Custom Plastic Fabrication

Custom plastic fabrication is a versatile process for making many parts and components according to your specifications. This guide takes you through all the vital processes, and techniques in plastic fabrication process.

What Is Custom Plastic Fabrication?

It refers to any process used in designing, manufacturing, or assembling different plastic products to suit specifications of a particular application.

Custom plastic fabrication processes are available in several methods designed to yield different final products.

custom plastic

custom plastic

This process includes numerous secondary services for plastic materials to create high-quality parts and components for different industry applications.

fabricated custom plastic

fabricated custom plastic

How To Select A Custom Plastic Fabrication Process

When selecting the most suitable custom plastic fabrication process for your product, it is important to determine several factors such as follows;

Part design – The simplicity or complexity of the custom plastic part determines the most suitable fabrication process to undertake.

Each part design has a specific fabrication method that best suits it.

Plastic material – Plastics are available in a wide range of materials as far as quality, hardness, texture, thickness, and grade are concerned.

Whether the plastic materials consist of single or multiple plastics is a significant concern.

Production throughput – Based on efficiency, cost, and quality, some custom plastic fabrication methods are ideal for high volume production, whereas others are suitable for low quantity production.

Finishing – Different customized plastic products require different levels of surface finishing. Some fabrication processes are suitable for parts that require neat finishing.

Lead time – Some custom plastic fabrication processes are suitable for making parts within shortest time possible.

Thus, how fast you need your finished custom plastic products also determines the type of fabrication process to choose.

Cost Determination Factors For Custom Plastic Fabrication

Like any other customized process, cost for custom plastic fabrication services often varies depending on type of mold needed and the project.

Simplicity or complexity of the end part or component is a key determinant factor of this process.

Parts per cycle or production volume is another important element in determining the actual cost of custom plastic fabrication.

The actual type of plastic material you use for custom fabrication is also an important cost determinant element.

Besides, secondary processes required on the fabricated plastic part are also integral in determining the cost of this process.

It is recommended to figure out your project budget ahead of time is ideal since it enables you to establish the right custom plastic fabrication process.

This includes several cost-related aspects, such as suggestions for material changes and other cost-saving interventions.

Types Of Plastic

Plastics are available in thousands varieties, all with different base chemistries, additives, and derivatives formulated to cover numerous aesthetics and functional properties.

Ordinarily, you will find such plastics in two main categories as explained below;

Thermoplastics

These are the most commonly used type of plastic material in many custom plastic fabrication processes.

Thermoplastics can go through several melt and solidification cycles without encountering any significant degradation.

thermoplastics

thermoplastics

It is usually supplied in form of small sheets or pellets formed into desired shape after heating.

The notable types of thermoplastic materials include the following;

  • Acrylic
  • Polycarbonate
  • Polyamide
  • Polypropylene
  • Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS)
  • Polyethylene
  • Polyvinyl chloride

These plastics are largely used in different industries to create various parts, components, and products.

Thermosetting Plastics

Also known as thermosets, these are types of plastic material that stay in a permanent solid state once curing process is over.

During curing process, the polymers in thermosets cross-link due to heat, light, or suitable radiation induction.

As such, the curing process forms an irreversible chemical bond.

thermosetting plastics

thermosetting plastics

Unlike thermoplastics, you can never recycle or return back thermosets with the base ingredients.

The common types of thermosetting plastics include the following;

  • Epoxy
  • Polyester
  • Silicone
  • Cyanate ester
  • Vulcanized rubber
  • Polyurethane

Custom Plastic Fabrication Techniques

You can use several techniques to fabricate a variety of plastic materials to fit the specific applications accordingly.

These methods vary depending on a wide range of prevailing factors, including the part design and ultimate product.

The common ones often used to customize plastic include the following;

Plastic Thermoforming

It is a process of molding a thin plastic sheet around a male or female mold.

Plastic thermoforming is available in two methods, which include vacuum and pressure thermoforming.

Vacuum thermoforming entails sucking air out of the gap between softened plastic material and mold.

On the other hand, pressure thermoforming involves applying pressure on the top section of the plastic to push air out of gap to form desired shape.

Pressure thermoforming is ideal for customizing plastic products since it captures details and texture accurately.

This fabrication process is also cost-effective but often limited to thin-walled parts.

Plastic Machining

It encompasses numerous subtractive methods designed to shape a plastic workpiece.

The specific plastic machining technique depends on the size and shape you want to attain on the part.

Some common plastic machining processes include turning, cutting, grinding, milling, and drilling among others.

Milling involves rotating sharp cutters to remove material from a stationary workpiece.

Turning, on the other hand, is about rotating the workpiece and moving the cutters along it.

Drilling is a process of creating holes in plastic using a drilling machine with a drill bit.

Cutting merely involves slicing off parts of a workpiece, whereas grinding is about filing down spots or edges that protrude too far.

Plastic Lamination

It is a custom plastic fabrication process that entails creating a barrier along the surface of another material.

The essence of this process is to enhance longevity, aesthetics, and styling quality.

It is also an ideal cost-effective measure used for shielding a plastic material that is sensitive or prone to deterioration.

Resin and film are the notable fabrication methods for plastic, and they all include applying heat and pressure to plastic to enable its adhesion to a moving substrate.

Film lamination is suitable for creating a plastic barrier on the exterior of a product.

Resin lamination, on the other hand, is ideal for creating an adhesive layer between two substrates.

Plastic Welding

It is a fabrication process of joining thermoplastic parts and components that are unsuitable for gluing or other assembly techniques.

This method has numerous variants, and the most common ones include speed tip welding, hot gas welding, and contact welding.

Most plastic welding variants entail preparing plastic surfaces, applying heat and pressure then cooling.

The different plastic welding techniques are classified as mechanical, thermal, or electro-magnetical.

Besides, the equipment used in plastic welding is usually

Compounding Plastic

Also known as blending, it is a type of custom plastic fabrication which integrates two or more plastics into an amalgam before creating them into a single part.

This process entails mixing molten plastics to precise specifications and forming them with a die, mold, or other shaping tools.

Compounding plastic is commonly used to enhance the ease of processing a particular material and to improve product performance.

As such, this process yields a unique material that complements a specific application accordingly.

The notable types of plastic compounds include;

  • Base resins
  • Flame retardants
  • Blowing agents
  • Polymer fillers
  • Purge compounds
  • Pigment masterbatches

Plastic Molding

This refers to a process of forming plastic into a specified style, design, or shape by allowing a heated and pliable workpiece to cool and harden within or around the mold.

plastic injection mold

plastic injection mold

Plastic molding is available in different types, but the most commonly used ones include the following;

Rotational Molding

It creates hollow plastic products like automotive parts, toys, canoes, and buoys among others.

In this process, however, unmelted plastic is sealed inside mold and heated thoroughly to ensure it covers the inside in a uniform layer.

rotational molding

rotational molding

This plastic molding option is suitable for making larger complex components with even walls.

Injection Molding

It involves melting plastic resin into mold, making it ideal for mass production at cost-effective rates.

injection molding

injection molding

Injection molding is suitable for applications that need a higher melt index, such as dishware production.

Compression Molding

This type of plastic molding involves heating and compressing pellets of plastic powder into the desired shape.

compression molding

compression molding

Blow Molding

It is a plastic molding process used for making containers like bottles or fuel tanks.

This process features the additional step of pushing air into mold and, in an expanding bubble, forming a hollow center and more precise impression.

blow molding

blow molding

It then allows the plastic to solidify into desired shape since it hits the cool mold.

Reaction Injection Molding

This process entails using a wide range of thermoset plastics that can only be melted once.

In this case, two polymers are combined inside a mold that facilitates a chemical reaction that hardens them into the desired product.

reaction injection molding

reaction injection molding

Plastic Extrusion

You can use this custom plastic fabrication process to create piping, tubing, or sheeting components.

It also comes in handy in enhancing the efficiency of further processing or forming stages.

The most common types of this process include profile and sheet extrusion.

plastic extrusion

plastic extrusion

Plastic 3D Printing

It is often executed through several methods.

The notable plastic materials you can use in this process are PETG, ABS, PLA, polycarbonate, and nylon among others.

Plastic 3D printing is usually used for prototyping, automotive spare parts, tooling, research, and production.

The main type of 3D printing techniques you can use in custom plastic fabrication include the following;

Fused Deposition Modeling

Commonly known as FDM, it works by heating up extruded thermoplastic filament before depositing it in desired shapes from a moving nozzle based on computer commands.

It prints 2D slices of the specific part or component layer by layer until the ultimate 3D object is attained.

Stereolithography

Usually referred to as SLA, it works by selectively curing photopolymeric resins with a specific light source such as a laser.

It enables printing of parts layer by layer as the print bed moves through the resin vat.

Selective Laser Sintering

SLS, as it is popularly known, works by using a laser to sinter 2D shapes selectively layer by layer in plastic powder as it builds a complete plastic part.

This custom plastic fabrication 3D printing method hardly requires support structures.

Secondary Custom Plastic Fabrication Methods

Most plastic parts and components undergo a wide range of secondary custom fabrication processes to ensure they attain the desired results.

Some common methods used in custom plastic fabrication include the following;

Saw Cutting Plastic

It involves slicing or splitting the plastic part into different pieces or sizes using a sawing tool.

Mostly, depending on the part design complexity or simplicity, you can use various types of saws ranging from hand-held to power saws.

Saw cutting guarantees ideal part tolerance, which is critical in custom plastic fabrication processes.

Bonding Plastic

This is a process that involves joining different plastic parts using different techniques.

It makes it possible to create products with different properties designed to suit the specifications of a particular application.

CNC Routing Plastic

It is a process that uses a computer-controlled machine to cut, mill, or drill plastic materials, parts and components into desired shapes and geometries.

This process is regarded as the most efficient, reliable, and accurate as far as fabricating plastic products is concerned.

It is speedy thus ideal for customizing different plastic parts and components to ensure they suit the particular application’s specifications.

Drilling Plastic

It is a secondary plastic fabrication method that involves creating holes on the surface of a plastic product or component.

This process often uses a power drill with a relatively sharp drill bit to create such holes accordingly.

Edgework Plastic

It is the process of smoothening the various edges of a specific plastic product to attain a uniform or smooth texture.

Some plastic fabrication methods ordinarily create plastic parts with uneven or rough edges that would hardly be useful in different applications.

Thus, working on the edges ensure they attain the right surface texture and geometries to suit the desired application.

Bending Plastic

Ideally, bending refers to the process of forcing the plastic material or product into desired shape in its cold state before heated up to a relatively low temperature.

Some applications use bent plastics to provide the desired results.

Hence, you must bend the plastic product appropriately to ensure it attains the desired angle.

Advantages Of Custom Plastic Fabrication

Some notable benefits of this process include the following;

High Precision – You easily attain the necessary accuracy on your custom plastic parts since you always figure out the exact geometry before setting up the process.

Cost-Effectiveness – In the long run, custom plastic fabrication is cost-effective since it eliminates the need for post-manufacturing processes and adjustments.

Reduces Wastage – Most processes involved in custom plastic fabrication use highly efficient equipment that minimizes wastage significantly.

Knowing Best Best Material For Custom Plastic Fabrication

The ideal way to determine the suitable material to subject to custom fabrication is dependent on what the plastic part is intended for and its properties.

Hence, you must establish the application of product, conditions it is likely to be exposed to, regulatory requirements, and electrical conductivity among others.

For all your custom plastic fabrication needs, Weprofab is here to help.

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