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AIM Processing Small Plastic Parts Blog

Plastic Electronic Enclosures: Expectations vs. Reality

[fa icon="calendar"] Feb 7, 2023 11:26:01 AM / by Jon Gelston

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When it comes to manufacturing custom electronic enclosures, many customers have a misperception about the utilization of plastics versus metal materials. Perhaps this is because metal is the default material for so many manufacturing applications, or because plastics were traditionally inferior to metal for many products.

However, decades of engineering and innovations in materials science have substantially improved the strength, reliability, and longevity of specialized plastics. As such, custom injection molded plastics are now the preferred material for electronic enclosures in a number of unique applications.

Expectation: Are Metal Housings Better Than Plastic Enclosures?

There are common expectations for metal material to outperform plastics when ruggedness and longevity are required. Because of these misconceptions, many customers expect metal electronic enclosures to simply be better than plastic enclosures.

Reality: Plastic Electronic Enclosures Offer Numerous Advantages vs. Metal

Modern injection molded plastics can be engineered to offer a level of durability comparable to metal electronic enclosures. Furthermore, plastic electronic enclosures offer a number of other unique benefits compared to metals. Plastics will not rust or corrode, will not cause electronic signal interference, and are often easier to manufacture when complex internal layouts are required.

Expectation: Can Plastic Enclosures Stand up to Tough Outdoor Conditions?

Metals are tried and true throughout the manufacturing world. While many metals quickly develop rust and corrosion in wet outdoor conditions, various treatment techniques which protect metals are well understood and readily available. These facts lead some customers to believe that metal outdoor electronic enclosures will survive much more reliably than plastic enclosures.

Reality: Plastic Materials Can Better Withstand Weathering and Extreme Temperatures

In many applications, plastics actually survive better than their metal counterparts in outdoor environments. Corrosion isn’t an issue, and treatments or additives can be applied to protect the plastic surface from UV damage – along with various other forms of wear and tear.

Additionally, plastic is often less susceptible to thermal expansion, making it the preferred material for enclosures that will experience extreme temperature fluctuations throughout the summer and winter.

Expectation: Is Custom Plastic Injection Molding More Expensive than Metalworking?

The plastic injection molding process is highly complex. It requires a long list of advanced production equipment, as well as the specialized materials and knowhow to manufacture a complex custom enclosure. This leads many customers to falsely believe that injection molding services will be more expensive than traditional metalworking and fabrication.

Reality: Plastic Injection Molding Services Are Often Cheaper or More Cost-Effective

In many cases, plastic electronic enclosures can be manufactured more economically than metal enclosures. With injection molding, the design-to-production process is relatively streamlined. An experienced plastic molding specialist such as AIM Processing can help a customer design a plastic enclosure and put it into production while matching or beating the cost of manufacturing a custom metal enclosure.

Plastic Molding Services for Custom Electrical Enclosures

AIM Processing offers unmatched experience in the design, manufacturing, and integration of custom plastic electronic enclosures. Our company is an ISO 9001:2015 registered American manufacturer dedicated to delivering the highest level of quality, consistency, and customer service.

Topics: Electronic Enclosures, Quality, Plastic vs. metal, Waterproofing, Outdoor enclosures

Jon Gelston

Written by Jon Gelston