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.


6 Tips To Consider When Purchasing Injection Molds

Injection molds are meant to make manufacturing easier and increase productivity. Of course, that’s only when the right one for each project is purchased. The wrong fit or design can result not only months of lost work and delayed production, but damage to the equipment itself. With this in mind, here are 6 tips you should consider when purchasing injection molds:

1. Timing Depends on the Project

For some projects, a general injection mold will do, and you will not need to plan too far ahead during the design process. But for more creative projects that depend on precision, you will need to start planning the mold design early on in product development. If it is a complete custom design or a rarely-seen one, you will need to allow for more time for both design and approval.

2. Collaboration is Key

The most successful and creative projects are when the part designer, mold fabricator and injection molder are able to communicate efficiently and collaborate. After all, you don’t want to go ahead and approve a mold design only to find out that it cannot be made to specifications or that it won’t actually function as the injection molder needs it to. Though taking the time to communicate every step of the process may feel like it’s taking extra time, it can save you a lot of time (and money) later on.

3. Anticipate Issues

Even the best planning can sometimes end up in errors, but you don’t need to let it take you completely off guard. Plan (set aside extra time and funds) for potential re-cuts, for example. You may need the mold to be adjusted a few times before the plastic portions are brought into the exact range they need to be in. You may even need to resize the design in general at some point.

4. Prepare Your Production Floor Team

Even the most efficient production / shop floor teams will appreciate advance notice for when any new injection molds are going to arrive. They will need time to install the mold where it needs to go and make sure it is connected properly. They will need to check a number of things like lift straps, hot runner and coolant controllers, heater plugs and cables, water manifold ports, fittings, hoses, bolts, and more. This cannot properly be done at the last minute.

5. Standardize Designs that Work for You

Many people wind up needing the same injection mold later on. You can maximize both cost savings and efficiency by making the design standardized. Additionally, standardizing different features like clamp slots and connection locations on different machinery can also save you both time and money (especially if you need to relocate the injection mold later on).

6. Cost Savings May Not Always Be Worth It

Even more basic injection molds require a high degree of craftsmanship and precision. While you may be able to trim costs on many projects by going with cheaper options, it is crucial to really evaluate whether or not you can afford small errors or misalignments on your current one. Even small savings can end up costing you big time down the road if it means having to scrap a ton of used up material or tools and having to spend more on labor costs.

Future of Single Use Packaging In a Post-Pandemic World

The current pandemic has caused dramatic changes in the way we do many things. The same can be said about the way many businesses are dealing with some of the common methods they use each day, including single use packaging. In the past, as recently as 2019, there was a lot of backlash regarding plastic single use packaging. Many companies were looking for alternatives to help save the environment. While this is still an important initiative, the recent pandemic has left all of us thinking about things in a new way. Reusable bags are no longer allowed in stores due to the risk of transmitting the virus and disposable gloves are now a hot commodity, along with hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes, which are typically housed in plastic containers. Now, it’s more important than ever for companies to look for sustainable options that maintain the need for these types of products to help keep individuals safe and healthy, while still protecting the environment.

Lightweight Containers

In the past, many companies were highly focused on the aesthetics of the packaging they used in an effort to attract consumers to their products over their competitors. However, with the pandemic and the increase in demand for certain products, aesthetics are taking a much lower priority. In fact, it’s best for companies that must use plastic for their containers to choose a more lightweight approach, sacrificing aesthetics for the minimal use of plastics in their packaging. Dispenser designs in particular are changing with a push towards minimal contact and even touchless options for dispensing hand sanitizer and other similar products.

A Longer Shelf Life

Healthy juices are another popular item that is flying off the shelves as individuals seek more ways to stay health and improve their immune system overall. However, with the use of more lightweight containers, these juices may break down more easily, which results in the need to improve their shelf stability and ensure they don’t go bad more quickly. This has led to a push to find ways to create more sustainable bottles that can provide consumers with the products they need without having a negative impact on the environment.

New Recycling Methods

The good news is plastics can typically be recycled, helping reduce the amount of waste that ends up in the landfills and promoting a healthier environment. However, if single use plastic packaging is changing in its construction, this also means new recycling methods must also be developed. In fact, chemical recycling is growing in popularity as a more effective way to recycle many of the single use plastic packages today. If these methods are successful, it will change the way companies and consumers look at plastics in the future.

Although the pandemic has generated a lot of bad news, it has opened an opportunity for plastic producers and those that use these products for their packaging to change the way they do things. This doesn’t mean the end of plastics, but instead creates the chance to look at things from a new perspective to reduce the negative impact on the environment and continue to provide consumers with the products they need, especially those that have found a higher demand amid the pandemic.

Polyethylene Liners Find Second Life

Even if you don’t know what a polyethylene liner is off the top of your head, you’ve seen them. If you frequently get packages, you’ve probably seen them a lot. These insulated packaging liners help keep all kinds of goods from becoming damaged from heat or other extreme temperatures, and they’re largely responsible for the rise in online food and pharmaceutical shipping services.

The downside? They’re really tough to recycle. The base design of these liners consists of a multi-film, metalized composite materials that are impossible to convert into other high-demand market materials. And because they are most commonly used to transport perishable food, plant and pharmaceutical products, they cannot be reused over and over again on their own.

But that may no longer be a problem, thanks to an innovative collaboration between packaging manufacturer PAC Worldwide and composite decking manufacturer Trex Company. Using the “NexTrex” nationwide recycling program as a vehicle, PAC Worldwide has introduced consumers and the packing industry to the world’s first 100% recyclable, government approved thermal bubble liner, as well as a whole line of additional recyclable packing products. And just like their predecessors, these recyclable products still manage to maintain ideal temperatures to preserve perishable goods. That’s impressive to say the least, but what’s happening with the newly recyclable polyethylene liners is even more so.

Turning One-time Use Packaging Materials into Lasting Outdoor Decks

Not too long ago, the mere thought of something like packaging materials transforming into sturdy, outdoor decking and railings would seem far-fetched, if not impossible. But that’s exactly what the partnership between PAC and Trex hopes to achieve. The new line of recyclable packing materials (liners, roll stock, pallet covers and Pouches) will be collected after use via the NexTrex program. Currently, stores and shopping centers in 49 states (Hawaii is the exception) and Washington D.C. are participating, with over 32,000 collection bins nationwide where the used materials can be deposited.

Once collected, the packing materials can be combined with other NexTrex recycled items to be turned into the sturdy, weather-resistant composite material for outdoor decking and railings. Impressively, the recycled portion in the finished product is at about 95 percent. In time, the partnership between PAC and Trex is estimated to relieve the nation’s landfills of about 400 million pounds of formerly non-recyclable polyethylene.

Consumer Education Comes First

In another spark of innovation, both PAC and Trex are putting consumer education first in their quest to recycle the new packing liners. After all, the program will only work if consumers follow through and deposit the packaging materials in the designated collection bins. Recycling programs have long been grown via supply chain advances, but the main efforts here will be focused on spreading awareness about polyethylene and sustainability efforts. In this case, consumers will have plenty of online access to learn more about the program and where they can drop off their used packaging materials.

Consumers may be more likely to participate in recycling efforts when they actually know what the materials are being used for, after all. Furthermore, current trends towards sustainable alternatives have made their way all over the nation. The general public prefers options they view as environmentally safe, and in time, this will propel more growth of NexTrex and the PAC-Trex partnership.

China Tariffs are Impacting Medical Device Shortages

The last thing the United States saw coming was the novel coronavirus. Now that’s it’s here and in full swing, it has become obvious that the trade wars with China are impacting shortages of much needed medical supplies. According to Stanley Chao, a business consultant, “We desperately need thousands of ventilators as well as millions of respirators, test kits, latex gloves, hospital gowns, pipette tips, biohazard waste bags, hand sanitizers, and more.” In fact, Eric Boehm, writer for Reason, reports that the tariffs placed by President Trump are preventing much needed ventilators and other medical equipment from reaching hospitals. 

To solve this problem, General Motors is working alongside OEM Ventec to supply 30,000 ventilators. According to Boehm, “Ventec will provide the designs and GM the manufacturing muscle.” Hospitals can expect the first shipment of ventilators towards the month’s end. But will this be enough?

In the meantime, the United States is feeling the impact of the trade war during this pandemic. Why? Because China already has the complex supply chains in place to manufacture ventilators and other medical equipment – not an easy task. In fact, General Motors has noted that it takes more than 700 components to create a ventilator and some of these parts need to be bought from China. Unfortunately, the trade war could curb GM from accessing these parts in a timely and cost efficient manner. 

The medical supply chain has been interrupted in other areas as well. For example, the Wall Street Journal recently published an article that stated importers of hand sanitizer and disinfectants are reporting shortages and have requested tariff relief as a consequence. These items are absolutely necessary for the protection of both patients and staff at hospitals and medical centers across the country. 

None of this comes as a surprise since medical professionals warned that imposing tariffs on China would severely hamper public health during a crisis. And here we are. 

The supply chain for medical devices is so complex that one device may be shipped back and forth between the United States and China several times before it is complete. During these multiple transitions, taxes are applied, which eats into the medical supply company’s profits and, therefore, discourages the medical supply companies from sourcing material from China. But where else can they get what they need in such a short amount of time? 

The answer keeps bringing us back to China, whose manufacturing chain is once again up and running and looking for customers. China is ready to help the United States and let President Trump save face in the process. In fact, China’s ambassador to the United States has recently dismissed any idea that the virus came from the United States via the U.S. Army’s visit to China last winter. 

Diplomatically, China wants a good relationship with the United States. This is business after all – oh and saving lives, which is more important than saving face. China is ready to manufacture the much needed medical supplies we need during the pandemic. The question is whether Trump will accept and end the trade war for the sake of health and safety.