If you remember the timeless film “The Graduate,” you probably remember the infamous line, “The future’s in plastics.”
That line was 100 percent correct, but it didn’t explain some of the different manufacturing processes used to create plastic products. For example, there’s compression molding and reaction injection molding.
There’s some fascinating technology involved, so let’s take a deeper dive into the most common manufacturing processes for plastics. Here’s a closer look at the processes used to create many plastic products.
Many plastic products begin their manufacturing lives as liquids—and if that’s the case, there’s a good chance that molding shapes them into their final form.
There are many types of molding, though. For example, injection molding makes 3D materials. Similarly, blow molding, compression molding, and rotational molding are the other basic categories used to make products requiring specific shapes.
Many plastic products have metal parts. If this is the case, the manufacturers most likely used machinery. The basic machine categories include tools like saws, shears, and possibly rotational wheels.
You may also find laser and erosion machines involved in the manufacturing process. There are a lot of possibilities once machines enter the manufacturing process.
At some point, manufacturers have to put all those molded and machined parts together. That’s where joining enters the process. The most common techniques in joining are some combination of welding and soldering, but manufacturers also use fasteners and adhesive bonding for some processes.
Shearing and forming
This article has already mentioned shearing, but there are so many variations that it deserves its own category. This technique is one of the most common manufacturing processes for plastics.
The most typical application occurs when manufacturers apply cutting blades to metal for straight cuts. This is known as die-cutting, a popular process for an assortment of materials, including brass, stainless steel, aluminum, and even bronze.
Forming is similar to shearing because the technique also shapes metal. However, forming involves using a chosen stress technique, such as compression, to shape materials into the final product. As a general rule, forming tends to be more versatile than shearing. Manufacturers can also use the production technique on other materials. Depending on product type and characteristics, you’ll likely find any of these processes in a variety of plastic manufacturing environments.