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  • We frequently find ourselves in discussions with clients who are unable to decide whether to use plastic machining or plastic injection molding to create their custom plastic parts.

    Although the decision is difficult, answering a few questions can help you determine which plastic manufacturing process is best for your project. In this blog, we'll discuss the factors that influence your decision to use plastic injection molding rather than precision plastic machining.

    What is the difference between a plastic injection mold and a plastic machining operation?
    Plastic injection molding is a process in which solid plastic pellets are heated to their melting point and injected into a cavity known as a "mold."The pellets then cool in the shape of the mold. Precision plastic machining is the process of reducing a larger block of solid plastic to the desired dimensions by employing sophisticated machinery. Both injection molding and machining are viable manufacturing processes, so how do you decide which one to use?

    How many custom plastic parts do you require?
    Plastic injection molding is less expensive per part than plastic machining, but the upfront cost of the mold is high: anywhere from a few thousand dollars to a few hundred thousand dollars if the mold is very complex. As a result, if you only require a few hundred or fewer plastic parts, it makes sense to machine them. Even though machining is approximately 25 times more expensive than {anchor}, you will avoid the high initial cost of the mold and save money in the long run. If, on the other hand, you anticipate thousands of jobs, plastic injection molding will most likely save you money. You should consult with an expert to determine the exact quantity required to make {anchor} economically feasible for your project.

    Will you have to make any changes to the design of your custom plastic part?
    If the design of your custom plastic part is likely to change in the near future, investing in an expensive mold is a waste of money. If you intend to make changes to your design, it is best to machine your parts. Not only will you save thousands of dollars on a mold that will no longer be used, but you will also have the flexibility to change the design at any time. Plastic machining is well-known for being a more adaptable manufacturing process.

    How precise do you require your custom plastic parts to be?
    The more closely you require your plastic parts to adhere to your design specifications, the more likely it is that you should machine them to achieve your desired results. While injection molding is fairly precise (within.005 inches of specifications), machining produces parts that are within.00001 inches of specifications. Your final decision will be based on whether or not looser tolerances are acceptable for the nature of your product. Plastic machining is popular among clients in the telecommunications, aerospace, and medical equipment industries because of its high level of precision. Other industries can and should take advantage of the advantages of plastic injection molding if minor inconsistencies make no difference.

    What level of perfection do you require in your plastic parts?
    Plastic injection molding can result in minor cosmetic imperfections that are not always acceptable. For example, when the mold is removed, the gates of the mold leave a slight flaw, as do the knockout pins that were used to remove the part, which leave small depressions. Perfect surface smoothness can also be a problem when creating custom parts using plastic injection molding. Plastic machining is likely to be preferable if your custom plastic parts are required to be free of even minor cosmetic flaws.
    Is it necessary to use a high-tech specialty plastic?
    Finally, when you plan on using injection molding, your options for plastic materials are generally more limited. While rubbers and other flexible materials are ideal for molding, many harder, high-performance specialty plastics are only suitable for machining. If you have a specific advanced plastic in mind, it's possible that machining is your only option.

    Plastic Machining or Plastic Injection Molding: In conclusion
    Tolerances as close as possible to the limit
    The shortest turnaround times
    Small quantities yield the best cost efficiency.
    Design with the greatest amount of flexibility
    There are no cosmetic imperfections (ejector marks, parting lines, etc.).
    The widest selection of advanced specialty plastics available.
    Furthermore, even if you intend to use plastic injection molding to produce thousands or even millions of parts, you may still want to use plastic machining to test prototypes of your design before investing in a mold.

    Reading Plastic Machining & Fabrication: Your Industry Experts
    Let's talk about solutions. We're well-known for our extensive industry knowledge, ability to maintain tight tolerances, and dedication to providing excellent customer service throughout the entire machining process. We've worked with a diverse range of clients, both private and public, on projects spanning a wide range of industries. We also do not have a minimum order quantity set by the manufacturer, so you can entrust us with plastic machining projects of any size.