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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.

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: Get Parts Fast With EPP’s Expanded Capacity

Need plastic machined components fast?- EPP has the solution

Often times projects that require plastic machined parts can be given the green light at the last minute.  A time crunch does not need to put you in a bind.  Increased efficiency levels have led to EPP’s expanded capacity. Delivery times are as low as 2 weeks for customers in need of fast turnaround times.

Efficiency levels at EPP have always been high however, we are always active in further improving. Over the past 3 years, a combination of both research and thorough analysis of our current production processes has led to changes resulting in further increases in productivity.

If you need a fast turnaround don’t hesitate to take advantage of our expanded capacity. As America’s Premier Plastic Machining Supplier, we guarantee on-time delivery, and provide you with 100% quality dock-to-stock.

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: 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: Avoid 2015 Material Cost Increases, Order Now

Avoid price increases for production orders by placing 2015 orders now!!

Information we have obtained suggests that plastic material costs will increase in 2015.

In plastic machining, the ultimate cost of an order is dependent on two primary factors: material cost and total machining time. EPP strives to contain manufacturing costs through ongoing efficiencies however, containing material costs proves more difficult.

Since 2009, we have witnessed substantial price increases from plastic material vendors of over 30%, with Teflon and Polycarbonate as key examples of high price volatility.

Given EPP’s manufacturing efficiencies, the other means of minimizing an order’s cost is to obtain material at a lower cost.

The solution to lower the cost of your 2015 production orders is placing 2015 orders now!!


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.

Click Here to return to “How to Select the Correct Plastic Machining Vendor.”

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.

Click Here to return to “How to Select the Correct Plastic Machining Vendor.”

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.

Click Here to return to “How to Select the Correct Plastic Machining Vendor.”

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!

Click Here to return to “How to Select the Correct Plastic Machining Vendor.”

Plastic Machining: Custom Plastic Manifolds

Plastic manifolds have many advantages over metal. Plastic manifolds can offer far more complex fluid paths and produce clean, easy to inspect fluid paths. Plastic manifolds are lighter and more compact. EPP’s manifold experts deliver quality custom plastic manifold fast and to your specifications. We can even provide Fluonic Engineering Design services to turn your current “spaghetti-like” tubing mess into a custom plastic manifold. Contact us for your Custom Plastic Manifold needs! Let EPP Corp be your Custom Plastic Manifold resource.

Low-Temp Interfusion Bonding

Low-Temp Interfusion Bonding is a proprietary technique that produces superior bonding joints. Other plastic manufacturers use either diffusion bonding or cement type gluing that leaves machine marks within the fluid channels. Diffusion boding creates heat and can distort the internal features. The Low-Temp Interfusion Bonding technique eliminates any distortion, thus allowing us to hold much tighter tolerances. This process also creates fully polished channels without the cement marks that can impede the overall fluonics.

Plastic Materials

Custom Plastic Manifolds can be produced from a wide range of plastic materials including:

Custom Plastic ManifoldsCustom Plastic Manifold Custom Plastic ManifoldCustom Plastic Manifold

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:Design Considerations For Plastic Prototypes

What design considerations are necessary when purchasing plastic prototypes with full function?

In order to get to market fast, plastic prototypes should be fully functional. Plastic prototypes with full function of course offer the same tight tolerances and high precision as do plastic machined components, as they are one in the same. Simply fast, fully functional plastic prototypes are made in order to meet stricter deadlines, and are often ordered in smaller quantities. When ordering plastic machined prototypes, the considerations are the same as when ordering production plastic machined parts. The design specifications for production plastic machining and fast plastic prototypes are as follows:

Design Considerations For Plastic Prototypes and Plastic Machining

-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 Free Plastic Properties Handbook and select your material!

Plastic Machining and Plastic Prototypes With Engineering Assistance From Experts-The Solution

Machining Plastic is the perfect solution for many varied component needs in numerous critical industries however, most engineers may not have the necessary knowledge.

Many of the brightest, most talented engineers do not have the knowledge required in order to know what material is best for a component or plastic prototype need. Simply the reason being that until recently, plastic machining was not taught in engineering schools. Currently the presence of plastic machining courses is limited to only a small number of schools. In order to select the proper material, contact a plastic machining expert for design application assistance.

Design considerations when machining plastic are unique to plastic.  One with experience machining metal for example, would not be aware of these specifications.  When ordering plastic machined components or plastic prototypes, the following considerations are evaluated:

  • Thermosensitivity
  • Sensitivity to humidity and hygroscopic absorption
  • Sensitivity to chemicals and oils
  • Notch sensitive corners and square ID’s
  • Tolerances
  • High loads
  • High impact
  • Fatigue loading or cycle loading
  • Temperature
  • Electrical considerations
  • Wear resistance or abrasion resistance
  • Dimensional shape retention
  • Regulatory requirements (such as FDA or UL)
  • Appearance
  • Optical requirements
  • Whether or not part is for outdoor use

A plastic machining expert has the knowledge and expertise to help you select the best material for plastic machined parts and plastic prototypes according to the necessary specifications and considerations.

At EPP Corporation we provide design application, engineering, and purchasing assistant to all customers for both plastic machining production and fast plastic prototypes.

We also have an online plastic design as a free, excellent resource that compares different materials based on above criteria, as well as comparing the plastic materials side by side

To download our FREE Plastic Properties Handbook and Design Guide CLICK HERE