There’s a long list of fabrication techniques for plastic products. They can vary by industry and they all have their pros and cons. There’s no perfect technique and the best choice of method highly depends on the specifics of each project. In this article, we’ll be focusing on one of the most popular fabrication methods called plastic welding, as well as suggesting thermoforming as an alternative option.
Plastic welding, similarly to traditional metal welding, requires the use of extremely high temperature to fuse several pieces of plastic. Typically, the edges of each plastic part are melted so that they can all be put together. Alternatively, parts can be fused with another material between them, which is a particularly useful option when we’re dealing with vastly different melting points. Plastic welding is also beneficial when adhesive binding isn’t possible. Welding can be achieved using methods such as high-frequency vibration, spinning, or hot gas emissions. Plastic welding is suitable for a wide range of plastics, including polymethyl methacrylate, polypropylene, polyethylene, acrylics, and many others.
Plastic welding is a widely popular technique and it’s an excellent choice for a range of applications. However, it does have some disadvantages. Most notably, the cost of the welding equipment can be prohibitive — it can often cost thousands of dollars which is more than what most small businesses can afford. Running costs can also run quite high. It’s not suitable for very fine work as many plastic welding techniques make it challenging to achieve fine detailing. On top of that, some methods such as laser welding require radiation exposure which makes it dangerous for health and necessitates expensive training.
If any of these disadvantages sound potentially concerning, thermoforming is a great alternative to consider. With this technique, plastic sheets are heated to a high temperature and then formed into a mold using vacuum and/or pressure. Finally, excess plastic is trimmed off to complete the product.
Thermoforming allows for high-volume orders to be produced at a much lower cost and with much faster turnaround times. It allows for easy changes to the product design and a decent amount of detailing, including surface textures. This technique is widely used in industries such as aviation, medicine, and public transport.
To conclude, both plastic welding and thermoforming are valuable techniques that have numerous industrial applications. In the end, the technique you choose will depend on the nature and the scope of your project. If you need a large number of plastics with a fast turnaround time, thermoforming might be the best option for you. If time and money are lesser concerns and you have highly-specific requirements for the product, you might be better off using plastic welding.