Manufacturing Plastic Parts: A Complete Guide

Plastics are polymers made of elements like hydrogen, chlorine, nitrogen, and oxygen. The original thought behind manufacturing plastic parts was to imitate materials like metals to get similar product quality with lighter weight.  

Manufacturing plastic parts that are customized for a particular use is a step by step process. There is a set sequence of events that need to be followed during the manufacturing process.  

Additionally, when it comes to custom plastic parts, it is also important to consider the practical requirements along with the geometric complexity of the design. 

Making parts through plastic injection molding is the latest trend in the world of plastics. The ability and ease of using different resins and combinations through the injection mold technique has multiple advantages. 

The article walks you through some of the key challenges and steps involved in the process of manufacturing plastic parts. 

Ideas create products

Creating custom plastic parts is not usually as complicated as it is perceived to be. Especially, with the invention of plastic injection molding techniques, everyone who has an idea can see it turn into a custom-designed plastic part. 

The first step is to have a great idea and a clear plan of action. So what are the steps to ensure that the product idea in your head turns out to be just the same when manufactured?

Start with making a clear sketch ensuring that all the important parts are drawn in detail. Hiring professional plastic part designers for making the sketches is also a good idea. Pointing and labeling each part and trying to get them geometrically accurate is important. 

Once a draft sketch is drawn, an engineer from the manufacturer’s team can create a 3D model of the plastic pat. Needless to say, this stage may involve multiple trials and errors to create a part that’s structurally feasible and functional.

Working with a good team and choosing a leading manufacturing partner is important. 

Plastic injection molding is the preferred technique adapted by most leading manufacturers for creating custom plastic parts. The process is more consistent in wall thickness and close tolerances and offers a perfect balance of functionality and costs. 

Additionally, plastic injection molding advantages include the maximum flexibility to create products that are complex in their design.

Once your idea is presented clearly in a 3D version with all geometric details, the next steps involve creating plastic prototypes and choosing the right kind of plastic resin for the injection molding process. 

A choice in the mold design and tooling approaches (soft tooling, single cavity pull ahead tooling) to be applied may also be made. 

Finally, it is also at this stage that you discuss your budget with the manufacturing team. Budget plays a crucial role in the choice of different plastic resins. You would need to create a path that balances your budget along with the quality of the product that you desire. 

Once the budget is agreed and the materials are chosen, the actual manufacturing process starts. The entire manufacturing process can actually be summed up as building the mold and injecting the resin in the mold to create the desired parts. 

An idea gets transformed into an actual product. The following section presents in detail the key steps involved in the manufacturing process. 

Key steps involved

Below mentioned are the basic steps involved in manufacturing custom designed plastic parts.

1. Draft a design

As mentioned earlier, the first step is to come up with a design for the plastic parts that are required to be created. The process starts by sketching the design on a piece of paper. It is important to add all the geometric details. 

The design is then converted to a 3D  model. At this stage, there is often a need to make multiple changes in the design of the part to make it achievable and yet functional. 

2. Choose the plastic resin

Once a 3D model is created, it is time to discuss and choose the type of resin that is most suitable for manufacturing the part. All plastic resins have different properties in terms of hardness, flexibility, and durability. Additionally, plastic resins also vary in their costs. 

It is hence important to balance the costs and the functionality of the plastic part that is desired to be created. 

3. Decide on the type of plastic molding process

Various molding methods are used by plastic part manufacturers across the globe. However, plastic injection molding is considered to be the most superior as well as popular technique. 

The choice of process is usually dependent on the design, the applicability of the products, the quantity of plastic parts needed and the time available for manufacturing. 

Plastic injection molding balances all the aforementioned criteria to give the users plastic parts that are functional, durable, and cost-effective. 

4. Build a prototype

Developing a prototype may not always be necessary but is a highly recommended step. Creating a prototype that resembles the final product helps you see the flaws of the design before the plastic parts are manufactured in bulk

It is not always possible to see the issues on a 3D model until the same comes live. Checking the prototype helps fix the issues that may otherwise not be apparent. 

Various prototype tools like resin prototype machines are available with the plastic part manufacturers.  

5. Create the designed part

The design is presented, the 3D model created, budget discussed, plastic resin selected and the prototypes have been approved. Finally, it is time to send the product for manufacturing.

Choosing a reputed manufacturer will go a long way in ensuring that your custom plastic parts come out as desired. 

Most manufacturing companies are equipped to handle all of the above stages for the customers. 

Tips to improve the efficiency of the manufacturing plastic parts

Even after theoretically ensuring that each of the aforementioned steps is worked out well, problems can arise during the process. In the end, it is all about execution. Executing a project well minimizes the hassles. 

Following are some handy tips to ensure that your plastic part manufacturing process has a smooth journey:

  • Choose your design and manufacturing team carefully-  Ensure that the team of professionals that you choose have adequate expertise. It is important that the professionals help you see the loopholes in your design before you spend an entire budget on bulk manufacturing. 
  • Be open to challenges and take risks. After all, this is your own unique idea. 
  • While you should definitely show up your stronger front by being open to risks, it is equally important to be practical in your approach. Be flexible with your team and show openness to incorporate the suggested changes.
  • Choose quality over costs. While budget constraints must always be kept in mind while choosing a material, ultimately, it is the quality of your plastic parts that will grab you a place in the market. Ensure that you do not compromise on the quality while cutting down your costs. 
  • Stay in the loop and maintain regular touch with your manufacturing team during the entire process. 

With the advent of technology, the world of plastic part manufacturing has seen some major changes. The manufacturing processes used these days are much less complex. 

Additionally, the use of modern technologies like injection molding has reduced the chances of inaccuracies in the plastic parts being manufactured. The availability of a wide range of plastic resins and the inventions in mold design engineering have increased the applicability options.

Further, the utilization of robotics has minimized the need for labor and has made the manufacturing process highly cost-efficient. 

As long as a reliable and reputed team is chosen for the job, manufacturing plastic parts can be done with high accuracy and precision.