CNC Machine Shops: Everything You Need to Find the Right Partner For Your Next Plastic Machining Project

Not all CNC machine shops are created equal.

It’s important to understand this from the outset when beginning a search for the right plastics machining partner.

Your project undoubtedly has very specific requirements, meaning it will take a “steady hand” to get things right. You’re probably working with deadlines that you can’t afford to miss, too. Taking the time today to pick the right CNC plastic machining partner doesn’t just mean that you’ll be able to accomplish your goals faster and more efficiently – you’ll be able to leverage their experience to do so in the most cost-effective way possible, too.

But thankfully, finding the best CNC machine shop to meet your needs isn’t nearly as difficult as you may be fearing. You just need to look for a few core qualities to confirm that you’ve found a true partner in every sense of the term.

Their Capabilities and Services

By far, the most important thing to look for in a CNC plastic parts machining partner has to do with the capabilities they bring to the table that other providers simply cannot match.

A solid partner won’t just offer basic drilling or routing services. They’ll have everything they need to act as a one-stop shop in every sense of the term – one that is capable of seeing your project through from the design phase all the way until those components you need are on your shop floor. They’ll be proficient in tapping, engineering, silk-screening and more. If your project requires counter sink or counter bore, they’ll be able to offer that, too. Hardware installation, FAI inspection reports, you name it – they’ll be able to do it, all without adding any more providers into the mix that will only increase the chances that something goes wrong.

Their Industry-Specific Experience

Another one of the most important qualities you’ll want to look for when choosing a CNC machine shop for your next plastics machining project has to do with the industry-specific experience they bring to the table.

CNC phenolic machining is nothing if not malleable – in a lot of ways, the process is every bit as flexible as the materials are themselves. That’s why you don’t just need a provider with experience in the type of plastics you want to work with. They also need to have proven themselves capable of working within the very strict requirements of the industry that you’re operating in.

Customers in the automotive industry have incredibly demanding weight and strength requirements, for example – not to mention exacting design tolerances of the parts they need. But the specifics of an automotive customer’s project may vary wildly from someone in need of components for military grade applications – components that need to be able to withstand some of the harshest conditions on Earth and still function at peak efficiency. This, too, will vary from the needs of an aerospace client, who will need to be able to leverage some of the latest and most advanced composite materials with hyper specific insulating and thermal resistance characteristics.

None of this is to say that one of these jobs is “harder” than any of the others. Far from it. It’s just that each situation is wholly unique and to avoid a prolonged period of trial and error that could potentially delay the components you need getting delivered, you need to find a CNC machining partner who knows and understands your industry as well as you do.

The Materials They Work With

Finally, you shouldn’t just settle for a CNC machining partner in a general sense. You should pick a provider with extensive experience in as many types of materials as possible, all so that they collaborate in an environment where innovation is truly a foregone conclusion.

PEEK® machining, for example, isn’t quite like working with other materials like G10 FR4 or even G11. PEEK® is a family of materials with excellent mechanical and chemical resistance, that also offers biocompatibility that is superior to many alternatives. Because of this, it’s used in a wide range of applications with uncompromising requirements – from medical implants in the healthcare industry to electrical cable insulation and everything in between. If you’re trying to maintain the biocompatibility of PEEK polyether ether ketone for something like a healthcare application, it typically requires dry machining for the best results. Dry machining is a process that specifically does not use cutting fluid or cold liquid of any kind, which itself is a technique that depends on precision to get right.

Of course, PEEK® has many other uses beyond those in the healthcare industry. Because it performs efficiently in environments with consistently high temperatures, it’s often used for 3D printing processes like fused deposition modeling. It’s also commonly used in parts for the outside of airplanes, because of its high resistance to rain erosion, among other properties.

The same is true of other materials that you may need to work with, like G10 FR4 which can be machined into parts with clean, smooth and crisp features that offer excellent chemical resistance and stability up to 285° F. The techniques needed to properly work with these materials will naturally differ from something like Linen L and LE fabric reinforced phenolic materials, which allow for the machining of more intricate details, like gear teeth.

Then, you have options like G5 and G9 glass reinforced melamine, which is in a family of materials that are the hardest of all laminates. Working with them is far different from working with G11, which is a glass reinforced epoxy.

GPO, XX – it doesn’t actually matter. Based on the precise requirements of your project, there likely will be very specific materials needed to execute your designs properly. But not all CNC machine shops have experience with all the above types of materials, which is why you always want to choose a partner with wide and varied experience to make sure the largest number of options are available to you.

If you’d like to find out more information about what you need to look for to find the right CNC machine shop partner for your next big project, or if you have any additional questions you’d like to discuss with someone in a bit more detail, please don’t delay – contact JMJ Profile today.

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