Processing Plastic: What You Need To Know

Plastic is all around us. Parts of our computers and smartphones are made out of plastic, thousands of products are protected using plastic packaging, and even parts of our cars are made from plastic. There are many different polymers that make up these plastics, and not only are the polymers different, the method by which products are made varies as well. Here are a few examples of how plastic is created and processed.

Many products in the world are created using a process known as injection molding. In this process, glass, metal or plastic is heated and injected into a specially created mold. Thermoplastic is used for injection molding more than any other material, but it is important to note that there are several different kinds of thermoplastic. All thermoplastics are polymers in the form of pellets or perhaps granules that can be heated and then easily molded and then cooled and returned to their solid state. Injection molding is certainly one processing method you could choose, but it is also perhaps the most expensive method by which thermoplastics are processed, leading many companies to opt for thermoforming.

Thermoforming is a very common method that is used to process plastic and transform it into something highly useful. The process begins by creating a mold of a specific product. Sheets of plastic, rather than granules, are created out of specific polymers and will then have heat applied to them in order to make them easy to shape. The plastic is placed into the mold and any extra plastic will be trimmed away. Some examples of thermoformed plastic include many types of packaging, from food packaging to the packaging of virtually millions of products that we can buy at the store.

Of course with injection molding, it is easy to understand that melted plastic is injected into a mold. With sheets of thermoformed plastic, there are other ways to get the pliable sheets into a mold. One method is called vacuum forming, and this simply means that the heated, moldable plastic is basically sucked into a mold with the force of the vacuum.

When you have smaller items or highly detailed products, such as items with printing or sharp edges, you need a bit more precision, so you probably should opt for pressure forming. Pressure forming is an excellent option because it provides a high level of quality with a lower cost than injection molding. With this process, vacuum is used to draw in the plastic, but this plastic also is pressed from above to ensure that the thermoplastic fits snugly into the mold.

When looking for a company to produce your plastic products, look for one that can help you with all the details, providing a total solution that includes everything from development to production to quality control and much more. Keep in mind that the costs for production have many variables, including the amount of items that are being produced as well as the type of thermoplastic that is used during production.

Lenna Stockwell enjoys writing about how stuff is made. For further information about plastic thermoforming solutions or to find out more about retail product packaging, please visit the Indepak site now.