Manufacturing options




Plastics

Type Properties Application
Mylar Strong Food wrapping, films
Polyethylene Flexible, cheap Food packaging, drink bottles
Polyester (PET) Heat resistent, is thermosetting Films, textiles, bottles
Phenolics (Bakelite) Laminating / can add reinforcing fibres Handles for cookware
Polypropylene High clarity, hingeable, waxy, low-cost Bottles, syringes, rotationally molded products
HDPE Flexible, easy to mould, tough at low temperatures, low cost Toys, drums, kitchenware, cable insulation, furniture, Tupperware
PLA Clear, compostable, low odour Blow moulded bottles, rigid food containers, diapers
Acrylanitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) Best impact resistance, tough, scratch resistant, low cost, easy to mould, high gloss finish, flame resistant Lego, cellphone casings
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) Low cost, easy to form and colour (but includes harmful chlorides and heavy metal based stabilisers) Dip-moulded bicycle handles, drain pipes, flooring, cabling, domestic appliances, raincoats, credit cards, inflatable toys
Polymethylmethacrylate (acrylic, PMMA) clear, glass-like Airplane windows, spectacle lenses
Styrene methylmethacrylate copolymer (SMMA) Strong, stiff, clear Perfume bottle caps, tap handles, toys
Nylon / polyamide (PA) Strong, tough, stiff, elastic, chemical and water resistant Swiss Army knife
Polycarbonate (PC) Strong, tough, stiff, high temperature resistance, clear, high-cost CDs, helmets, eyewear, computer housings, cellphone housings, electronics, plugs, car bumpers, riot shields
Tyvek Unrippable paper-like product Courier envelopes
Expanded polystyrene Light, good insulator Disposable cups, egg boxes
Thermoplatic elastomeric copolymer gell (Gelastic, Intelli-gel, Floam) Strong, soft Cushioning on other co-moulded products
Polyvinyl alcohol Dissolves in water Packaging e.g. detergent dispenser for washing machines

Forming techniques

Type Description Application Qualities
Rapid prototyping Quick, cheap. See our rapid prototyping package Prototypes Visual quality:
Speed:
Tooling cost:
Unit cost:
Compression moulding Rubber and phenolic, polyester, epoxy, urea and melamine plastics (thermosetting materials including) is squeezed into and deformed by a pre-heated die Keypads, seals Visual quality: 5
Speed: 4
Tooling cost: 4
Unit cost: 4
Thermoforming (includes vacuum forming and pressure forming) Thermoplastic (e.g. polystyrene, polypropylene) sheet (1-12mm) is heated and pressed into a shape Ice trays, covers Visual quality: 4
Speed: 4
Tooling cost: 3
Unit cost: 3
Rotation moulding Polyethylene, Polyamide, Polypropylene or Polyvinyl chloride powder is rotated within a heated mould giving an even wall thickness Containers, furniture, hollow forms, Magis Grande Puppy Visual quality: 4
Speed: 3
Tooling cost: 5
Unit cost: 4
Plastic extrusion Thermoplastic is heated and extruded Pipes, door frames, profiles Visual quality: 4
Speed: 6
Tooling cost: 4
Unit cost: 2
Injection moulding Thermoplastic (e.g. polypropylene) is heated and injected into a mould at high pressure Shopping baskets, stationary, garden furniture, keypads, consumer electronics casings Quality: 6
Speed: 7
Tooling cost: 6
Unit cost: 2
Metal injection moulding Inject powder steel, stainless steel, magnetic alloys, bronze, nickel alloys or cobalt alloys into a heated mould under pressure Small parts, e.g. cogs Visual quality: 5
Speed: 6
Tooling cost: 6
Unit cost: 3
Foam moulding Liquid polyurethane resin (isocyanate and polyol) is injected into a mould where it reacts and foams Cushions, inner soles Visual quality: 4
Speed: 3
Tooling cost: 4
Unit cost: 3
Dip moulding A hot metal tool is dipped in polyvinyl choride to form a skin around the tool Electrical insulation covers Visual quality: 3
Speed: 3
Tooling cost: 3
Unit cost: 4
High pressure die casting Molten non-ferrous metal (aluminium, magnesium, zinc, copper, lead or tin) is injected under high pressure into a mould Furniture, lighting, jewelry, toys Visual quality: 4
Speed: 4
Tooling cost: 7
Unit cost: 4
Investment casting / lost wax casting Liquid metal (carbon and low-alloy steels, stainless steels, aluminium, titanium, zinc, copper alloys or precious metals) is poured into a ceramic mould containing wax, which is replaced Small, intricate metal parts, such as gears, engine parts, turbine blades, medical implants, brackets Visual quality: 5
Speed: 1
Tooling cost: 3
Unit cost: 5
Metal press forming Sheet metal (carbon steel, stainless steel, aluminium, magnesium, titanium, copper, brass or zinc) is punched into shape by a die Camera bodies, mobile phones, office equipment, kitchen sinks Visual quality: 5
Speed: 4
Tooling cost: 6
Unit cost: 3
Punching and blanking Hole is punched into a sheet (carbon steel, stainless steel, aluminium, copper alloys, leather, textiles, plastic or paper) Colanders, bowls, plates Visual quality: 3
Speed: 5
Tooling cost: 4
Unit cost: 3
Metal spinning Spins and forms sheets (mild steel, stainless steel, copper, brass, aluminium, titanium) into rotationally symmetrical parts Lamp shades, bowls Visual quality: 4
Speed: 3
Tooling cost: 3
Unit cost: 5
Tube and section bending Tubes (steel, aluminium, copper, titanium) are bent over a mandrel Furniture, exhaust pipes Visual quality: 4
Speed: 5
Tooling cost: 2
Unit cost: 3
Swaging Drawing out a pipe or rod (steel, aluminium, copper, brass, titanium) while manipulating a metal, tube, rod or wire Cartridges, lamp posts Visual quality: 4
Speed: 4
Tooling cost: 3
Unit cost: 4
Ceramic press molding Clay is forced at high pressure into a plaster mould Cups, plates Visual quality: 6
Speed: 5
Tooling cost: 4
Unit cost: 2
Ceramic slip casting Liquid clay hardens along the inside wall of a mould to form a hollow shape with an even wall thickness Basins, vases, bowls, figurines Visual quality: 5
Speed: 3
Tooling cost: 3
Unit cost: 3
CNC machining Material (plastic, metal, wood, glass, composites) is routed into the desired shape Visual quality: 7
Speed: 2
Tooling cost:
Unit cost: 7
Laser cutting Material (plastics, metal, timber, textiles, rubber, glass, ceramic) is cut using a laser Signs, trophies Visual quality: 5
Speed: 4
Tooling cost:
Unit cost: 4

Joining

Type Description Application Qualities
Hot plate welding Extruded and injection molded thermoplastics components are joined by plasticising the interface (using heat) and pressing them together Packaging, automotive parts Visual quality: 4
Speed: 6
Tooling cost: 4
Unit cost: 4
Ultrasound welding Plastics are fused using ultrasonic vibrations Consumer electronics, packaging Visual quality: 5
Speed: 6
Tooling cost: 2
Unit cost: 3
Vibration welding Parts are rubbed together and fused Automotive parts, medical, consumer electronics, white good applicances Visual quality: 5
Speed: 6
Tooling cost: 4
Unit cost: 3
Staking Placing a plastic stud through a part and flattening the stud Electronic components Visual quality: 3
Speed: 6
Tooling cost: 2
Unit cost: 4

Finishing

Type Description Application
Tampo printing Ink is applied to a product using a flexible silicone pad Keypads, sports equipment
Screen printing Screen covers the product and ink is applied onto the screen Packaging, consumer electronics, clothes
Anodizing Surface of aluminium, magnesium and titanium is oxidized Maglite, consumer electronics
Electroplating Material is coated with a thin metal layer Jewelry, trophies, tableware, bathroom fittings, consumer electronics. For hard wearing applications, use chrome electroplating
Vacuum metalizing Vaporised vapour settles on rotating products Jewelry, trophies, kitchen utensils

Sources:
Product and Furniture Design by Rob Thompson, Thames and Hudson, 2011
Product Design by Paul Rodgers and Alex Milton, Laurence King Publishing, 2011

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