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EPP’s Alex Curtiss featured in MDT Magazine

Alex Curtiss

Alex Curtiss President and CEO, Engineered Plastic Products Corporation

It is natural for a company that makes highly sensitive medical devices to turn to a trusted vendor to make its components. But if those components are made of plastic and that vendor is a metal machinist, that can be a huge mistake.

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.

Take the case of a medical analytics company that turned to a metal machinist to make a plastic component. The part had precisely made holes that needed to contain a small ball to measure gas levels. If working properly, the ball would float in the instrument. Unfortunately, even after passing initial inspections, these parts sometimes failed after two to three weeks in the field. The ball would no longer rise. The manufacturer thought it was a problem with static—a reasonable assumption, but one that proved wrong. The real problem became apparent after putting the piece under a microscope. There were tiny cracks inside the holes, not visible to the naked eye. The cracks were due to crazing, a degradation caused by cutting oils. That is not an uncommon problem when metal machining equipment is used to create plastic parts.

Components for medical diagnostic equipment
Components for medical diagnostic equipment

Metal parts, unlike plastic ones, typically require the use of oil-based cutting fluids. And no matter how conscientious the metal machinist is, it is nearly impossible to clean every bit of oil from a machine before using it to make a plastic part. Because of this, equipment used to manufacture metal parts, even if used for metal only, can occasionally 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. The result is a part that may pass initial inspections, but will degrade over time and fail in the field.

It is not just cleaning oils off a machine that is difficult for a metal machinist, but also clearing every tiny metal fragment that may remain on a machine used to make metal parts. If the plastic material being machined is soft, residual metal fragments can become embedded in the plastic machined parts. Again, the metal fragment may not cause a problem initially, but over time it can cause the plastic to degrade and stop performing properly.

Problems can also arise in something as simple as how a metal machinist holds a plastic part. With plastic machined parts, the plastic is usually held with vices. Machinists who don’t specialize in plastic have a tendency to hold the plastic the same way they do metal—but this can be too tight for a plastic. As a consequence, when a drill goes into the plastic, the material flexes a bit, which can put stresses on the part that might not surface until later. A plastics machining company would know that, and be able to prevent that from happening. It is a subtle difference in manufacturing, but one that can turn into a huge problem down the road.

Of course, a plastics expert should be more knowledgeable than a metal machinist about the variety of plastics materials available and what uses they’re best suited for. This level of knowledge is especially important in fields like medical device technology, where manufacturers often use plastics that are less common than those used for other purposes. A plastics expert can help designers and manufacturers sort through materials according to factors such as sensitivity to humidity, abrasion resistance and thermo-sensitivity.

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.
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.

Sourcing is another important consideration. A metal machinist will most likely get their plastics from a distributor whose materials may come from a variety of sources. They may be able to provide certification, for example, that all the materials they are using are nylon rods, but they may not know the source of those rods. A plastics specialist, on the other hand, should be able to tell you not only what mill the material came from, but also the lot number. If there is ever a problem, they can easily trace the material back to its original source. There is a level of accountability you may not get from a metal machinist.

Of course, not all plastic machining companies are alike. The best for your job is one that is familiar with each machining process you need for your medical device application, as well as with the specific plastic material you will be using. The company should have access to up-to-date information and be willing to share it through property charts or plastic material handbooks.  They also should be 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. These certifications and systems will help ensure that you receive the highest quality medical device for the lowest cost, with the fewest possible errors the first time around.

The final consideration in this is cost. Surprisingly, using a plastics expert may actually save money.  Plastics machining companies deal with plastic parts all day long. Their expertise means they can often perform the job more efficiently than the typical metal machinist. But most important, the lower risk of contamination when dealing with a plastic machinist means that medical device parts not only have a higher chance of passing inspection, but a much lower chance of failing down the road. That is important in any industry, but even more so when someone’s health is on the line.

This article appeared in the March 2016 print edition of MDT.

Plastic Machining: Design Guide for Plastic Parts

How to use the Plastic Design Guide

  1. Refer to the Design Considerations at the bottom of this page. Consider whether each item on the checklist is a factor in the application or affects performance requirements for the component design.
  2. Select the categories that have the greatest affect on your application.
  3. Review the materials in the Free Plastic Properties Handbook and make a list of possible material candidates.
  4. Contact our technical support to discuss options or ask additional questions.

Custom Plastic Machined Components

Plastic Machining Design Considerations

  • Thermosensitivity – tolerance can change in different temperature conditions
  • Sensitivity to humidity and hygroscopic absorption affects tolerance
  • Sensitivity to chemicals and oils
  • Notch sensitive corners and square ID’s
  • Tolerances
  • High loads
  • High impact
  • Fatigue loading or cycle loading requires consideration of flexing, deflecting, and compression
  • Temperature – max/min extent of time
  • Electrical considerations such as insulating properties
  • Wear resistance or abrasion resistance
  • Dimensional shape retention (load, cold flow, temperature)
  • Regulatory requirements (FDA, UL, etc.)
  • Appearance (color, texture)
  • Optical requirements
  • Outdoor use

Now that you’ve identified the important factors in your application, evaluate material specs in the Plastic Properties Handbook and select your material!

Plastic Machining: Selecting a Plastic Machining Vendor- Looking for the Best

Selection of a truly qualified plastic machining vendor is extremely important in today’s business environment. The time it takes to ask the right questions will pay big dividends – helping you obtain high quality machined plastic parts. And even though the rules for service and quality seem to be continually evolving, getting the best part at the lowest possible price is still the golden rule of purchasing.

If you’re looking for a plastic machining supplier, don’t settle for anything less than the best. Request a Quote from EPP Corporation today.

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Plastic Machining: Selecting a Vendor Looking at Quality & Price

Quality, of course, is directly related to price. Make sure the vendors you interview can provide the highest quality part at the lowest price. Plastic machining vendors can keep errors to a minimum if they are highly process driven, are ISO Certified, use documented SPC procedures, and own the proper inspection equipment such as CMM or video inspection systems. The plastic machining vendor with the fewest errors will produce the highest quality and at the lowest cost.

Make sure the supplier is familiar with each machining process you need for your application, as well as with the specific plastic material you will be using. Experience, more than anything else, will help make sure a supplier offers you the most cost-effective part with the best quality.

If you’d like to see how a process driven, high quality machining vendor compares to your current supplier, Request a Quote from EPP Corporation.

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Plastic Machining: Selecting a Plastic Machining Vendor- Equipment

Ask about the type of equipment the potential plastic machining vendor uses. The well-equipped plastic machining vendor will look pretty much like a metal machining shop, but the true plastic machining specialist will have equipment that has been adjusted or re-built expressly for machining plastic material. The right equipment will machine plastic using the correct speeds, feeds and tooling, and won’t pose the threat of contamination faced when metal-machining equipment is utilized. The right equipment will also insure higher quality plastic machined parts with better finishes and less chance of chips, burrs and other imperfections.

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Plastic Machining: Selecting a Plastic Machining Vendor- Purchasing Practices

Just as a metal machine shop is unlikely to have the material knowledge you need, neither are they going to be able to purchase plastics in large enough quantities to provide you with the best price.

Likewise, find out if the plastic machining vendor candidates you are considering can purchase materials directly from material manufacturer. If they rely on plastic distributors for materials, make sure their vendors are up on the latest material technology. Plastic technology is constantly changing with new materials introduced all the time.

One of your goals should be to make sure that your plastic machining firm’s materials purchasing practices are as good as yours.

To find out more about EPP Corporation’s purchasing practices, contact us today!

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Plastic Machining: Engineering Help From Experts For Plastic Machining and Plastic Prototypes

A plastic machining expert can provide several advantages that a typical vendor cannot. From a true plastic machining expert comes years of experience and expertise. Through our 35 years of experience and expertise in custom plastic machining manufacturing at EPP, we are able to extend our hand to customers in regards to engineering assistance.

We are equipped to offer plastic machining production (cnc milling, cnc lathe, screw machining, custom plastic manifolds), as well as fast plastic prototypes, along with  engineering assistance.  Our full engineering assistance is available for both custom plastic machined component and fast plastic prototype customers.

At EPP Corp. we can help with:

-Free application engineering
Free Design Guide for Plastic Machining
Free Plastic Materials Handbook
Helpful Articles
-Pre Production Quantities
-High quality and a reliable source for production quantities

If you’re working on a project that involves any custom plastic machined parts, or new products that require fast plastic prototypes, the best thing you can do is simply contact us! Email your drawings to sales@eppcorp.com or just give us a call with any questions. We will help you find the ideal material and manufacturing method for your application.

plastic prototypes-plastic machining-plastic machined prototypes

Plastic Machining: Plastic Prototypes and Plastic Machining-Save Money and Time When Innovating

Fast Plastic Machined Prototypes as a Quick, Inexpensive Solution

In the new product development process, teams are faced with two roadblocks: cost and time. Specifically in a down economy a business needs to be innovative in order to stand out from the competition.

The initial frustration for research & development teams is cost. 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. While the cost cutting is crucial, revenues must also increase as a means of beating the competition.  Of course new product development is required to do so, but it needs to be cost effective.   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.  While molding requires full commitment to a part’s design, design changes to plastic machined parts cost absolutely nothing.

Time is of the essence regardless of industry. After costs are sorted out and the decision to use plastic machining has been made, time becomes the largest constraint.  That is where fast plastic prototyping comes into play. EPP Corporation is capable of short-run, quick-turn Custom Plastic Prototypes with delivery in one week or less.  The plastic machined prototypes are of the highest quality on tolerances up to +/- .001″.  Simple or complex 3D parts are welcomed for fast plastic prototyping, and free application engineering is available.
Don’t time and cost from preventing innovation.  Stand out from the competition through new product development. Save time and money by machining plastic components, and have your plastic prototypes delivered in under a week.

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

Plastic Machining: Plastic Prototypes

EPP Corporation is pleased to announce short-run, quick-turn Custom Plastic Prototypes with delivery in one week or less.  Let EPP assist you in new product development through our fast turnaround on fully functional plastic prototypes.

· Plastic prototypes in one week or less

· Fully Functional

· Plastic prototypes with the highest quality on tolerances up to +/- .001″

· Both simple & complex 3D parts are welcome

· Free application engineering available

Let the plastic machining specialists at EPP Corporation be your source for all plastic prototypes.  Fast plastic prototypes in one week or less

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: Selecting The Right Plastic Machining Vendor For Your Custom Plastic Machined Parts

Not all plastic machining vendors are equipped to offer all parts. Other plastic machining companies may not be able to give you the best prices. The following guidelines can help you locate a fully-qualified, cost effective plastic machinining specialist for all your plastic machined component needs:

  1. Material Knowledge
  2. Purchasing Practices
  3. Equipment
  4. Quality and Price
  5. Looking For the Best

Be sure to ask potential plastic machined parts vendors how they comply with these guidelines.

If you have a need for plastic machined components, request a quote!

Plastic Machining: Why Select a Plastic Machined Components Manufacturer with ISO Certification?

Is It Important To Choose a Plastic Machining Vendor That is ISO Certified?

Yes, selecting an ISO certified plastic machined components vendor ultimately provides an assurance that purchasers of plastic machined components will receive  parts that meet their individual specifications and requirements.

The ISO system allows the producer to not only ensure that they meet or exceed specifications and requirements, but also allows for consistent day-to-day quality control procedures, and process that are predictable and repeatable.

With good process control, ISO manufacturers are also able to reduce waste, and lower operating costs and idle time in production, resulting in savings to their customers. Having good process control also allows the ISO manufacturer the tools to track production which guarantees on-time deliveries.

Well implemented ISO processes can produce cost-effective custom plastic machined components with minimal production times, on-time delivery with predictable quality.

For high quality custom plastic machined parts, contact ISO 9001:2008 Certified plastic machining specialists EPP/Engineered Plastic Products Corporation.

Plastic Machining: Selecting The Right Plastic Machining Vendor For Your Custom Plastic Machined Parts

Not all plastic machining vendors are equipped to offer all parts. Others may not be able to give you the best prices. The following guidelines can help you locate a fully-qualified, cost effective plastic machining specialist for all your plastic machined components:

  1. Material Knowledge
  2. Purchasing Practices
  3. Equipment
  4. Quality and Price
  5. Looking For the Best

Be sure to ask potential plastic machined parts vendors how they comply with these guidelines.

If you have a need for plastic machined components, request a quote!

Plastic Machining: Stay Domestic for Your Custom Plastic Machined Parts Needs

While the trend has been to outsource production, and to purchase from overseas companies as a cost cutting mechanism, is purchasing from a foreign firm the right move for a company in need of custom machined plastic components?

The simple answer to this question is…NO

If components are ordered from a foreign firm, the move can be far more costly than doing business with a domestic plastic machining specialist. At EPP Corporation, we serve and specialize in custom plastic machined parts for critical industries such as the aerospace, medical, instrumentation, fluid power, and military industries, the highest precision is required. These critical industries cannot use custom plastic components that do not meet strict specifications. By purchasing overseas, the risk of purchasing from a plastic machining company without certification, as well as not being able to have an open line of communication alone are huge risks. Errors would garner components useless, and replacement plastic machined parts would take long to be reordered and received (10-16 weeks on average), hindering the possibility of meeting deadlines, as well as no guarantee that the proper materials and processes are being utilized. The additional risk of items being damaged through their long transport to your doorstep, can be costly both to the pocket book, as well as creating vast time constraints. Companies often seek domestic firms to correct the errors of overseas vendors after having been put into a time crunch.

That being said, selecting the best domestic plastic machining company does require some due diligence. Not all plastic machining vendors are equipped to offer all parts. Others may not be able to give you the best prices
The following guidelines can help you locate a fully-qualified, cost effective plastic machining specialist:

At EPP Corp we pride ourselves in the value proposition of combining the highest quality, competitive cost, and fast, on-time delivery. EPP is also here to provide its customers assistance throughout the purchasing and engineering processes of our custom plastic components. From the simplest to the most complex component or plastic prototype, EPP assures high precision plastic machining and on-time delivery (2-3 week turnarounds, as well as one week or less delivery for short-run, quick-turn custom plastic prototypes).

Stay domestic, and choose the best, EPP Corporation

Plastic Machining: Using a Metal Machining Company to Produce Plastic Machined Parts: The Risks

Engineers and buyers often reach out to metal machining companies to produce plastic machined parts, thinking, “They use the same manufacturing processes, don’t they? Does it really matter?”

It does matter. If you’ve wondered whether you should have a metal machinist produce your plastic machined parts, The Short Answer Is – No, You Should Not

Here’s why:

Cutting fluids for each material are crucial: Equipment used to machine metal – even if only used for metal occasionally – can contaminate parts with oil-based cutting fluids. Many plastics are also very sensitive to petroleum based cutting fluids and will degrade if they come into contact with these fluids. Additionally, many plastics are hydroscopic and will absorb the cutting oils. If the parts are being manufactured for FDA-approved uses or medical applications, they will not meet standards.

Metal fragments contaminate plastic parts: It is difficult to adequately clean a machine that has been working on metals, especially if it has been working on stainless steel. This can lead to another contamination problem. If the plastic material is soft, residual metal fragments can become embedded in the plastic machined parts.

Metal shops are experts in metal, not plastic: Metal machining companies rarely have any in-depth knowledge of plastic materials, or more specifically, which material to use in an application. Plastic machinining specialists know what plastics are best for any function, and can produce the plastic part you need without the “trial-and-error” processes a metal machinist would use. A good plastic machining firm will have the material knowledge and the right machining processes to consistently give you the highest quality plastic machined parts.

If you’ve got custom plastic machined components, EPP Corporation can help.