You are on page 1of 11

Plastic Manufacturing

This technique is widely used for forming thermoplastic materials. It


is similar to the casting technique used to form metal components.
The plastic (in a powdered or granular form) is put in a hopper. A
screw thread turns forcing the plastic material through a heater,
melting it. When all the materials has melted the screw thread then
acts as a ram and forces the plastic into mould, where it cools and
solidifies.
Injection moulding is a very common process used in the
manufacture of the casing of many electronic products such as TV's
and radios.

Advantages
High production rates are possible. (A typical cycle time for a 3mm
thick part would about 40 seconds)
Injections moulding allows you to produce products with a good
finish to a good consistent quality..

Disadvantages
Very expensive to set up - the tools (the dies or moulds) are
produced to a high degree of accuracy and surface finish.

Blow moulding is used to manufacture bottles and containers with


very thin walls. Blow moulding first requires a tube of plastic to be
extruded. The tube of molten plastic is extruded between the two
halves of a mould. Before the plastic cools the two halves of the
mould are brought together and air is blown into the centre of the
material through a blow pin. This forces the plastic out forming the
shape of the mould. The plastic can then be cooled and removed.
This technique is used to produce plastic bottles.

Advantages - High production rates.


Disadvantages - Poor quality surface finish. Can only be used for
thin walled materials.

This process is widely used to form metal and plastic components


that have constant cross sectional shapes such as pipes, curtain rails
etc.
The extrusion process is similar to injection moulding. Plastic
granules are heated in a hopper and a screw thread forces the
material through a die.The material is then cooled. Extrusion can
only be used for simple shapes and the end product generally has a
poor quality finish.

Vacuum forming is used to make simple moulds using thin sheets of


thermoplastic. High impact polystyrene sheet is what is used in
school (HIPS). PVC can also be used.
A mould is created from wood or epoxy resin and this is placed on
the table (platten) of the vacuum forming machine. The sheet plastic
is heated until it becomes soft.
The table with your mould on is lifted into position and a vacuum is
used to draw the plastic over the mould. Vacuum forming only works
with thin plastics and moulds with no undercuts.
The plastic can then be trimmed to the required shape.

This is how thermosets are formed. The reaction occurs in the mould
as the granules are heated and compressed. UF or urea
formaldehyde and MF melamine formaldehyde are formed by this
method.

Line Bending

Acrylic, foamex, styrene(hips) can be bent using a line bending


machine. The line bender heats the plastic using a hot wire or
electric fire element. Once the plastic is softened it can be bent to
the required angle. The plastic must be heated across the whole

width of course.

Plastics are synthetically produced non-metallic compounds. It can be molded into


various forms and hardened for commercial use. Plastic molding products can be
seen everywhere. Examples are jars, protective caps, plastic tubes, grips, toys,
bottles, cases, accessories, kitchen utensils and a lot more.
Even the keyboard and the mouse that you use are made through plastic molding.
Even the plastic parts of the chair that you are sitting on are created this way.
The basic idea in plastic molding is inserting molten liquid plastic into a ready
shaped mold, for example the mold of a bottle. It will be then allowed to cool, then
the mold will be removed to reveal the plastic bottle.
Plastic molding can also custom-mold a wide variety of plastic products including:
garden pots, cabinets, office trays and boxes, barriers, barricades and traffic
signage and displays for product and marketing promotions.
If you are planning to go into plastic molding business, you should first know the
different processes. Choose from a plastic molding process that fits your budget,
your expertise, and your resources. Here are basic definitions of various methods of
plastic molding.
The Plastic Molding Processes:
Injection Molding
In Injection Molding, melted plastic is forced into a mold cavity. Once cooled, the
mold can be removed. This plastic molding process is commonly used in massproduction or prototyping of a product. Injection molding machines were made in
the 1930s. These can be used to mass produce toys, kitchen utensils, bottle caps,
and cell phone stands to name a few.
Blow Molding
Blow molding is like injection molding except that hot liquid plastic pours out of a
barrel vertically in a molten tube. The mold closes on it and forces it outward to
conform to the inside shape of the mold. When it is cooled, the hollow part is
formed. Examples of blow molding products are bottles, tubes and containers.

Equipments needed in setting-up a blow molding business are relatively higher than
injection molding.
Compression Molding
In this type of plastic molding, a slug of hard plastic is pressed between two heated
mold halves. Compression molding usually uses vertical presses instead of the
horizontal presses used for injection and blow molding. The parts formed are then
air-cooled. Prices of equipments used for compression molding are moderate.
Film Insert Molding
This plastic molding technique imbeds an image beneath the surface of a molded
part. A material like film or fabric is inserted into a mold. Plastic is then injected.
Gas Assist Molding
Also called gas injection molding is used to create plastic parts with hollow interiors.
Partial shot of plastic is then followed by high-pressure gas to fill the mold cavity
with plastic.
Rotational Molding
Hollow molds packed with powdered plastic are secured to pipe-like spokes that
extend from a central hub. The molds rotate on separate axes at once. The hub
swings the whole mold to a closed furnace room causing the powder to melt and
stick to the insides of the tools. As the molds turn slowly, the tools move into a
cooling room. Here, sprayed water causes the plastic to harden into a hollow part. In
this type of plastic molding, tooling costs are low and piece prices are high. Cycle
time takes about 40-45 minutes.
Structural Foam Molding
Structural foam molding is a process of plastic molding usually used for parts that
require thicker walls than standard injection molding. Inserting a small amount of
nitrogen or chemical blow agent into the plastic material makes the walls thicker.
Foaming happens as the melted plastic material enters the mold cavity. A thin
plastic skin forms and solidifies in the mold wall. This type of plastic molding can be
used with any thermoplastic that can be injection molded.
Thermoforming
In this plastic molding process, sheets of pre-extruded rigid plastics are horizontally
heated and sucked down into hollow one-piece tools. When the hot plastic solidifies,
its shape conforms to that of the mold.
Tooling costs are usually low and piece prices vary on the machinery.

Plastic molding is a very technical process. It needs experts in this type of


manufacturing business for it to be competitive in the market. Therefore, a very
scientific and systematic study should be first made before going into this endeavor.

Plastic Forming - the ways in which plastic can be formed


You already know where plastic comes from and the types as explained in the
sections on sourcing plastic and the various types of plastic. The next step is how
plastic can be formed and manufactured into a product - this includes injection
moulding and also blow moulding, line bending and vacuum forming.
Key points and basics:

- Injection moulding is where plastic is heated and forced (injected)


into a mould
- Blow moulding is where air pressure blows the plastic to fill out the
mould
- Vacuum forming involves heating a plastic sheet and 'sucking' it over
a mould
- Line bending is where a plastic sheet is heated over a line and is
bent
- Injection moulding:
We have a dedicated section on plastic injection moulding - click here to view.

_______________________________________________________________________

- Blow Moulding:
Blow moulding is the type of plastic forming used to make large quantities of hollow
products, such as bottles, containers and jars. An injection blow moulding machine as in the
animation below can produce bottles of a very high quality and ideal for thin and fat
containers.
Watch this animation of the process below a few times!:
1) The extruder barrel and screw is heated and melts the plastic (polymer). This is then
injected into the mould which would be the shape of the bottle.
2) The plastic (which is around a core rod) is then clamped into the mould which is cooled.
Compressed air then 'blows' the plastic into the mould.
3) After a cooling period the mould opens and the plastic removed, which is now the shape
of the bottle. This would then be fully tested before packaging.
The materials that are usually used:
Polyethylene (Low Density) LDPE, Polyethylene (High Density) HDPE), (LLDPE),
Polypropylene (PP), Polyethylene - Terephthalate (PET), Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
_______________________________________________________________________

- Vacuum Forming:
Vacuum forming is a very common type of plastic forming and many plastic products have
been vacuum formed - such as packaging inside a box which needs to fit the product. The
animation and explanation below shows the basic process involved, for high speed, more
detailed and mass produced the process uses more complicated hydraulic and heat
controls.
Watch the animation below...

1) A plastic sheet is heated until is it soft and can be placed and draped over a mould.
2) A vacuum is then applied which 'sucks' sheet into and over the mould.
3) The plastic sheet is then cooled and removed from the mould - leaving the finished
shape.
_______________________________________________________________________

- Line Bending:
Line bending is the process used when a simple bend is needed in a sheet of plastic
(thermoplastic!). The below diagram is a simplified machine but the red line is a hear bar
that heats the plastic along the line to a temperatue that it is soft enough to bend. Once the
bend is made the heat bar is turned off so that the plastic can cool and retain the bent
shape.

In todays manufacturing environment, plastics are being used to make everything from automotive body
parts to human body parts. Each application requires a special manufacturing process that can mold the
part based on specifications. This article provides a brief overview of the different types of molding and
their advantages and applications.
Blow Molding Well suited for hollow objects, like bottles
The process follows the basic steps found in glass blowing. A parison (heated plastic mass, generally a
tube) is inflated by air. The air pushes the plastic against the mold to form the desired shape. Once
cooled, the plastic is ejected.
The blow molding process is designed to manufacture high volume, one-piece hollow objects. If you need
to make lots of bottles, this is the process for you. Blow molding creates very uniform, thin walled
containers. And, it can do so very economically.
Compression Molding Well suited for larger objects like auto parts.
The name of this molding method says everything. A heated plastic material is placed in a heated mold
and is then compressed into shape. The plastic can be in bulk but often comes in sheets. The heating
process, called curing, insures the final part will maintain its integrity. As with other molding methods,
once the part has been shaped, it is then removed from the mold. If sheeting plastic material is used, the

material is first trimmed in the mold before the part is removed.


This method of molding is very suitable to high-strength compounds like thermosetting resins as well as
fiberglass and reinforced plastics. The superior strength properties of the materials used in compression
molding make it an invaluable process for the automotive industry.
Extrusion Molding Well suited for long hollow formed applications like tubing, pipes and straws.
While other forms of molding uses extrusion to get the plastic resins into a mold, this process extrudes the
melted plastic directly into a die. The die shape, not a mold, determines the shape of the final product.
The extruded tubing is cooled and can be cut or rolled for shipment.