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.
Plastic welding, similar to traditional metal welding, requires the use of extremely high temperatures to fuse several pieces of plastic. Typically, the edges of each plastic part are melted so that they fuse together but there are various methods to accomplish that.
Hot air welding uses air that has been heated by electric heating elements in the welding gun. The hot air enables the components to melt and join together.
Radio frequency welding uses high-frequency energy (radio waves) and works best on thin plastics and can be done in as little as two to five seconds.
Ultrasonic welding is similar to frequency welding but instead of using radio waves, it uses the heat generated from high-frequency acoustic vibration. This The high-frequency electrical energy is converted into high-frequency mechanical motion. Force is applied along with the mechanical motion and this creates frictional heat at the joining point.
Spin welding is the process of attaching two materials by friction. One piece is rotated at a high velocity while the other is stationary. The friction causes molting and the two pieces are fused.
Alternately, parts can be fused with another material between them, which is a particularly useful option when we’re dealing with vastly different melting points. And welding can be suitable for a wide range of plastics including polymethyl methacrylate, polypropylene, polyethylene, acrylics, and many others.
Welding is a widely popular technique however, it does have some disadvantages. Most notably, the cost of the welding equipment can be prohibitive — it can often cost thousands of dollars. It’s also not suitable for very fine work as many welding techniques make it challenging to achieve fine detailing. In addition, some methods such as laser welding require radiation exposure which makes it dangerous for health and necessitates expensive training.
With these disadvantages in mind, thermoforming is a great alternative to consider. With this technique, thermoplastic sheets are heated to a high temperature and then formed into a mold using vacuum and/or pressure. Excess plastic is then trimmed off using a CNC machine to complete the product.
Thermoforming allows for high-volume orders to be produced with a much fast turnaround time and at a lower cost. It allows for easy changes to the product design and a decent amount of detailing, including surface textures. Thermoforming also allows for several finished parts to be created from the material. That materials have a high tolerance to repeated activation so it can be reheated and reshaped several times. This feature also makes thermoplastics recyclable.
The number of different materials that can be used with thermoforming also increases its versatility. Here are just a few of the materials that are highly suitable for thermoforming.
Thermoplastic materials exhibit the same characteristics as rubber and can have the same strength as aluminum. Different materials can retain their properties from 100 degrees F to 600 degrees F. If metal of carbon is added, they can be electrically conductive.
This technique is widely used in industries such as medicine, aviation, and public transport. It is also commonly used for clamshell packaging, packaging blisters, shipping trays, packing inserts, pop displays, material and handling trays and covers.
To conclude, both plastic welding and thermoforming are valuable techniques that have numerous industrial applications. Ultimately, the technique you choose will depend on the nature and the scope of your project. If you need a large number of parts done in Flagstaff AZ, with a fast turnaround time, thermoforming might be the best option for you. Reach out to us at Grand Canyon Plastics to see how we can help design, build and finish your project all in house.