Plastic Materials Used in Machining Processes

Using Plastic in the CNC Machining Process

Machining plastic is a subtractive manufacturing process offered by 3Diligent and a fine art when it comes to the machining industry. Plastics come in a wide range of densities and hardness factors, which means manufacturing can cause the materials to chip, melt, or crack. Many metal job shops and machine shops accustomed to cutting metal will not with plastics.

When choosing plastics for your machined parts, you must factor in thermal expansion, moisture absorption, residual stress, and reaction to chemicals. With a vast selection of plastic materials available in the 3Diligent 3Depot Material & Technology Search Tool, the possibility of finding a machinable plastic able to meet your specifications in these four areas is not only possible, it’s likely.  

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
3Diligent example technology: CNC machining plastic

3Diligent ProdEX Procurement for Plastics

3Diligent ProdEX is your sourcing solution for Industry 4.0 technologies such as CNC machining and materials including plastics. Our digital-manufacturing services are provided by the world’s most cutting-edge, rapid-manufacturing service bureaus, job shops, and machine shops.

Plastic is not like metal

Working with plastics in the machining process is much more difficult than metal—with so many variables, so much can go wrong. Even so, plastic is extremely popular because plastic parts are cheap to manufacture, lightweight, and durable. When it comes to creating parts, nothing is better than machining for meeting the specifications that require tight tolerances and mirror-like surface finishes using a polishing process or chemical. 80% +/- of plastic parts are CNC milled, the most widely used process for machining plastics without a revolution axis. The remaining 20% or so are typically turned on a lathe though slotting and planning is used to create inner grooves or rectangular holes. If you are interested in plastic machining, click this button to create a free ProdEX account and begin the procurement process for your part, prototype, or production run.
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email

Types of plastics ideal for machining

Most quality plastic materials are stress-relieved to ensure machinability and dimensional stability during the manufacturing process. However, due to the softness of plastics when compared to metal options, it’s usually difficult to maintain specifications of tight tolerances—both during and after the machining process. As a guide for your planning process, consider that plastic parts are +/- .001 per inch of dimension. If tighter tolerances are required, some stable, reinforced plastics can deliver tighter tolerances.

Listed below are some plastics commonly used for machining. The 3Diligent 3Depot Material & Technology Search tool provides many other material options for additive and subtractive processes. Click here to start your 3Depot search.

ABSOutstanding impact-resistant, low-cost plastic suitable for machining and thermoforming. AcetalHigh strength, stiff, low friction engineering plastic with good wear properties. AcrylicOutstanding strong, stiff, clear plastic available in a variety of brilliant colors and finishes. PolyamideExtremely high temperature creep resistant plastic with excellent friction and wear characteristics. High Impact PolystyreneLow cost, tough plastic material that is easy to thermoform and fabricate. NylonStrong, stiff engineering plastic often used to replace metal bearings and bushings.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email

Terry Trumbull, VP of Electro-Mech Components, Aerospace Industry

We worked with 3Diligent on a urethane casting project. The breadth of materials and services they offered, including flame retardant and color options, made them a great partner on this program. We were very satisfied with the experience.

Driving technology for leading brands.

Getting a Quote from 3Diligent is
Free, Simple, and Easy

The evolution from prototyping to production is different for every project, calling for different machines, materials, and investments every step of the way.  No provider can offer everything you could need under a single roof, especially in the rapidly evolving space of digital manufacturing—and when companies try, it makes even the most basic jobs exorbitantly expensive.

That’s where 3Diligent has been designed to be different.  Using the power of cloud computing, 3Diligent leverages a global network of qualified manufacturers to complete custom manufacturing projects on demand.