Plastic vs metal fabrication is a common industrial debate. Conventionally, metal fabrication was the most preferred way of production. However, over the last few decades, plastic has steadily taken over the market. As you know, plastic products are widely used across the globe. Therefore, certainly, plastic fabrication has grown in its popularity. One might think that plastic fabrication is chosen by manufacturers exclusively due to the ease of machining and the cost advantages it offers. However, that is not entirely true. Plastic fabrication aces metal fabrication in several aspects. Hence it is often chosen over metal fabrication. This post discusses why choose plastics over metals by reasoning all the beneficial aspects they provide.
Metal and plastic fabrication processes can be compared over the following aspects:
• Design Flexibility: This depends on the properties of the material chosen for machining. Metals are naturally stiff, tough, and difficult to machine. On the other hand, most plastic materials are easy to handle and can be easily machined. The dimensional stability of plastic materials makes them suited for designing intricate components. Thermoplastic or thermosetting plastics can offer great design flexibility.
• Weight: Metals are heavier than plastics due to higher specific gravity. However, plastics are polymers with lower specific gravity and therefore low weight. Generally, the same components made from metals and plastics are known to differ in terms of weight. Depending on the type of plastic polymer used, the plastic components can be half to 6 times lighter as compared to metal components. Therefore, adopting plastic fabrication can help in the reduction of product weight, which further leads to convenience in product handling, packaging, and transportation.
• Strength to Weight Ratio: When it comes to strength to weight ratio or specific strength, metals certainly offer a great deal of it. However, with advancements in plastic technologies, modern plastic materials are formulated with carbon and glass fibers which enhances the strength of plastic products.
• Strength to Stiffness Ratio: Most thermosetting plastics get hard on the heat exposure. Therefore, the molecular bonding in thermosetting plastics increases with exposure to heat which enhances the strength to weight ratio of plastic products.
• Compatibility with Fabrication Processes: Plastic can be fabricated by molding, casting, bending, extruding, and many more. A wide range of processes are available for fabricating plastic products. While desiging the manufacturing process for each component, a selective approach to fabrication technique can be adopted. This way, selecting fabrication processes according to design for manufacturing (DFM) benefits the production cycle.
• Pre-Processing Pigmentation: Plastic can be pigmented before fabrication. This eliminates the need for post-fabrication painting. Since post-fabrication treatment is eliminated, the surface errors that occur during painting can be eliminated too. This leads to a reduction in post-treatment costs and efforts.
• Plastic Fabrication is Less Time Consuming: Plastic production consumes less time due to shorter manufacturing cycles. If heat-treated, metals take a long time to cool down and align diametrically. On the other hand, molten plastic materials settle easily due to the coherent bond between molecules. Therefore, in plastic fabrication processes like molding, extrusion, bending, etc, the turnaround time of production remains short.
Now that the key differences between plastic and metal fabrication are offered, it is important to understand that plastic fabrication is effective only when performed appropriately. That is why it is essential to partner with a highly experienced custom plastic fabricator like Ehren-Haus. At Ehren-Haus, we custom fabricate, machine and form plastic products based on each client’s requirements. With over 35 years of experience to contribute to efficient material selection and overall plastic production for any project.
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