Pros and Cons of Plastic vs. Metal Fabrication

Fabrication entails the process that includes the cut or shape of a material for an end product. Before deciding whether to fabricate using metal or plastic for a job, it’s wise to know the pros and cons of each material. Both materials entail cutting, forming, machining and welding. But, choosing the right fabrication is important for your project. Here’s an outline of some of the pros and cons of both plastic fabrication and metal fabrication to help you in your decision process.

The Pros of Plastic Fabrication

Whether you use nylon, plexiglass or acrylic plastic, there are several advantages. Plastics have a low melting point and are very malleable. With ease, it can be fashioned into complex or simple geometries. It can also be colored before the fabrication process. This eliminates the need for post-treatment methods. Plus, plastic fabrication is fast. It entails quick turnover rates and fast cycle times. Generally, plastic weight less than metals, too. Plastics have a strong chemical resistance. They are less reactive to rusting and oxidation.

The Cons of Plastic Fabrication

One of the downsides to plastic fabrication is that it’s limited to the fabrication of certain parts. It also has limited wear resistance, since it’s vulnerable to acidity and temperatures. Plastic also has a structural weakness. Many plastics are not strong enough for items that require strength, such as heavy equipment.

The Pros of Metal Fabrication

The common metals used for fabrication are steel, copper, iron, aluminum, iron and nickel. Compared to plastics, metals have high heat resistance, more strength, versatility and cost-effectiveness. Generally, metals have a higher melting point and tend to be stronger and more durable than plastics. Plus, they can be fabrication using a wide variety of processes like chipping, casting, welding, soldering and deep drawing.

The Cons of Metal Fabrication

Although metals have advantages to plastics, there is a downside. Metal fabrication comes with high start-up fees, design limitations and secondary operations. Metal tooling costs are more expensive than plastic tooling costs. Due to viscosity, some metals are not well suited for complex shapes. Metal fabrication is likely to need post-fabrication processes. This includes deburring, painting and finishing. All of these processes tally up to more time and money.

You really need to determine the pros and cons of each and decide which is best for your project. Likely, your decision will be based upon available budget, product purpose and product appearance. Just make sure you know all about both types of fabrication before making your decision.

After you decide which is best, then it’s time to choose a forming process. Common applications for forming processes include lathing, drilling, honing, grinding and milling. It’s up to you to determine which is the appropriate forming process.