In historical context, plastic was issued as a “cheap” replacement for expensive materials and supply shortages. In fact, plastic gained prominence during World War II when war rationing necessitated material substitutes.
While plastic today is still an affordable manufacturing medium, it has revolutionized production for a range of industries and is certainly not a “lesser” material. Because plastics offer strength, durability, and corrosion resistance to chemicals and weather, they have gradually replaced metal as the dominating trend for industrial applications.
Although the 1950 invention of engineering-grade resins introduced manufacturers to metal-to-plastic conversion, many today are still unaware of the advantages this versatile technique offers. For companies familiar with manufacturing plastic parts, however, the enhanced cost-savings and part quality derived from a metal-to-plastic transition have kept them at the forefront of today’s shifting industrial landscape.
Here, we will evaluate the untapped benefits of transitioning your product design to implement plastic.
Overview: Plastics vs. Metal
As more and more industries become aware of the benefits of metal-to-plastic conversion, high-volume injection molding is trending as the method of choice for part manufacturing. A primary advantage for injection molders, plastic parts can often “consolidate” and simplify the functions of multiple metal parts into an individual piece. With more efficient means of part composition, plastic can reduce the labor requirements, secondary operations, and provide continual refinement in manufacturing and assembly processes.
Utilizing plastic in your manufacturing operations can also significantly reduce waste. At the production level, excess plastic can be easily recycled. Because plastic regrind delivers nearly the same quality as the virgin material, even non-biodegradable waste can be reused. Additionally, plastic molds elicit higher dimensional tolerance and longer production lifespans further minimizing production waste and saving manufacturers enormous costs.
Plastic injection molded parts are precise, consistent, and reliable. With increased opportunities for predictive manufacturing, injection molding can expedite production runs, mitigate errors and part inefficiencies, improve waste reduction and, ultimately, the bottom line.
Advantages Of Plastics
In the past plastics were considered a lesser alternative, concerning strength, quality, and life expectancy, to metal. How the times have changed; some modern plastics are stronger than steel. Industrial plastics offer a distinct set of advantages. For one, plastics parts are significantly lighter than alternative materials, such as machined or cast metals, and allow end manufacturers to produce lighter weight products. Many industrial plastics also have a higher tensile strength than competing metals.
Plastics are insulators and conduct electricity very poorly, a desired trait in many applications. Despite its dated reputation for corrosion and melting under extreme chemical/thermal conditions, plastic is as durable and resistant as it is strong. Some polymers can withstand even the most potent acids and bases, and manufacturers can use additives in their formulation to enhance the strength of the finished product when exposed to extreme conditions.
Ultimately, plastic is an immensely versatile material that has given manufacturers a flexible, creative edge in their design process. Capable of consistent and precise part production, regardless of volume or application, plastic products are beneficial to industries ranging from electronics and automotive to healthcare and wherever components must meet exact specifications.
Using Plastics to Cut Manufacturing Costs
On top of offering a multitude of material benefits, plastics can also drastically reduce manufacturing costs. As already mentioned, plastics give an opportunity to replace multiple metal parts with one plastic part, which subsequently eliminates secondary operations, such as fastener and assembly processes.
This simplifies the labor and cost initiatives required to manufacture end-products. Plastic components produced through injection molding are also cheaper to construct and design. In comparison to metal, one can directly add color to plastic melts instead of painting or laser marking material, and create both simple and complex shapes with ease. Such capabilities can streamline operations and reduce the costs of production and labor.
Weight is a substantial cost consideration for electronics, automobiles, and various other applications and industries. Because plastic is lighter than metal, shipping and delivery costs can be reduced exponentially.
Plastic parts can offer up to six times the life expectancy of metal alternatives. Such longevity raises the quality of end-products and their value to consumers. For companies using plastic components in their manufacturing machines, this can reduce maintenance costs.
Conclusion: Plastic Is the Future and the Future is Here
Plastic injection molding is gradually becoming the future of manufacturing. For molders and consumers, the benefits of replacing metal parts and processes with superior plastic injection molded components are untapped. High-quality polymers and resins have paved the road for affordable creativity and high-speed, quality production runs. To learn more about the opportunities and applications plastics can offer, contact New Berlin Plastics today.