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Precision plastic machining – How does it work?

How does it work
How does it work
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There is perhaps no other compound that has changed our lives as we know it as has the use of plastic. In fact, plastic can be found in almost any tool, device or piece of equipment that we use and it serves multiple functions. In order for it to be of benefit to us, it needs to be manufactured to specific specifications. That is where precision plastic machining comes in, a type of manufacturing which fabricates and fashions pieces of plastic, as well as thermoplastic materials into usable items. Here is a basic overview of how the process works.

First of all, you need to have all of the equipment, as well as the skilled labor in place in order for precision machining to take place. By having the proper pieces of equipment, you will be able to adhere to quality control standards which will allow the plastic to be machined to the specifications that are necessary. The workers, who play a direct part in the production of those pieces must contain a variety of skill sets. Those would include sanding, drilling, milling, turning, grinding, tooling and punching.

Something interesting about plastic machining is the fact that it is often controlled, to a large part, by computer software. This is a process that is known as computer numerical control (CNC) machining. It is used to operate many of the tools that are used in precision plastic machining, such as mills, lathes, grinders and routers. By allowing the computer to control these devices, it is possible to have a greater degree of precision in the final product (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Numerical_control).

The first step in plastic machining is often lathing. During this process, a lathe is used to create the finishes and optical clarity for the surface of the plastic. Although the ways lathes are used may differ from each other, it is possible that they could make microscopic turns for a greater degree of precision. In some cases, lathes may also be equipped to provide secondary operations, such as milling or the removal of burrs.

In order to produce a smoother surface and a finer finish for the product, the plastic will be milled (polished). In some cases, optical grade quality might be required, and it is achieved during the milling process.

The polishing process, which takes the step of milling one degree further, can be done in a number of different ways. Some of the specific methods for plastic polishing include mechanical buffing, flame polishing and vapor polishing. The type of polishing that is used will be determined by the material that is being worked and the end product that is desired.

Finally, the end product is annealed, which brings it to the desired texture, hardness or consistency by heating and cooling the product. This also helps to build up the stress resistance of the piece that is being worked. As a result, it is much less likely for the piece to crack or break when it is put under stress during the time that it is used.

Adrian Thomas is the author of this article about precision plastic machining. Sources for this article can be found at http://www.acrylicart.com and feel free to connect with him via Google+.