Choosing Machined Plastic Components Over Metal

When you’re in the grocery store, you’re probably used to hearing the question “Paper or plastic?” When it comes to the components in an application, however, the real question is “Plastic or metal?” These are the two most popular building materials for many machines, tools and parts. Choosing the appropriate material for your applications can be challenging, but choosing correctly can pay dividends in the future, and in many cases, that material is plastic.

About Machined Plastic Components

Plastic is a wonderful material to work with because there’s so much you can do with it. It can be molded, extruded, formed or machined to make the shapes you need. To machine plastic parts, you start with a block of plastic and you put it through a machine or machines that remove material to leave behind only the shape that you want. The machine is often a CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machine that has a central processor applying different functions like cutting, drilling and grinding to the material to make it match a pre-set computer blueprint. With this type of machine, the computer blueprint can be repeated so that you can cut from one to one million pieces all to the exact same specifications.

Advantages of Plastic Components

The first thing that always comes to mind when considering a change in production materials or processes is almost always cost. This is a strong area for plastic, since it is a very inexpensive material and it requires less effort to cut, grind or drill, which in turn saves manufacturing time and money. Plastic is also considerably lighter than metal, which is critical for transportation, aerospace and boating applications. Plastic is also not susceptible to corrosion. Some plastic parts also have the advantage of being able to be polished up to an optical finish.

When is Plastic Not Appropriate?

There are times when plastic isn’t the best choice of material for the construction of a component. Some plastic varieties do not handle extreme temperatures well, running the risk of cracking, melting or losing their shape. There are also some chemicals that will dissolve or damage plastic, so if a component is likely to experience extreme temperatures or certain types of chemical exposure, you might not want to make it from plastic. Machined plastic components are also not appropriate for applications where the part needs to conduct heat or electricity.

The experts at PEP Connecticut Plastics can fabricate machined plastic components to order to meet any production need you may have for any products or parts. Visit to learn more.

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