Metal-to-plastic conversion takes parts originally manufactured in metal and redesigns and fabricates them out of plastic. The process of converting metal parts into plastic became popular during World War II when the need to mass produce affordable and reliable products was in high demand. Today, we still look to replace metal parts with plastic for multiple reasons:
- Decrease in overall production costs
- Weight reduction/lightweighting
- Greater design freedom which allows for more complex parts
- Elimination of secondary operations
- Parts consolidation
- Longer tool life
- Corrosion resistance that is inherent in plastics
One industry that has successfully utilized, and continues to utilize, metal-to-plastic conversion is transportation. The transportation sector has been replacing metal parts with plastic for lightweighting, which helps reduce the weight of the car or vehicle to provide fuel savings. By replacing steel and cast-iron parts within the car’s body and chassis with lighter thermoplastics, up to a 50% decrease in overall vehicle weight can be achieved. With the move towards electric vehicles (EVs), the need for lightweighting is integral in extending the drivable range of the car on a single charge. In addition, the advantages of lightweighting in general for weight reduction in parts extend outside automotive applications. They can provide added benefits such as making parts easier to lift and operate in our everyday lives and lowering shipping costs.
With a multitude of benefits in converting metal parts to plastic, what causes manufacturers and designers to hesitate? There are a few things to consider when converting from metal to plastic, including redesigning the part. Rarely, if ever, can we use a design created for metal for plastic. There is also a perception of inferior strength and performance in using plastic and resistance to change to plastic in some markets. Here are some ways to start to alleviate those concerns:
- With the proper assistance from materials engineers and software, the performance of a particular design in plastic can be simulated in the design phase before ever cutting steel or aluminum to create a mold, thus eliminating the guesswork if a design or plastic will work.
- Metals are very stiff and strong, but they are also heavy. Thermoplastics with a high loading of glass reinforcement can achieve the same or better strength at a lower density. The result is a material with greater specific strength (material’s strength compared to its density) than metals like zinc and aluminum. Table showing specific strength of common metals and thermoplastics below
The Engineering Team here at Chase Plastics is ready and willing to walk you through any analysis needed to offer metal-to-plastic material recommendations. Give us a call at 844-411-2427 or send an email to email@example.com to get support on any of your technical questions today!
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