5 important factors for producing great machined plastic parts

Sep 29, 2021 | CNC Machine Shops, CNC Phenolic Machining, Composite Machining, News, Plastic machining services, Plastics Machining

When thinking about what makes for a great machined plastic part, the processes and experience of our shop have shown that there are 5 very important factors to consider. Whether a plastic machined part will be a great success or be destined for the recycling bin before being placed into service may rely upon understanding and properly dealing with these five considerations.

1. Design and engineering – dreaming vs.reality

The design engineer may be able to make something look great on paper, and quite often that’s something that is also functional and realistic for production in the real world too, but there are times when we look at drawings and see that there will be problems with some of the tolerances or in the material properties of the selected plastics that will have a greater potential to fail under heavy use in the field. Engineers may sometimes specify different steps in the process from what makes sense from a machinist’s perspective too, and may not be practical from a time perspective for producing a part economically. We work closely with design engineers early in the process, and are often consulting with our customers long before initial drafting and engineering begins. This helps us to understand the needs of both the production machinist and also the Design Engineer so that our process can be more realistic overall.

2. Material properties and considerations for machined plastic parts

The material selection, with choices in thickness for a given application, can be an important part of choosing the most efficient process for producing a great result. Some processes may require different cutting tools, or the use of different tooling altogether. Plastic machining material choices will not only affect the production efficiency, but also what kind of results to expect in the final product quality. Figuring out if a plastic machined part is best produced with CNC turning capability is one thing to think about when figuring out what steps in production are best for that job. Are there electrical properties that are important to consider for your project? Does the project or part call for a specific flexibility or a rigidity? How does friction and wear factor in to the part’s longevity and usefulness? Will the part be subject to a good deal of thermal extremes and fluctuation? All these questions come into play when designing a successful machined plastic part, and all require a good deal of attention and careful thought regarding material selection and specification.

Using the right material, the right thickness for a given application, and one that can be machined efficiently is vital to producing a great end result. The choice of material has many factors including cost, availability, properties for a given application and a variety of other factors as well. Plastic materials will require careful selection to allow for ease of manufacturing and ultimate success in meeting production goals. Some thermal and electrical properties for different types of plastics are better for an application than others, and it may not always be clear which one will perform better under grueling daily use, and which might fail or create other problems in humid weather, or hot and dry conditions. Material selection is often the most important contributor to the success of a plastic machined part.

3. Figuring out all the steps in the process

How a job is designed for production will depend on the final product use, the material, tolerances required for that material, and the physical dimensions of the part. The quantity of the parts that are needed, and ordered, as well as the material sheet sizes available also have a strong influence on the final machined part yield, and how quickly something can be created. Figuring the best steps in the process will make sure the job not only goes smoothly, but that the customer is ultimately satisfied with their delivered parts. There are many different processes for machining plastics, and the majority of those processes will need specific tooling and the correct progression of steps to allow for the most efficient production.

4. Cutting tools and techniques

Cutting tools that are used, are milling tools that are drill-like, with double flutes, and are the same tools used in a metal CNC machining shop, but because of the differences between a large variety of materials we work with we have developed special tools and procedures (even working at different angles and speeds that deliver better results, depending upon the material). Because some materials may also have composite materials like glass, or other hardening additives like carbides and fabrics, and because there are different requirements based on the intricacy and difficulty of the part, almost every job we do requires some degree of “custom tooling approach.”

You’ve heard it said before, “Choosing the right tool for the job is the best way to get it done right.” This certainly holds true for plastics machining. Especially on mission critical parts that will be placed into service and are expected to perform at high standards for years and years. There are many choices of materials, tools and techniques available for machining plastic parts compared to metal parts, but there are some things that are universal commonly used in plastic cutting. The right tool will help with removing material more quickly or accurately than with cheaper cutters or by using bits and pieces from other machines. Tools like these may be critical to success as well as potentially saving time and money by helping with cutting process optimization as well as improving overall production output.

5. Great communication and collaboration makes the difference!

Sending a project out to an unknown partner can be like sending your kids off to a college you’ve never heard of before. Unfortunately, if you’re not familiar with the company you’re dealing with or you don’t know their reputation, you really don’t know what to expect. You may get back something that is completely different than what you expected if it’s left up to the machinist or their design engineer to interpret your needs and desires, rather than working closely with you. This is why working closely together bridges the gap between an idea and a great finished product. Great communication is key to better parts manufacturing.

Because JMJ Profile has been in business for over 25 years, and being based on the east coast of the United States, in Southern New Jersey we’ve learned that great communication with our customers, and prompt customer service are paramount to a successful project. We really do care about our customers’ success. Our skilled technical staff of machinists and production specialists work with our project managers, and directly with our principal company owner to communicate process and progress daily, working closely on all aspects of the job. Collaboration with our customers in a straight-talking manner contributes greatly to their project’s success. We are very open in our communications, our quoting process is quick, easy to read and understand, and our customer service goes above and beyond to help make sure a project not only meets its requirements, but makes our customers proud that they chose us for their plastic machined parts needs. We strive to make their choices easy, and some have been with us for repeat projects, for over 20 years. Read a little more from one of our customers, and what they have to say about their experience in working with us.

We’re excited to talk with you too, to learn more about what you’re looking for, and we’d love to send you a sample of one of our machined plastic parts to show our ability and craftsmanship. Give us a call at 856-767-3930 or to learn more or request samples just fill out the contact form on our contact page and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

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