What are you waiting for?

Published On: March 21st, 2024|Categories: Blog|

Converting metal parts to plastics and composites has been around for decades, yet, manufacturers, meaning designers, engineers and Commodity Managers, aren’t taking advantage of the benefits that come from conversion.

Historically, manufacturers have depended on metal due to an existing wealth of metal knowledge, it’s strength and stiffness, perceived quality, and ideal properties related to electricity, UV performance, and chemical resistance.

More and more companies are realizing, due to a fluctuating economy, high cost of goods, and smaller margins, the need for materials that can reduce weight, cost, and production time area bigger factors than ever!

But, many engineers are not big risk takers. That is where we come in. Our job is to make you look good in your job!

With proper design, engineered plastics, and high-performance resins, designs can be just as strong, just as resilient as metal. According to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, (an article over ten years old BTW) in general, companies can duplicate those needed characteristics of metal AND expect to achieve an overall cost savings of 25% to 50% by converting to plastic parts.

Converting to plastic gives product development designers more freedom, including greater variety in material selection and being able to create more complex geometries. It is much easier to produce complex shapes in plastic compared to metal. Thanks to injection molds, they allow for under-cuts, threads, and tight tolerances allowing a net shape to be produced to final level specifications without secondary (time is money) operations.

Key Factors that Drive Metal Replacement

There are many factors that drive metal replacement, however the main three include:

  1. Reduced systems cost
  2. Improved performance
  3. Product differentiation

When beginning the process of determining if metal replacement is the right move, conceptually assess questions like: is there a potential for parts consolidation? Are there quality or ergonomic issues? Are the current assembly operations too complex or expensive? These are all important questions that help ensure you are taking a systems-solution approach, which is critical for successful plastic-to-metal conversion.

9 Benefits of Metal-to-Plastic Replacement

Plastics have been highly successful in replacing traditional materials in applications where they can provide value through improved performance at lower systems cost. Here are some of the benefits of metal-to-plastic replacement:

  1. Weight reduction: plastics yield lower density and are about six times lighter than zinc. Less weight leads to ease of use and better gas mileage, resulting in cost savings for both parts and raw materials.
  2. Parts consolidation: plastics allow for reduced part count and inventory through redesign. Oftentimes, a single injection molded part can replace multiple metal pieces.
  3. Productivity gains: processes like plastic injection molding allow for higher volumes and shorter cycle time conversions.
  4. Labor savings: plastic requires minimal assembly and, due to in-mold decorating technologies, reduced secondary operations such as welding, painting, and laser marking.
  5. Safety: plastics are impact resistant, flame resistant, and also non-conductive, which can improve the overall safety of the end product.
  6. Balance of properties: plastics have a broad spectrum of chemical formulas each having different beneficial traits.  Engineering resins are then the blending of these basic resins to provide yet additional optimized properties.
  7. Re-process (thermoplastics): in some cases, start-up or scrap parts are allowed as regrind for the application or scrap is utilized in other plastics through reprocessing. At a minimum, recycling can be an environmental plus and regulatory win.
  8. Longer product life: high performance resins are corrosion resistant, which reduces the need for secondary coatings and sprays.
  9. Design freedom: plastics provide the flexibility to use complex geometry.

In summary, metal replacement is largely driven by system cost reduction. Plastics may offer additional performance advantages, such as weight reduction, impact improvement, and corrosion resistance. The most impactful metal replacement successes typically require a cross-functional team reviewing an entire subsystem, rather than a one-for-one replacement.

Need more insight as to what plastics/composites to consider? Give us a call. We have extensive experience with metal to composite conversion, a number of them are on our testimonial page. We have converted parts to PEI (Polyetherimide), ABS, ABS blends, Nylon, PEEK and many others.

                PlastiCert Testimonial #2

When fully assessed, the conversion isn’t a risk but a strategic move. Let us help you.   Our job is to make you look good in your job!


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