.

Machining a plastic component can allow an OEM to test certain materials for reactivity as well as tolerance to stresses. Parts can be turned or milled or both turned and milled. In selecting a shop for plastic machining, it is important that the shop have experience in both the science and art of plastic machining. Plastic only shops in particular will help to avoid contamination with coolants and metal fragments usually found in a metal shop. They are also familiar with both annealing and polishing of your plastic component.

In selecting a shop for your plastic machining, three criteria are important:

  • Does the shop have the expertise and experience to produce your component within your stated tolerances?
  • Does the shop use up-to-date equipment and machining techniques?
  • Does the shop care about quality and producing quality parts 100% of the time?
  • In order to find the answers to these questions, review the company’s web site and talk to their salesperson.
  • Additionally, ask for a sample lot before full production in order to review your component.

Plastic machining can be a smooth process if the correct shop is chosen for your plastic machining needs.