Plastics used in Plastic Machining Processes
There are a wide range of plastics used in precision manufacturing today. The following are short descriptions of some of the materials that we use in our plastic machining processes.
ABS is a cost effective, general purpose thermoplastic known for its hardness, toughness, heat resistance and electrical insulation properties, with some FDA grades. It can be molded or machined. ABS is used in automotive parts such as automotive trim components and automotive bumper bars, aircraft interior trim, buffer edging for furniture and joinery panels, laboratory equipment, medical devices for blood access, water purification equipment, drain-waste-vent (DWV) pipe systems, enclosures for electrical and electronic assemblies, business machine housings, tote bins and trays, luggage and protective carrying cases, musical instruments (plastic clarinets, recorders, and piano movements), golf club heads, protective headgear, whitewater canoes, small kitchen appliances, model building, and toys.
Acetal resins are strong, stiff, wear and chemical resistant, easily machined thermoplastics which can be autoclaved and are available in FDA grades. They are frequently used to replace metal where its strength is not needed. Typical mechanical parts are bearings, rollers, gears, conveyor chains, pulleys, sheaves, bushings, shafts, auto door handles, window lift mechanisms and cranks, plumbing components, and pump parts.
Acrylic is an economical, general purpose plastic which cuts, polishes, thermoforms and machines easily and comes in many colors. It is used in many applications for its weatherability, clarity and lightness as well as high impact resistance. Acrylic is used in signage, store fixtures and displays, windows and skylights, barriers for hockey, automotive (including police cars) and medical uses, protective visors, aquariums, clocks, kitchen and bath counters and stalls, door handles, badges, furniture, lighting, telephones and musical instruments.
DelrinDelrin, an acetal homopolymer resin by Dupont, is an extremely versatile engineering polymer falling between metals and most plastics in properties and usage. It is strong, tough, rigid, impact resistant, moisture and chemical resistant, and has good electrical insulating properties. It is used in industrial, electronic, automotive and consumer goods industries for high performance engineering and mechanical parts including ball bearings, small gears, ski bindings, fasteners, lock systems, housing parts, springs, chains, screws, nuts fan wheels, pump parts, valve bodies, fuel sender units. It is used in electrical engineering parts for bobbins, insulators, connectors and other parts for televisions and phones. Medical uses include insulin pens and metered dose inhalers. It is used in furniture hardware, sports equipment, packaging including gas tanks and aerosol containers, hobbies and zippers.
HDPEHDPE (high-density polyethylene) or PEHD (polyethylene high-density) is a thermoplastic made from petroleum with is known for its strength to thickness ratio and its resistance to many different solvents. Commonly used to manufacture bottles, membranes, plastic lumber and chemical-resistant piping, it is also found in fuel tanks, protection for steel pipelines, natural gas distribution pipes, water pipes for domestic or agricultural usage, geomembranes for canal or bank reinforcement, root barriers, telecom ducts, swimming pool installation, food storage containers, plastic surgery, hard hats, banners, bottle caps, coax cable inner insulators, electrical and plumbing boxes, folding chairs and tables, fireworks and mortars for firing them, backpacking frames, snowboard rails and boxes, storage sheds, and Tyvek.
KydexKydex is a thermoplastic sheet which can be molded to fit almost any shape. It is used to make rapid prototyping of systems, custom insulators for electrical equipment, clean rooms, telescope tubes, springs and tensioners, equipment housings, instrument consoles, door liners, kick plates, lavatory pans, aircraft fairings, aircraft pull-down trays, air exhaust systems, truck cargo liners and fenders, seat backs, motor housings, custom holsters for knives and firearms, tote boxes, safety helmets and even autonomous marine vehicles.
Lexan®Lexan is a trademarked name for a polycarbonate (PC) thermoplastic polymer which is easily worked, molded and thermoformed. It is used in water bottles, drink ware, eyeglasses and protective goggles, window coatings, sign coatings, windows where safety or vandalism are concerns (such as bus, bus stop, school, storefront, public building, shopping mall, bullet proof glass, teller windows), automotive parts, electrical components, data storage cds and dvds, aircraft cockpits, electronic screens and phone components.
NylonNylon is the general term for a family of synthetic polymers [ first produced in 1935 by Dupont, initially used for toothbrushes and nylons, then parachutes, tires, tents, ropes, ponchos and other military items, as well as clothing, rugs, food packaging, instrument strings, and as part of a composite, intake manifolds]. It is one of the most widely used plastics for its high strength, toughness and lightness combined with high temperature properties and exceptional resistance to oil, grease and solvents. It is used as a bearing and wear material for seals, gears, wear plates, bushings, and washers, frequently used as a replacement for many metals.
NylatronNylatron is nylon with finely divided particles of Moly (molybdenum disulfide) dispersed evenly throughout during polymerization. These particles act as a dry lubricant to increase load bearing and wear capabilities while improving strength and rigidity. It maintains better fit and clearances. Nylatron is used in gears, sheaves, sprockets, bearings, wear pads and custom parts. It may replace many metals or other plastics, especially as a bearing and wear material.
Phenolic laminates are manufactured by applying heat and pressure to layers of paper, canvas, cotton, linen or glass cloth impregnated with synthetic thermosetting resins. A chemical reaction (polymerization) converts these layers into a single laminated material with a set shape that cannot be softened again. Physical strength, stiffness, resiliency, ease and adaptability of manufacture, and excellent electrical properties make phenolic laminates useful as support components in a wide range of mechanical and electrical applications. They do not soften upon re-heating, so they are easy to saw, drill, tap, and machine with ordinary tools. FR grades are flame retardant.
Phenolics are excellent choices for electrical parts. Applications include insulating washers, spacers, terminal boards, switch bases, intricate punch parts, relays, standoffs, bus bars, arc shields, test boards, transformers, circuit boards, vanes, panels, terminal strips, sockets, fuses, coils, motors, generators, gaskets, and condensers, as well as automotive brake systems, countertops, plywood, speaker systems and snooker balls.
Paper Phenolic X, XX, and XXX (Paper Base / Phenolic Resin)
Mechanical and electrical grades are first rate options for intricate punch parts, insulating washers, spacers, terminal boards, circuit board substrates, switch bases, and other electrical components. They are also found in countertops. The “X” designations generally distinguish manufacturing processes which result in different levels of electrical properties.
CE Phenolic C and CE (Canvas Base / Phenolic Resin)
Medium weave cotton cloth fabrics are impregnated with phenolic resins to provide good wear resistance, good mechanical strength and low moisture absorption, economically. Canvas-based phenolics are used for piston rings, spacers, gears, bearing surfaces and structural supports. The “CE” grade has better electrical properties than the “C” grade.
LE Phenolic L and LE (Linen Base / Phenolic Resin)
Fine weave cotton cloth fabrics are mixed with phenolic resins for improved machinability over “C” and “CE” grades. The Linen-based grades also have higher density and good moisture resistance. “L” and “LE” phenolics are used for fine tooth gears, pinions, rollers, relay bases, spacers, bushings, radio parts, terminal bases and strips, often in high-humidity environments. The “LE” grade has better electrical properties than the “L” grade. Linen phenolic is commonly used in government and military applications.
Glass Cloth with Phenolic Resin (G3), Melamine Resin (G5 and G9), Silicon Resin (G7), and Epoxy Resin (G10 and G11) are used in electrical components. The resins used affect heat resistance, moisture resistance, strength and other characteristics; different grades are used in switch board panels, arc barriers, circuit breaker parts, and structural electrical parts, electrical grade insulation, heating and appliance insulation, electrical and electronic test equipment and electric rotor insulation. They are extremely well suited to high speed bearings. G10 and G11 are difficult to cut and may require special equipment to machine.
Polycarbonate is a tough, transparent thermoplastic with high impact, tensile, shear and flexing strength, high elasticity, excellent heat deflection and low moisture absorption which is easy to machine to close tolerances. Its good high voltage and low frequency insulating characteristics make it an excellent choice for electronic and electrical components. It is also useful for some transparent structural applications. And is sometimes the only suitable FDA compliant material for certain food processing windows or containers. Polycarbonate may be found in brush holders, electrical connectors, insulators, coil bobbins and forms, relay components, dialysis equipment parts, medical tubing, gamma sterilizable reusables, covers, instrument covers, handles, machine guards, fittings, and rollers.
Polypropylene is a cost effective, easily fabricated thermoplastic with a unique combination of excellent chemical, physical, mechanical, thermal and electrical properties. It has lower impact strength but superior working temperature and tensile strength. Its resistance to most alkalis, acids, stains, and low moisture absorption make it ideal for the transfer of hot gases or liquids. It is used in clean room walls, floors and ceilings, chemical resistant tanks and linings, laboratory consoles, sinks and ducts, plating barrels and tanks, lavatory partitions, die cutting pads, filter press plates, pump housings and components, railroad crossing components and prosthetic devices.
Polystyrene is a versatile, usually transparent, FDA compliant thermoplastic invented for applications requiring excellent electrical and mechanical properties. It is easily processed by many methods, including machining. Polystyrenes are resistant to a wide variety of chemicals. Typical applications include tubing for corrosive liquids, splash shields, tank covers, refrigerator door linings, standoffs, studs, lighting diffusers, sign panels, co-axial cable separators, electrical components, laminated electronic circuits, high frequency insulation sheeting, insulators, knobs and buttons, handles, trays, containers, packaging applications, home appliances and toys.
PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is the most widely used type of vinyl, commonly used in pipe and fittings. It provides exceptional weather and corrosion resistance, a high strength-to-weight ratio and good electrical and thermal insulation. It is often used in clean rooms for the electronic, semiconductor, micro-manufacturing, pharmaceutical and biomedical industries. Applications include tanks, scrubbers and ventilations systems, fabricated desiccators, transparent covers, windows, doors and access panels for electronic equipment, assembly machines, instruments, cabinets, boxes, partitions and enclosures.
Teflon is the best known brand name of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) which has numerous applications due to its very low friction coefficient, non-reactivity, high melting temperature and excellent dielectric properties. It is used as a non-stick coating for pans and cookware. It is found in containers and pipes for corrosive or reactive chemicals. It is used as a lubricant in machinery, reducing friction, wear and energy consumption. It is used in surgical grafts. Its main use is for wiring in computer and aerospace applications including coaxial cable, hookup wire, an insulator in cables and connector assemblies, and printed circuit boards used at microwave frequencies. Industrially, it is used for gears, slide plates, plain bearings and other sliding parts.
Torlon is the best performing melt processable engineering thermoplastic. Parts machined from it have excellent dimensional stability, high impact resistance and great compressive strength, even at continuous high temperatures. Some grades are used for electrical connectors and insulators because of its high dielectric strength. Others are primarily fabricated for friction and wear parts, especially for severe service wear applications such as non-lubricated seals, bearings, bearing cages and reciprocating compressor parts. Its glass-reinforced grade is used for larger shapes or when the greatest degree of dimensional control is needed, such as in gears, valve plates, rotors, impellors, burn-in sockets, insulators and terminal strips.
UHMW PE (Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene) is lightweight, high in tensile strength and extremely easy to machine. It is shatter resistant, long-wearing, abrasion and corrosion resistant and self-lubricating. These properties make it ideal for many wear parts in equipment and machinery as well as a lining for storage container and handling systems. It meets FDA and USDA standards for food and pharmaceutical equipment. It is used in industrial applications such as automotive, bicycle and bottling. It is also used in total joint arthroplasty and other medical applications.
Ultem, a group of polyetherimide (PEI) products, is used in chemical and medical instrumentation, electronic and structural components because of their solvent, chemical, heat and flame resistance as well as excellent strength and dimensional stability. They stand up to repeated sterilization in autoclaves, are UV and gamma radiation resistant and are available in FDA compliant colors.
Non-ferrous metals do not contain iron. They are used for structural applications requiring reduced weight, higher strength, non-magnetic properties, higher melting points or resistance to chemical and atmospheric corrosion. They are also specified for electronic and electrical applications.
Non-Ferrous Metals include:
- Precious Metals
- Refractory Metals
PEEK is an abbreviation for PolyEtherEther-Ketone, a high performance engineering thermoplastic. PEEK grades offer chemical and water resistance similar to PPS (PolyPhenylene Sulfide), but can operate at higher temperatures. PEEK can be used continuously to 480°F (250°C) and in hot water or steam without permanent loss in physical properties. For hostile environments, PEEK is a high strength alternative to fluoropolymers. PEEK carries a V-0 flammability rating and exhibits very low smoke and toxic gas emission when exposed to flame. And unfilled PEEK is approved by the FDA for food contact applications (since 1998).
- Excellent chemical resistance
- Very low moisture absorption
- Inherently good wear and abrasion resistance
- Unaffected by continuous exposure to hot water or steam
Some of the materials we machine are listed below. Click on a list item to go directly to that description.
- Canvas Phenolic
- G-7, G-10, G-11
- Linen Phenolic
- Non-Ferrous Metals
- PEEK (PolyEtherEtherKetone)
For more information, see also Industries Served.