Choosing Fabrication Materials, Part II: The Pros and Cons of Plastics
A variety of different types of materials, including both plastics and metals, are frequently used in fabrication for manufacturing services across a wide range of industries. Plastics and metals come in all different types and grades, each of which offers distinct properties that work for certain types of projects. Knowing which type of material is best for a particular application can be challenging.
Working with Plastics
When it comes to working with plastics, there are a variety of advantages and disadvantages to be aware of. Depending upon the type of project, its purpose, and the industry, plastic fabrication may or may not be the right choice. In addition, your individual plastic manufacturing results will depend on which type of plastics are used.
Types of Plastics
There are many different types of plastics to consider, and each offers distinct and unique properties. At Axenics, we most commonly work with the following types of plastics:
- Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE/FPA): This plastic material is known for being tough and stable, and for having the ability to withstand exposure to harsh chemicals.
- Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC): This lightweight, rigid plastic material is used for a variety of construction purposes, and is known for its strength and fire retardant properties.
- Chlorinated Polyvinyl Chloride (CPVC): This plastic material is known for its ability to withstand higher temperatures than standard polyvinyl chloride (PVC). It is commonly used for hot and cold-water piping, as well as industrial liquid handling.
- Polypropylene (PP): This plastic material is known for its elasticity and high chemical resistance, and is commonly used in packaging for consumer products, as well as in the automotive industry, textiles, and more.
According to recent reports, “the current global demand for the material generates an annual market of about 45 million metric tons and it is estimated that the demand will rise to approximately 62 million metric tons by 2020.”
- High density polyethylene (HDPE): This plastic material is known for its high strength-to-density ratio, and is often used in the production of plastic bottles and plastic lumber, among other similar products.
- Polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF): This type of plastic is commonly used in applications where high purity is required, which is often the case in the chemical, semiconductor, medical and defense industries.
Advantages to Working with Plastics
Working with plastics during fabrication has many advantages. Plastic can be formed easily into both basic and more complex shapes than when using metals. This is due to its low melting point and high malleability. Another advantage to working with plastics is that they can be colored before they are fabricated, which reduces the need for additional finishing processes like painting and other post-fabrication processes.
Because it is lightweight by nature, plastic fabrication is often a faster and easier process than when working with metal materials. Plastic materials also generally more chemically resistant than metal materials, which is great for use in manufacturing systems where oxidation and rusting are of concern.
Flaws of Plastics
Although there are many great features that plastic fabrication provides, they are not the best solution in all cases. Plastics are not designed to withstand high temperatures or highly-corrosive elements. They are also not designed for use in building materials or heavy equipment, since they are structurally weaker than metals by nature.
If you need assistance with your next manufacturing project, Axenics can help assess your challenges and goals, and help you find the right fabrication material for your needs.