What You Should Know About Plastic Machining

by Walter Smith
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A lot of people know about plastics and its uses to society, but few people know about plastic milling. Most people don’t even know about plastic CNC milling.

For those who don’t know what machining is, it simply means a controlled manufacturing procedure that produces parts from different ranges and kinds of material.

In recent times, due to the advent of technology and innovation, industries started to use computer numerical control (CNC) because it’s precise and accurate.

When you want to choose a machining process for a part, consider the design and the material for the product as the process and result largely depends on them. This is important because it’s very important for plastic products to crack, warp, or damage when inappropriately handled.

This doesn’t even include the fact that plastics come in different shapes and sub-compositions, each with unique properties. As a beginner, you have to partner with a supplier that knows his onions.

Now that you know what plastic machining is all about, let’s look at the various types. Although we shall touch on various types, our focus is going to be on plastic milling.

Types of Plastic Machining

Common plastic machining operations include:

Turning
Just like the name implies, this operation takes place on a lathe. The lathe rotates the workpiece so that the cutting tool can eliminate any excess material based on the planned design. The cutting tool is stationary.

Milling
There is a distinct difference between turning and milling. The turning operation involves rotating the workpiece, but the milling operation involves rotating the cutting tool to eliminate plastic chips. In the turning operation, the cutting tool is stationary.

There are different milling techniques, and some work with plastics far better than others, but the right choice depends on a lot of things.

Cutting:
This is a popular plastic machining method but operators carry it out with so many precautions. This is because cutting operations generate some kind of heat, and plastic’s nature doesn’t allow them. It may cause them to warp thermally.

Grinding:
This technique is almost similar to milling because the workpiece is stationary. The main difference is that milling cuts intermittently while grinding cuts all through until the product achieves a fine and smooth finish.

Drilling
It is often not advisable to drill plastics because it’s risky. Overheating or shearing could occur as a result. A skilled technician, with the right tools and precautionary instructions, small and large diameter holes can be created without destroying the structure.

Plastic Milling
As you know, milling is one of the commonest practices used in plastic machining. Now you have to know the kind of tooling needed for different plastics. Carbide tools go with reinforced materials while high-speed steel tooling thrives on thermoplastics.

You have to be very careful when clamping the plastics to the mill bed to avoid deformation. For roughing cuts, use standard roughing end mills. For inside pockets, use end mills with round corners.

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