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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: 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: 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.