What You Should Know About Anodizing Aluminum

When using metal components or creating products made from metal, anodizing can be a valuable step in the process, especially with a softer metal like aluminum. The process of anodizing aluminum prevents corrosion, resists scratching, improves aesthetics and creates a more durable product. The following information will help you see the value in completing this process for your metal components.

How Does It Work?

Before anodizing aluminum, the metal is first cleaned to remove any debris on the surface. It is then placed in an electrolytic solution and a positive electric charge is administered directly to the aluminum while a negative charge is sent to plates suspended in the solution. Negative ions are then pulled toward the aluminum.

What Is the Barrier Layer?

During the process in the electrolytic solution, pores on the aluminum open up to let the positive ions out, creating a geometric pattern that erodes into a substrate. The surface of the aluminum bonds with O2 to create aluminum oxide, creating a barrier that protects against corrosion and other chemical reactions. The longer the process continues, the pores extend deeper into the aluminum. Non-hard anodized coatings typically measure about 10 microns. Once the desired depth is reached, a cold water rinse stops the process.

Hard Anodizing

If you need greater corrosion protection for your aluminum, hard anodizing is the right solution. To achieve hard anodizing, a longer barrier process is necessary, often reaching depths of 25 microns or more. While this process takes more time and can be more costly, it provides enhanced durability to the metal.

Is Corrosion Protection Necessary?

Aluminum doesn’t rust, so you may wonder if corrosion resistance is even necessary. The answer is yes. While it can’t rust, aluminum can experience oxidation when exposed to the air. This oxidation is relatively harmless to aluminum, but that’s only when you consider exposure to pure air and water. In the real world, aluminum may be exposed to salt water, acid rain and other contaminants that can have a negative impact on the metal, making corrosion protection a necessity to avoid discoloration or mechanical failure.

Adding Color to Anodized Aluminum

When most people think of anodized aluminum, they think of coloring, which is a common use for the process. Once you have created the pores with the anodizing process, it’s the perfect time to add color to the metal before sealing off the pores with a water rinse. Adding color to aluminum using this process ensures long-lasting color. Because it lies deep within the metal, it won’t scratch off the surface.

Creating the Popular Metallic Look

When you think of something metal, you often think of something shiny. This is the result of the anodizing process. Anodizing is a form of etching that leaves the surface of the metal with a rough texture. Deeper pores mean a rougher texture. The way the light bounces off this surface creates the tell-tale metallic sheen most people recognize.

Use Caution with Your Design

When creating your anodizing bath, it’s important to remember it’s impossible to fully anodize an entire part. After all, the metal must be submerged, yet suspended in the bath, requiring a holder of some form. Any part of the metal concealed by the holder won’t be anodized, so it’s important to position your parts carefully and minimize obstructed areas as much as possible.

Everything You Need to Know About Vapor Polishing

Have you ever wondered how they make super-thin, transparent plastics, like those used for eye contacts? It’s called vapor polishing. This is a technique used to polish or finish a plastic product to achieve transparency. So how exactly does this work? Read on to learn more.

How Does Vapor Polishing Work?

Vapor polishing is a technique that smooths out plastic resin material at the microscopic level to get the desired effect. This is done using a Weldon 4 solvent that reacts with the surface chemistry of polycarbonates. This solvent is heated to boiling and the vapors are sprayed on the plastic. The plastic surface then melts and fills in the small holes and scratches. When the vapor is gone, the plastic once again becomes solid.

Does the Plastic Need to Be Sanded?

Yes. Since vapor polishing works at the molecular level, it can’t take out large deformities in the plastic. For that reason, Acrylic Art will sand your parts before we vapor polish to a surface between 1000 and 1500 grit. From here, the vapor polishing only takes a few seconds before the product is finished.

Can Anyone Perform Vapor Polishing?

No. Vapor polishing should only be performed by a trained professional as the process could be dangerous if you breathe in the vapors In fact, vapor polishing is done in a highly controlled environment where the worker wears a breathing respirator. There are also suited up workers stationed outside the working chamber to offer assistance if needed. For all these reasons, it is advised not to try this on your own.

Does Vapor Polishing Harm the Environment?

No. When vapor polishing is done safely, it is not bad for the environment. Our facility pulls the vapors through a three-stage carbon filter to avoid any contamination to the atmosphere.

How Long Does Vapor Polishing Take?

The lead time on vapor polishing is short. In fact, once the vapor is applied to the plastic, it only takes a few seconds for it to become clear. There is no need for repeated exposure to the surface area. This means a large piece of plastic can be vapor polished in just minutes. After the vapor is taken away, the item becomes hard and is ready for use.

Is Vapor Polishing Cost-Effective?

Yes, especially when compared to hand or machine polishing. Furthermore, it would be impossible to polish by hand those geometric shapes with recesses and pockets. With vapor polishing, however, you can reach the deepest grooves for an even polish. The result is then immediate.

Is Vapor Polishing Right for You?

At Acrylic Art, we are here to help you with any vapor polishing project. We also offer an array of other finishing services. Contact us today to achieve the desired finished project you want. Our friendly team can be reached at 510-654-0953.


How the Manufacturing Industry is Changing in 2021

2020 saw a significant amount of change in the manufacturing industry, especially as new technologies emerge and greater tolerances and precision are achieved. But 2021 will see even further evolution of standard manufacturing processes, as well as changes in how the manufacturing industry works. Here are some of the major changes we can expect to see.

1. Even manufacturing is going to go remote.

Because of the pandemic, many jobs are being shifted remotely. Traditionally, manufacturing was an area where everyone needed to be on-site. 2021 is going to see a lot of companies exploring whether they can do their supervision and other administrative tasks remotely.

2. Manufacturing machines are becoming “smarter.”

Machines today are connected to the Internet of Things and are highly automated. This will continue into 2021. Machines are going to be able to operate increasingly autonomously, faster, and cheaper, making for a wealth of new possibilities.

3. A lot of manufacturing has been shut down.

The pandemic caused a massive shake-up in the world of manufacturing. Many manufacturing plants have shut down. Some of them will never open again. Other manufacturing plants are doing better than ever before. In 2021, we will see which manufacturers survived the pandemic, and which were able to become stronger for it.

4. Many companies are shifting toward “local.”

Because of tariffs, taxes, and shipping issues, many companies are starting to become hyper-local. Manufacturing is happening not only within the country, but within the city. Even at a higher cost, it has become faster and more reliable. This may broaden as the effects of the pandemic wane.

5. Digitization is increasing — as is a reliance on the cloud.

There was a time when most manufacturers still wanted to work with primarily analog machines. But that time has passed. Today, many machines are becoming increasingly digital, with an increased reliance upon the cloud. Manufacturers are able to push products directly to machines remotely and are able to track their progress from wherever they are.

6. Rapid prototyping and customization are becoming critical to the industry.

3D printing has shaken the manufacturing industry up. Increasingly, businesses are finding themselves needing to create smaller, customized runs of products rather than larger, generic runs of products. The ability to rapidly prototype products and customize them on-the-fly is going to become increasingly important.

Industries change. It’s up to businesses to assess and evolve with trends. The manufacturing industry in 2021 is going to have an unprecedented about of flexibility, access, and customization. To find out more about plastic fabrication and precision CNC machining, contact the experts at Acrylic Art.

Why You Should Use CNC Machining for Medical Products

CNC machining is a very versatile manufacturing process. It can produce many types of parts, use different materials and produce high volume. And when it comes to manufacturing medical products, CNC machining is fast and inexpensive. Read on to discover all of the benefits of using CNC machining for making medical products.

No Fixed Tooling

Using a mold tool can take an additional 3-4 weeks compared to CNC machining. With a mold tool, you not only have to make the mold, but samples have to be approved and molding parameters have to be optimized. This just adds time and more costs to the process whether it’s a small or big production run. This includes single one-off parts, too. With CNC machining, there is less investment and fast turnaround.

No Volume Limits

Once a digital CAD file has been created, the cutting program gets generated fast. This coding program can be easily utilized to make both multiple parts or a single part. Just push the button. This ability gives an upper edge when making one-off custom parts or single parts. That’s why CNC machining is often used for things like prosthetics and specialized medical parts. Other processes require a minimum order volume, which makes some projects undoable.

Works With Many Materials

CNC machining can work with many different materials, including tools, rigid materials and end-use parts. Other materials that it can work with include engineering-grade plastics, aluminum stainless steel and titanium.


CNC machining is fast. Going from a digital CAD file to the finished product is quick. It may only take a few hours. This works well in situations where supplies might be needed at a moment’s notice. This has been done for personal protective equipment due to corona. The demand was able to be met with CNC machining.

Portable and Local

Many big industrial machines take up a lot of floor space when manufacturing. CNC machines are smaller and can actually fit right on top of a desktop. Their smaller size and minimum power requirements made it perfect for rural areas and emergencies. CNC machines are also very capable of producing fixtures, simple parts, appliances and other components.

Tight Tolerance

Most advanced medical devices need very tight tolerances. This can easily be accomplished on CNC machines. Its surface finishes need little post-processing. In this manner, CNC machines save both time and money. Medical products must be fit for purpose. Any deviation can result in disaster. CNC machining reduces the risk.

Portable and Flexible

Digital CAD files are both portable and flexible. These attributes allow manufacturing pros, medical specialists and product designers to move digital programs from one location to another location fast and without any problems. This ability delivers specialty solutions and is not dependent on a geographical location.

As you can see, there are many, many benefits of CNC machining for the manufacturing of medical products. And that’s why it’s the first choice for many companies who make medical products. Time is money when it comes to business operations, and CNC machining is a great choice for medical product manufacturers.


3 Benefits of Utilizing CNC Machining For Your Production Process

The modern factory was first invented, or at least credited, to the work of Richard Arkwright. Arkwright patented a water frame in 1769 before building the Cromford Mill, one of the first prototype manufacturing facilities as well as the first successful cotton-spinning factory on the planet.

Nearly 200 years after Arkwright would help to pioneer manufacturing warehouses, the world would be introduced to Computer Numerical Control Machining, otherwise known as CNC Machining.

Understanding CNC Machining

CNC Machining is a popular form of manufacturing relied upon for quick, accurate, and high-level material production. The process of CNC machining was brought to fruition by Richard Kegg in 1952 during a project in collaboration with MIT.  Kegg and his team at MIT would work in concert to develop the Cincinnati Milacron Hydrotel, the first of many prominent pieces of CNC Machining technology. Now, decades later, that same model is utilized by manufacturing facilities around the world

CNC Machining can be accomplished in several different ways. With that being said, there are three core types of CNC machining to be made aware of.

  1. CNC Milling – This form of machining was brought to life by Richard Kegg. CNC Milling is a process that involves mounting and mixing with rotational cutting tools. Materials are cut and removed by the rotating tools to craft many shapes at a rapid pace.
  2. CNC Turning – CNC turning is a manufacturing process that involves bars of material held in place by a chuck. This material is turned by the chuck in a rotation whereupon it is fed into the tool until the desired shape has been crafted.
  3. EDM   – Also known as Electrical Discharge Machining, EDM is a type of metal fabrication process that leans on electrical sparks to shape the targeted material. Typically, this involves voltage being released between two electrodes until an electric arc is produced.

3 Key Benefits to CNC Machining

If you are looking for a reason to add CNC machining processes to your manufacturing facility, you can take your pick. CNC machining took hold in the 50s and still exists to this day. There are a variety of reasons that warehouses are continuing to turn to professional CNC machining solutions, including the following three reasons.

  1. Highly Efficient – CNC Machining requires fewer steps in the production process, thus allowing for a quick turnaround on all production processing.
  2. Advanced Software – Put control into the hands of your computer. CNC machines use CAD software that provides a multitude of functions and options that other processes cannot match.
  3. Automated System – Fully automated systems mean that your operators don’t have to expose themselves to the job. Step back and watch over the machine from a safe distance as the process handles itself.

Working with CNC machining processes allows individuals to manipulate a variety of common and popular materials including aluminum, stainless steel, and brass among others.


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.