EPP’s Alex Curtiss featured in Sensors Magazine

Why Using A Plastics Machining Specialist For Instrumentation Equipment Is The Best Choice

January 29, 2016 By: Alex Curtiss, Engineered Plastic Products Corporation

 Alex Curtiss

Initial Gander

At first glance, it’s hard to see why it’s best to choose a plastics specialist to make a machined plastic part in your instrumentation product, rather than just having a metal machining company, maybe one you know and trust, do the work. A metal machining company may be able to make your plastic part. The part may look fine to the naked eye and it may also seem to work well when it’s put into a product and tested out. At first, it may even perform as it should—until something goes wrong and everyone is left scratching their heads looking for answers.

Here’s What Can Go Wrong

That’s exactly what happened to one company in Ohio who manufactures precision scientific instrumentation. A new $2 million dollar machine that they manufactured for one of their top customers was delivered and installed but soon developed an electrical problem and no one knew why. Finally, they took the whole machine apart and examined it piece by piece. Finally, in one of the plastic parts, they noticed a tiny sliver of metal embedded in the plastic.

That tiny spec was the culprit creating an electrical short circuit and that was the reason the machine had stopped working. The plastic part was machined by the company’s vendor that produces their metal components. That is one problem that can happen when a metal machining company produces plastic parts rather than an experienced plastics only specialist.

Why That Happened

This example is not a fluke. It is very difficult to adequately clean a machine that has been working on metals parts. The process can lead to contamination.

If the plastic material is soft, residual metal fragments can become embedded in the plastic machined parts. Depending on what the part is used for, the metal fragment may not cause a problem initially, but, over time, it can cause the plastic to degrade and eventually stop performing properly.

What Else Can Go Wrong

There’s another contamination risk with metal machining companies. Metal parts, unlike plastic ones, typically require the use of oil-based cutting fluids. Because of this, equipment used to manufacture metal parts, even if used for metal only occasionally, can contaminate plastic parts with those oil-based cutting fluids.

Many plastics are highly sensitive to petroleum-based cutting fluids and will degrade if they come into contact with them. Also, many plastics are hydroscopic and will absorb the cutting oils. Additionally, if these parts are being manufactured for FDA-approved uses or medical applications, they will not meet their standards.

Who Is Plastic-Materials Knowledgeable?

Generally there is not an abundance of knowledge about what plastic to use for different component applications. To say plastic is like saying vehicle. There are many types of vehicles from dump trucks to Ferraris. Both are vehicles but the quality and use is not the same. The same applies to plastic.

plastic partsPlastics specialists are knowledgeable of the variety of plastics and which are the best to use for a given application.

Metal shops are experts in metal and cannot be expected to have knowledge of the differences between the many types of plastics. Metal machining companies rarely have any in-depth knowledge of the performance characteristics of different plastics. On the other hand, a good plastic machining specialist know what plastics are best for each function and can produce the plastic part needed without risk of failure.

Ensure The Plastics Vendor Is The Correct One For The Project

Even if you do choose a plastics expert rather than a metal machining company, there are still some points to consider.

First, experience matters. Make sure the supplier you choose is familiar with each machining process you need for your application, as well as with the specific plastic material you will be using. Ask them to share information such as property charts or plastic material handbooks. Specialists in plastic machining should have a wealth of up-to-date information.

A company that specializes in only machined plastic parts not only brings expertise in dealing with plastics to the table, but can help avoid problems that might arise from contamination or simply not understanding the subtle differences between working with plastic, as opposed to metal parts.Machining metal versus plastic.

Second, check for certification. The plastic machining vendor who makes the fewest errors the first time around should give you the highest quality at the lowest cost. Plastic machining vendors can keep errors to a minimum if they are highly process driven The best ones are ISO Certified, use documented statistical process control (SPC) procedures, and own the proper inspection equipment such as coordinate measuring machine (CMM) or video inspection systems.

Remember, experience, more than anything else, will ensure a supplier can manufacture the most cost-effective part with the best quality.

About the Author

Alex Curtiss is President and CEO of Engineered Plastic Products Corporation (EPP) in Elk Grove Village, IL. The company has specialized in producing high-precision machined plastic parts for the aerospace, medical, instrumentation and water treatment industries since 1976 and has been ISO certified since 2002 and ISO compliant since 1994.

EPP’s Alex Curtiss is featured in Product Design and Development Magazine

Read the article on www.pddnet.com

plastic parts

Many designers don’t realize there are  plastics machining specialists. That’s why they often turn to a metal machinist to make their plastic parts. But doing so can cause the best designs to go awry.

Many designers see no difference between a metal machinist and a plastic machinist making a plastic part. The truth is, both are capable and both can probably make the part to a designer’s specifications. Both parts may work the way they’re supposed to, at least at first. But the potential for something to go wrong when the part is made by a metal machinist can cost a company time and money. The problem can arise from anything from contamination to a simple lack of expertise of how metal and plastic differ.

Take, for example, an Ohio company that manufactures precision scientific instrumentation.

One of their top customers took delivery of a new $2 million machine they manufactured. At first, it ran fine, but it soon developed an electrical problem. The company ended up taking the entire machine apart and examining it bit by bit before they finally figured out the cause of the short circuit—a tiny sliver of metal embedded in the plastic. This is the kind of contamination that can occur when plastic parts are manufactured by a metal machining company rather than a plastics-only specialist.

Even if you’re not producing $2 million machines, mistakes like this can still produce million dollar headaches. That’s because it’s difficult to clean machines used to make metal parts. A machine may look clean to the naked eye, but if there is as much as just one tiny metal fragment on a machine, it can become embedded in a soft plastic machined part. While the part may seem fine at first, over time, that metal fragment can cause the part to degrade and stop working properly.

A company that specializes in only machined plastic parts not only brings expertise in dealing with plastics to the table, but can help avoid problems that might arise from contamination or simply not understanding the subtle differences between working with plastic, as opposed to metal parts.

Another pitfall

The difference between how metal and plastic parts are made can also lead to contamination with metal machining companies. Unlike plastic parts, metal parts typically require the use of oil-based cutting fluids. What’s necessary for metal, though, can wreak havoc on plastic. Many plastics are highly sensitive to petroleum-based cutting fluids and will degrade if they come in contact with them. In addition, many plastics are hydroscopic and will absorb cutting oils. When this kind of contamination occurs with parts being manufactured for FDA-approved uses or medical applications, they will not meet their standards.

Why knowledge matters

Plastics and metal machinists also differ in experience. A plastic machining expert has knowledge about the different types of plastic and how those plastics perform that a metal expert can’t be expected to know. All plastics are not alike. Dealing with a plastics expert can help you choose the type that’s right for your job.

There are also differences in the properties of metal and plastic that necessitates differences in design. For example, a metal machinist may not be aware that there is a difference between the amount of stress a metal part can handle versus a plastic part. A valve screwed on with the right torque for metal might be too much for plastic, leading to cracks. Designs, too, might have to differ when working with plastics as opposed to metal. Those sharp corners that work fine in a metal design can cause stress that lead to cracks in a plastic part. A plastics specialist should know this and suggest slightly rounding those corners—saving you precious time caused by design errors.

Choosing the right plastics vendor

If you do decide to choose a plastics specialist, keep these points in mind:

  • Experience. Make sure the plastics machining expert you choose has experience with the type of machining process your product requires as well as the material you will be using.
  • Information. Specialists in plastic machining should have up-to-date information and be willing to share it with you. Ask to see materials such as property charts or plastic material handbooks.
  • Certification. Plastic machining vendors can keep errors to a minimum if they are highly process driven. The best ones are ISO Certified, use documented SPC (statistical process control) procedures, and own the proper inspection equipment such as CMM (coordinate measuring machine) or video inspection systems.

In the long run, working with an experienced plastics machining expert from the start could save money. It may be easier to farm out parts to that same machinist who is making metal components, but doing so could increase the risk of the parts failing within months of reaching the customer’s hands. Using a plastic machining specialist could be the difference between a machine that breaks down after a month on the job, and one that keeps humming along.


Plastic Machining: EPP Featured in Aerospace Manufacturing and Design Magazine

Engineered Plastic Products is currently featured in Aerospace Manufacturing and Design Magazine.  EPP Corporation CEO Alex Curtiss discusses how to achieve significant savings on plastic machining requirements specifically to the aerospace industry.  EPP utilizes a proven supply chain management system that has been in place at the company over the past 15 years.  EPP Corporation’s customers have reaped the benefits of such savings on plastic machined components, throughout various industries we serve.

To read the article in Aerospace Manufacturing and Design Magazine CLICK HERE

To view EPP’s blog on How To Save Money On Plastic Machined Parts CLICK HERE

Plastic Machining EPP Corporation is Now on Google Plus

EPP Corporation is pleased to announce the introduction of our Google + page.

Plastic machining and plastic prototypes expert Engineered Plastic Products Corporation can now be found on Google +.

Add America’s Premier Plastic Machining Supplier to your circle today

We will provide informative plastic machining advice and plastic prototype assistance, as well as post photos and video

Click Here to visit EPP Corporation’s Google Plus Page

Plastic Machining: Plastic Machining Expert and EPP Corporation CEO Alex Curtiss Interviewed by Dustin Mattison

Plastic Machining expert, EPP Corporation President and CEO Alex Curtiss was interviewed by Dustin Mattison from the Kinaxis Supply Chain Expert Community on July 26, 2011. Play the video below to hear Mr. Curtiss and Mr. Mattison discuss the subject of how U.S. manufacturers remain competitive compared to Asian sourcing.

Here’s a small excerpt from Mr Curtiss’ interview:

“The key is a combination of commitment and flexibility. EPP has found that a lot of customers come back to them. EPP is ISO Certified and they guarantee 100% quality. When the material goes in, it goes right to the line, most of their customers don’t even check their parts. If they want anything at all EPP sends a written quality report with it, but most customers don’t request this.”

EPP Corporation would like to extend its thanks to Mr. Mattison

For more on Alex Curtiss’ interview visit the page on Dustin Mattison’s blog

For more on why to select a domestic plastic machining vendor visit EPP’s Stay Domestic Blog


Plastic Machining: Machined Plastic Components-A Low Cost, New Product Development Solution

New product development teams nationwide are frustrated with corporate cost cutting and lack of capital for their R&D plans. Valuable projects are put on hold because R&D budgets cannot cover the expensive introductory costs of new tooling and initial manufacturing of new designs. In today’s economic environment, corporate cost cutting is needed to help companies survive the recession. However, if companies can develop new products that provide value at today’s price levels, they will emerge from this recession well ahead of the competition.

Many companies are searching for ways to move new product development projects forward without breaking the bank on initial investments. Research and development, prototypes, and pilot run quantities have to be completed with very minimal investment and without compromising flexibility of quantity and design.

Smart companies have employed strategies to enhance their new product development. A good example lies in companies manufacturing products that contain plastic parts. If projects have plastic components, then the cost of tooling can be a huge obstacle. Tooling and molds can cost tens of thousands of dollars. The solution: have the plastic parts machined. Prototypes as well as the first few years of production quantities can be produced for a fraction of the cost.

Machined plastic parts include little or no tooling charges, and can be delivered in two weeks. While molding requires full commitment to a part’s design, design changes to plastic machined parts cost absolutely nothing. Request a Quote from a quality plastic machining vendor for a fast, cost-effective solution for new product development and launches.

Contact EPP Corporation now to see how custom plastic machined parts can help your new product hit the market and put your company ahead of the game!

Plastic Machining: Announcing Short-Run, Quick-Turn Plastic Prototype Capability

Exciting News from plastic machining specialists EPP to existing and future customers

EPP Corporation is pleased to announce our new short-run, quick-turn Custom Plastic Prototype Capabilities -delivery in one week or less

· Plastic prototypes in one week or less
· Highest quality on tolerances up to +/- .001″
· Both simple & complex 3D parts are welcome
· Free application engineering available

Plastic Machining: How to Save on Plastic Machined Parts

Current purchasing methods evaluated

Traditionally, buyers send requests for quote to three plastic machining vendors each time a requirement for low volume components presents itself. The plastic machining vendor then provides a quote on the best price in several quantities with their best delivery. After all quotes are evaluated, purchase orders are placed with the lowest bidder. Ironically, this process is the most expensive way to purchase machined components, particularly for recurring, smaller quantity parts requirements.

The traditional method incurs unnecessary costs in the following key areas:

  • Administrative Costs
  • Unit Cost
  • Inventory
  • Inspection

Administrative Costs
The first cost associated with this practice is the cost of soliciting the quote and the analysis of the information. The admin time to issue the quote, phone, fax or email the request and collect the numbers can range from $15-50 per part depending on the company over head which can result in a total cost of $45-150 to solicit three bids. The cost is multiplied by the number of times per year, which can be 2-3 times. That is $135-450 annual cost per part before an order is placed.

Unit Cost
The second issue is the unit cost itself. Most vendors evaluating a request for quote are unsure how the order will be placed. They wonder if the order will be a one-time order, whether it will be the only order for this part this year, when the order will be placed and what the schedule will be. If they need raw material to produce the part, the material needs on the quote are based on the quoted quantity only and, because of the uncertainty, will represent a higher cost. Uncertainty and low volume can add 15-20% or more in the unit cost.

The next cost incurred by the conventional system is inventory. Most companies purchase 3-6 months supply per order. This is inventory which sits on the shelve waiting to be assembled into a billable sale. Depending on the cost of money this inventory can cost ½% / month to 1% per month and can translate to several hundred to many thousands of dollars (or millions) of cost that is sitting on the shelf. That is a waste of working capital and profit.

The incoming inspection process incurs additional costs. The inspection department ordinarily inspects each shipment received. Quality inspectors are well-paid professionals and each inspection can take anywhere from a few minutes to several hours depending on the complexity of the part. Assuming that a normal part takes about an hour, an average cost could run $80-100. Add to that cost the time the parts are in inventory waiting to be inspected which could be a day or a week. That represents additional working capital wasted.

The most cost effective purchasing method

Over the past fifteen years EPP Corporation has developed a proven supply chain management system that produces maximum savings for customers. EPP’s system works as follows:

  • The buyer provides drawings for all plastic machined parts that will be needed for their production over a 12-month period and gives a rough estimate of annual quantity. The quantity is not set in stone, but is necessary as a benchmark.
  • EPP evaluates all the plastic machined parts together as one requirement. Material needs are combined and submitted to the material vendor. The material vendor is advised that the material will be released as needed and is expected to hold the price for one year. In the end, materials saving can exceed 20%.
  • Production costs are evaluated next, and reduced to accommodate efficiency improvement expectations. Parts will be scheduled and run when similar components are being produced in order to save on tooling changes. Also, machining time is often reduced each time a repeat part is run. EPP plans for these improvements and calculates the 10-20% cost savings into the estimate.
  • After the annual purchase order is placed for all the parts, the only other commitment for the customer is a delivery release forecast. A 12-week forecast that updates each week is ideal. Many customers simply forecast a monthly or weekly release and adjust the quantity as needed.
  • Scheduled releases minimize excess inventory. EPP holds ample inventory in the pipeline in case of a “spike” in need driven by unusual requirements
  • All parts are manufactured with strict quality standards guided by ISO procedures, SPC, and customer inspection protocol to ensure all critical dimensions are addressed. Along with the promise of dock to stock quality, the customer has the choice of receiving first article inspection reports, sample inspection reports, and certificates of material compliance for every release. This eliminates cost of incoming inspection by the customer.

The Math

Average cost of a discrete quote………………………………..$300/part/ per year
Average cost of a discrete purchase order……………..component cost plus 20%
Additional production cost ………………………………component cost plus 5-15%
Cost of excess inventory…………(interest%)(component cost)( inventory days)
Additional cost of material………………………………………5-15% component cost


Total………………………………………………………………………..Significant Savings

Please note: savings can vary depending upon individual company costs.

There is no question that supply chain management is a paradigm shift. However if a company does the math, the pay back is enormous. The supply chain management system used by EPP accomplishes a low cost overall cost with the quality assurance and delivery flexibility provided by US manufacturing.

To find out how much you can save on plastic machined parts with EPP’s supply chain management system, contact us at 847-952-8400 or sales@eppcorp.com today!