Plastic materials available today offer a wide range of improved performance characteristics over metals and ceramics for some applications. Properties can include heat-resistance, thermal and electrical insulation and extreme durability. Selecting the right material for each application is important, but you rely on your machining partner to have the expertise in handling the material properly. Here are some tips you may find helpful.
1. Extensive experience and understanding of how plastics perform during the machining process.
Plastics perform differently than metals, and require precise tooling, fixtures, speeds and set-up for each type of material. Using the right parameters will avoid problems such as burning, chipping, melting and burrs.
2. Smooth interface with customer’s 3D modeling files.
Your partner needs to be able to work with the files that you provide, and to convert them to machine instructions. Look for a partner with the design assistance and programmers who can identify potential conflicts and problems before execution.
3. Wide selection of common, specialty and filled materials.
Work with a partner with the ability to stock the materials you need, and a preferred partner of the plastics manufacturers.
4. Expert machining capabilities that include CNC routing, milling, and turning.
Look for a partner with the fabrication expertise that comes only from years of experience. Machine parameters can be programmed, but the operator is also a critical part of the process, monitoring tool effectiveness, and running quality checks throughout the run.
5. Ability to hold critical tolerances of +/- .0015 in most materials. Although programming and setup are critical, a partner who produces consistent product that is in-spec will incorporate First Article Inspection, in-process and final inspections during every project.
6. Segregated, plastics-only machining and fabrication facility. Assure that your product is not cross-contaminated by selecting a partner with plastics-only fabrication and machining centers. In facilities with dual fabrication centers, look for isolated HVAC and physical separation for the best results. Look for a clean, organized plant that shows pride in workmanship and professionalism.
7. Flexibility to run prototypes, scale-up and large production runs. Many projects can be produced as a 3D model or set up digitally to view the machining process virtually prior to going into production, allowing the design team to analyze and fine tune the process. Look for a partner who has the expertise and experience to take your project to the next level, or to produce longer runs.
8. ISO 9001-2015 Certified. When your partner’s quality management system is certified according to ISO 9001:2015, it shows their commitment to continuous improvement in their product and service offerings. Every step of your project will be documented for repeatability and consistent results. Ask them to show you records demonstrating their ability to provide accurate documentation and reporting.