The term “plastic machining” refers to any process that takes plastic material and forms into a predetermined shape and size. Typically, plastic machining works by removing material, not adding it. This type of machining is known as subtractive manufacturing. However, sometimes the machining does involve adding material, such as a coating. This type of machining is known as additive manufacturing.
Some common types of plastic machining include: CNC plastic machining, drilling, milling and turning. Examples of others include: laser cutting, electro discharge machining (EDM) and waterjet cutting.
CNC Plastic Machining
Most plastic machining systems fall under the CNC machining category. CNC, computer numerical control, technology is that equipment and software that allows machinists to program systems. CNC technology makes machining faster, more precise, more efficient and less expensive.
During drilling, machinists create or perfect holes in the workpiece. Usually, they use drill presses to do this, but sometimes they use mills or lathes. Drill presses feature a cutting mechanism that rotates rapidly as it descends on the plastic piece.
Milling involves rotating automated or semi-automated cutting tools around a workpiece. Plastic milling can be done completely independent of operators, saving manufacturers time and money.
Turning, sometimes called lathe turning, is essentially the opposite of milling. It involves using a lathe to turn a plastic workpiece as cutting tools move against it.
Some of the many industries that rely on plastic machining are: electronics, healthcare, instrumentation, construction, semiconductor, sports and recreation, food and beverage, appliance, automotive and aerospace.
To carry out their designs, machinists may use countless standard and custom plastic formulas. Among the most common are: PVC, PTFE, PEEK, ABS, acrylic, acetol, HDPE, LDPE and more. For those who are interested, most manufacturers also offer eco-friendly options. Because manufacturers can alter plastic properties before machining them, the possibilities with plastic machining are virtually endless.
While metal manufacturer is a more traditional process than plastic machining, plastic machining is rapidly outpacing it because of rising metal prices. On top of that, the switch to plastic machining tends to reduce waste, weight, the time and costs associated with design change, and operation costs in general. Don’t forget, when machinists save money, they can pass those savings along to their customers.