Plastic components are widely used in a range of products, applications, and industries, including sectors that predominantly use metals, like automotive and electronics manufacturing.
Synthetic polymers are manufactured using different methods, depending on their numerous applications and other factors. Statista notes that global plastic production has increased, reaching over 390 million metric tons in 2021.
With the rising demand for plastic parts, efforts to improve production efficiency and sustainability have contributed to innovations in plastic production. Let’s explore some of these modern procedures.
This modern plastic production uses heat and low pressure to mold plastic sheets into different shapes, colors, finishes, thicknesses, and other product specifications. These products are then trimmed and refined to their final shape before cooling and becoming rigid. Although widely used in food containers and packaging solutions, janitorial, agriculture, and construction projects stand to benefit from this plastic-making process.
Thermoforming is a cost-effective business solution. However, it pays to seek professional services from thermoforming Illinois or similar companies in your area if you need to know more about this process.
2. Polymer 3D Printing
This revolutionary technology has disrupted several industries, including the plastics manufacturing sector. Three-dimensional printing produces plastic components through additive manufacturing, which relies heavily on computers and software.
Raw materials, either powdered grains or plastic resin, are turned into thin layers of plastic filament. These are later fused layer by layer to create even the most complex parts with precision.
By ensuring accurate replication of specific products in shorter periods, 3D printing has allowed prototype creation without sacrificing product quality. Several industries benefit from this plastic production method, including the automobile, aerospace, electronics, and healthcare sectors.
3. Vacuum Casting
Also known as urethane casting, this manufacturing process is utilized in creating both plastic and metal parts. Vacuum casting involves creating molds and injecting liquid plastic into these form-shaping containers under a vacuum. Doing so ensures the resin fills the mold completely without forming air bubbles.
Vacuum casting is used in several industries, especially in projects requiring accuracy. For instance, car designers can easily replicate prototypes using vacuum casting. It offers a more cost-effective solution than 3D printing and has increased production capacities compared to the latter.
4. Plastic Injection Molding
As you may have guessed, plastic injection molding uses high pressure to inject liquid resin into a metal die. Injection molds are typically made from steel or aluminum and engineered to optimize quality and efficiency.
As the material takes the shape of the mold, it’s then cooled, becoming rigid. The newly formed plastic or final product is then removed and goes through finishing touches or quality checks. This process takes place several times until the desired quantity is reached. Injection molding works well in creating custom plastic parts with high volume requirements.
5. Compression Molding
Compression molding relies heavily on heat to create the final product. The process starts by pre-heating the raw material, typically polyurethane or elastomer, and placing it in a die.
Heat and pressure are again applied as the cast is closed, ensuring that the final product accurately takes the mold’s shape while maintaining its strength. The final product is removed from the die, cooled, and trimmed.
This modern technology is widely used in producing small plastic parts and products, for instance, in the automotive sector. Compression molding is ideal for producing plastic components that can withstand constant use, such as O-rings, rubber keypad switches, and gaskets.
6. Extrusion Molding
Extrusion molding is a plastic-production process that involves melting the plastic resin and placing it on a machine to form a lengthy tube-like product. The processes involved in extrusion molding are somewhat similar to injection molding, except that it relies on extrusion (or forcing the raw material through holed dies instead of ‘molding’ it).
Extrusion molding is used in creating straws, hoses, and plastic pipes. The home furnishings sector also benefits from this process, as window frames, deck railings, and wire insulation products utilize extrusion molding as a key manufacturing process.
7. Rotational Molding
Rotational molding is another plastic component production process that uses a cast. However, unlike injection molding, which uses liquid resin, rotational molding requires powdered plastic resin or linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE).
The raw material is poured into the die cavity, heated in an oven, and rotated into two axes. The heating process melts the resin, while the rotation process ensures all the cavities and surfaces of the mold are covered.
Also known as Roto molding, this method is widely used by companies that create large-sized plastics with hollow shapes. Makers of high-quality and robust plastic items often employ this method to produce their products.
Over the years, technology has grown by leaps and bounds. Integrating these advancements into the manufacturing sector ensures that the processes and workflows are optimized and manufacturing equipment efficiency is maintained.
Choosing the right technology, however, can take time and effort for business owners. It’s crucial to prioritize your manufacturing needs, identify rooms for improvement, and assess the short and long-term business values of each option. Looking past the upfront costs of machines and equipment and evaluating ownership and maintenance costs helps you arrive at an informed decision.