About Engineering Plastics

Engineering plastics are a group of plastic materials that have better mechanical and/or thermal properties than the more widely used commodity plastics (such as Polystyrene, PVC, Polypropylene and Polyethylene).

Being more expensive, engineering plastics are produced in lower quantities and tend to be used for smaller objects or low-volume applications (such as mechanical parts), rather than for bulk and high-volume ends (like containers and packaging).

Engineering plastics have gradually replaced traditional engineering materials such as wood or metal in many applications. Besides equaling or surpassing them in weight/strength and other properties, engineering plastics are much easier to manufacture, especially in complicated shapes.

The global market for engineering plastics in terms of revenue was estimated to be worth $45.2 billion in 2011 and is expected to reach $76.8 billion by 2017.

List of Engineering Plastics

 

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS)
Nylon 6
Nylon 66
Polyamides (PA)
Polybutylene terephthalate (PBT)
Polycarbonates (PC)
Polyetheretherketone (PEEK)
Polyetherketone (PEK)
Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)

Polyimides
Polyoxymethylene plastic (POM / Acetal)
Polyphenylene sulfide (PPS)
Polyphenylene oxide (PPO)
Polysulphone (PSU)
Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE / Teflon)
Ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene (UHMWPE / UHMW)

Manufacturing Processes

 Injection moulding is a manufacturing process for producing parts by injecting material into a mould. Injection moulding can be performed with a host of materials, including metals, glasses, elastomers, confections, and most commonly thermoplastic and thermosetting polymers. Material for the part is fed into a heated barrel, mixed, and forced into a mould cavity, where it cools and hardens to the configuration of the cavity.http://www.rutlandplastics.co.uk/images/Moulding%20Machine%20lg.jpg

 Injection moulding is used to create many things such as wire spools, packaging, bottle caps, automotive parts and components, Gameboys, pocket combs, some musical instruments (and parts of them), one-piece chairs and small tables, storage containers, mechanical parts (including gears), and most other plastic products available today. Injection moulding is the most common modern method of manufacturing parts; it is ideal for producing high volumes of the same object.

 Plastics extrusion is a high-volume manufacturing process in which raw plastic is melted and formed into a continuous profile. Extrusion produces items such as pipe/tubing, weather stripping, fencing, deck railings, window frames, plastic films and sheeting, thermoplastic coatings, and wire insulation.

 Blow molding is a manufacturing process by which hollow plastic parts are formed. In general, there are three main types of blow molding: extrusion blow molding, injection blow molding, and injection stretch blow molding. The blow molding process begins with melting down the plastic and forming it into a parison or in the case of injection and injection stretch blow moulding (ISB) a preform. The parison is a tube-like piece of plastic with a hole in one end through which compressed air can pass.

 The parison is then clamped into a mold and air is blown into it. The air pressure then pushes the plastic out to match the mold. Once the plastic has cooled and hardened the mold opens up and the part is ejected.

Thermoforming is a manufacturing process where a plastic sheet is heated to a pliable forming temperature, formed to a specific shape in a mold, and trimmed to create a usable product. The sheet, or "film" when referring to thinner gauges and certain material types, is heated in an oven to a high-enough temperature that permits it to be stretched into or onto a mold and cooled to a finished shape. Its simplified version is vacuum forming.

In its simplest form, a small tabletop or lab size machine can be used to heat small cut sections of plastic sheet and stretch it over a mold using vacuum. This method is often used for sample and prototype parts. In complex and high-volume applications, very large production machines are utilized to heat and form the plastic sheet and trim the formed parts from the sheet in a continuous high-speed process, and can produce many thousands of finished parts per hour depending on the machine and mold size and the size of the parts being formed.

Compression molding is a method of molding in which the molding material, generally preheated, is first placed in an open, heated mold cavity. The mold is closed with a top force or plug member, pressure is applied to force the material into contact with all mold areas, while heat and pressure are maintained until the molding material has cured. The process employs thermosetting resins in a partially cured stage, either in the form of granules, putty-like masses, or preforms. Compression molding is a high-volume, high-pressure method suitable for molding complex, high-strength fiberglass reinforcements. Advanced composite thermoplastics can also be compression molded with unidirectional tapes, woven fabrics, randomly oriented fiber mat or chopped strand.

The advantage of compression molding is its ability to mold large, fairly intricate parts. Also, it is one of the lowest cost molding methods compared with other methods such as transfer molding and injection molding; moreover it wastes relatively little material, giving it an advantage when working with expensive compounds. However, compression molding often provides poor product consistency and difficulty in controlling flashing, and it is not suitable for some types of parts.