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AIM Processing Small Plastic Parts Blog

What Type of Plastic Should You Choose? Here are the Questions You Should be Asking.

[fa icon="calendar"] Aug 23, 2016 3:51:29 PM / by Jon Gelston


One of the most important decisions you make with each new plastic injection molding project you undertake is determining what type of plastic to use.  The physical characteristics of plastic run the gamut from highly pliable to extremely rigid, clear to opaque, easily reused/recycled or non-recyclable.  Naturally, resin cost and availability can influence your selection as well.

Design Questions

Through the decades, polymer scientists have done a remarkable job of developing and commercializing tens of thousands of grades (formulas) of plastic.  Each grade has been designed to meet a commercial design need and balance numerous considerations.  To begin your selection process, you may want to consider your needs.  Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself:

  1. What is the environment for this part? Temperature surroundings, exposure to UV rays present in sunlight, and nearby chemicals/cleaners can affect the strength and longevity of your product.
  2. What performance characteristics do you need? Strength, impact resistance, stiffness, flexibility, lubricity, and electrical insulation are some of the many things to consider.
  3. What is the anticipated life of this product? If it is disposable, what would you prefer happen after use?
  4. Are there any regulatory or certifying bodies that you need to consider? FDA and UL are two such reviewing organizations that may have requirements you need to consider.

Commercial Questions

Even with the availability of information on the internet and the enormous number of choices, there are still two key pieces of information that aren’t available.  Without this information you may feel like you’re car shopping without window prices.  A trusted molder or material distributor can help you navigate the final two hurdles:

  1. Availability: You may find the perfect match of characteristics, but what if the material was run with 5000 lb. minimum orders and they took 8-12 weeks for delivery?  Molders and material distributors can help guide you to the material that may not perfectly meet your every requirement, but offers better availability and is able to streamline your company’s supply chain.
  2. Price: You knew this had to be part of it, but why does it always feel like it comes at the end?  Sticking with common grades that match your needs can often help you control your costs and fit your budget.  Again, a quality molder or material distributor can help guide you to some options that will give you the benefits you need with the cost to fit your budget.

Asking the Right Questions

Although your company trusts you, that can feel like a lot of responsibility in areas that you may not feel very comfortable.  Like most things, starting with a list of questions will help you feel more comfortable and confident in your choices.

We’ve produced more than 2,000 different kinds of parts for our customers over the course of 20 years. While your needs are surely unique, we’ve got a great deal of experience to draw from in helping you produce the perfect part. Give us a call!

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Topics: Plastic Types

Jon Gelston

Written by Jon Gelston