Plastics Technology Practice - The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Plastics Technology Practice - The Hong Kong Polytechnic University





The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Industrial Centre


Plastics Technology


Suitable for the following learning modules offered by the Industrial Centre:

TM4001 Integrated Training I for ME DG Students

TM4009 Integrated Training for ISE DG Student

TM4012 Integrated Training II for PIT HD Student

TM9003 Rapid Product Development Processes

TM9009 Reverse Engineering

Last updated: March 2012

Copyright reserved by Industrial Centre, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Plastics Technology Practice

Plastics Technology



To learn the practical applications of plastic technologies.

To know the latest development of the plastic technologies.

1. Introduction

In general term, plastic refers to the suitability for manufacturing and moulding

into different shapes. Technically, plastics are polymers of high molecular weight

by linking together many small monomers and may contain other organic, semiorganic

or inorganic chemical substances to improve performance and/or reduce


Plastics are widely used in packaging, building & construction, transportation,

communication, health, entertainment and many other industries for applications

such as glazing panel, plumbing fixtures, helicopter blades, airplane fuselages, car

bumpers, artificial hearts, food and drink containers, CDs, DVDs, electrical and

electronic products. Plastics are useful but littering is not. It is estimated that

everyday more than 60 million plastic water bottles are thrown away and most end

up in landfills or incinerators in US. Plastics are non-biodegradable substance that

degrade physically very slowly and prompt to pollute earth, air and water.

On the other side of the coin, plastic packaging offers a superior ability to protect

products against contamination; plastic pipes safely transport water or waste for

their superior corrosion resistance and high strength to weight ratio; plastic

vehicle parts consume less fuel for it weight to fuel impact; in electrical and

electronics enable plastics to make our living easier, safer, less expensive and more

fun for their ease of fabrication into complex shapes, insulation and colourful or

transparent aesthetic aspect.

Furthermore most plastics are petroleum base product and the energy required to

produce plastics is just half of the energy required in producing paper and 1/5 in

producing steel. Plastics can be firstly reused, replaced, and reduced and

ultimately recycled at the end of their useful life. Plastic parts are littered because

they are unfashionable rather than because they are worn out. Our living style is

harming the earth not the plastics.

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The European Union has enforced a series of directives to ensure the sustainable

development of mankind in using our nature resources.

• From January 2006 manufactures & retailers will be responsible for

recycling waste electrical and electronic equipment under new EU

legislation called the WEEE Directive (2002/96 EC).

• From June 2007, chemical substances are controlled through Registration,

Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction for their safe use under the

REACH directives (1907/2006 EC).

The EuP Directive 2005/32/EC on the eco-design of Energy-using Products

encourages manufacturers to design products with the environmental

impacts in mind throughout the product entire life cycle.

The use of plastics in our society should be undergone a holistic investigating or

valuation in assessing the social benefits against with the social & environmental

impacts starting from their raw materials extraction to final disposal: “Cradle to


1.1 Plastic Industry in Hong Kong

Most of Hong Kong plastic manufacturing establishments have been blown up

and moved to China after the economic reform in 1978. The Hong Kong

entrepreneurs have been taking the leading role in transforming the Pearl River

Delta into the heartland of China manufacturing industries and radiating their

influences to the other provinces.

In the past thirty years, China has grown into a giant in the plastics industry,

ranking first in the world in the production volume of plastics processing

machines, second in the production of plastic products, and third in the

consumption of plastic resins and the largest importer of nature rubber. In 2007

annual plastics consumption in China is over 40 million tons and rubber

consumption will reach 3.8 million tons in 2008. China is developing into one of

the largest markets for plastic and rubber products in the world.

2. Plastic Material

Plastics can be classified into three main types, namely the thermoplastics,

thermosets and the elastomers, accordingly to their physical or chemical

hardening processes.

2.1 Thermoplastics

Thermoplastic materials soften while heating and solidify while cooling.

Thermoplastic can be mainly classified into crystalline and amorphous (noncrystalline

type), they are different in molecular chain structure, such as linear,

branched, comb, star, cyclic, dendrimer or randomly branched as shown in the

following two diagrams. These chains associate themselves together through

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weak Van der Waals forces or stronger hydrogen bonding or stacking of aromatic

rings, while a highly crystalline structure is well order, an amorphous structure is

random. Most of the plastics are in form of semi-crystalline by a combination of

these two structures with certain degree of intra-molecular forces into a semiordered


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2.2 Thermosets

Thermoset materials are heat-sensitive

synthetic materials which, when subject to

heat and usually pressure, will undergo

chemical change with their molecules crosslinked

together to become permanently

insoluble and infusible. Thermosets cannot

be remelted and reformed after cured and

the process is irreversible. This reaction is

somewhat like cooking an egg: once cooked, it is set permanently.

Plastics Technology Practice

2.3 Elastomers

Elastomers are natural or synthetic materials with rubbery properties that can be

stretched to at least 200 percent of their original length repeatedly (at room

temperature) and which will return with force to their approximate original length

when the applying stress is released. Natural rubber is an agricultural products

harvested mainly from Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia in meeting the rapid

demand of automobile tyre industry, latex gloves, high pressure hydraulic hoses,

escalator handrails, rubber seals, rubber pad, elastic rubber thread and ribbed

rubber sheets. Thermoplastic elastomers (TPSs) is a kind of injection mouldable

plastics that are low modulus, flexible with both thermoplastic and elastomeric

properties in replacing traditional rubbers. The TPE is a class of copolymers based

on urethanes, polyesters, styranics and olefins. TPSs are found in products for the

consumers, medical, sports and leisure, automotive, lawn and personal care

market segments for their ease of processing and soft to touch texture.

2.4 Additives and Fillers

Additives and fillers are added to improve the performance or to reduce cost of

polymer during processing, or their servicing capabilities. The followings are some

common additives and fillers.

• Anti-microbial imparts protection against mould, mildew, fungi and

bacterial growth to materials. Without anti-microbials, polymers can

experience surface growths, causing allergic reactions, unpleasant odours,

staining, embrittlement, and premature product failure.

• Antioxidants are used in a variety of resins to prevent oxidative

degradation. Such degradation occurs by the initiation of free radicals,

which possess unpaired electrons and are highly reactive. These radicals

are created by heat, radiation, mechanical shear or metallic impurities.

Free radicals may also form during polymerization, processing of

fabrication. The function of antioxidants is to prevent the propagation

steps of oxidation.

• Antistatic agents are additives used in plastics to prevent the buildup of

excess electric charge. This electricity is formed during processing,

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transportation, handling and final use. Secondary benefits of antistats can

include improved processability and mould release. In fact, antistatic

agents are used as lubricants, slip agents and mould release agents in

some processes. Plastics are inherently insulated and do not allow built-up

static electricity to dissipate easily. In most plastics, excess charges can

linger or discharge, causing such problems as dust attraction, fire and

explosion hazards, poor mould release, and damage to electrical


• Flame retardants additives for plastics are essential safety materials. The

transportation, building, appliance and electronics industries use flame

retardants in plastics to prevent human injury or death, and to protect

property from fire damage. Fundamentally, flame retardants reduce the

ease of ignitability and rate of burn of plastics.

• UV stabilizers are used in a variety of resins to prevent degradation

caused by UV radiation from sunlight.

• Glass or Carbon fibres up to 40% (by weight) chopped Long and short

glass fibers (GF) reinforced thermoplastic are added to a polymer matrix

with distinguished good mechanical properties and high thermal

resistance. Both Glass or Carbon continuous fibres are wound, weaved or

braided into clothes and mats for transportation usage with superior fuel

saving and reduction in production cost.

• Calcium Carbonate the least expensive and the largest mineral filler used

(upto 70%) in thermoplastic to reduce shrinkage and offers good surface


• Barium Sulfate: the densest mineral uses in a few end products such as

sound barrier or dampening applications.

• Talc enhance the stiffness and raise the heat deflection temperature

significantly and better dimensional stability.

• Kaolin: clay or natural alumni-silicate provides good impact

modification for automotive applications improves dimensional stability

like talc. Clay provides better sound dampening but not as well as barium


2.5 Selection of Plastic Material

In order to choose suitable plastic material for our application, we need to

understand the properties of different plastic material. The followings are some

common properties we need to consider before choosing the plastic material.

2.5.1 Physical properties considerations

Physical properties can be observed or measured without changing the

composition of matter. Physical properties are used to observe and describe

matter. The followings are some common physical properties.

• Density is equal to mass per volume. Density = mass (g) / volume (cm 3 ), by

knowing the volume of the material, the weight of the material can be

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calculated. Smaller density means lighter in weight if the volume of the

materials is the same. ISO 1183

• Water Resistant describes how well an plastic part resists to water

passage. Especially in some outdoor electrical device waterproof should be


• Dimensional Stability is the property of a polymeric part to retain its form

when subjected to varying degrees of thermal, moisture, pressure, or other


• Softening and Melting Temperature is the temperature when the

material will soften and melt. Different environment and purpose may

require different temperature range. ISO 75

• Flammability of plastics is tested accordingly Underwriters Laboratories

UL 94 to measure the resistance of plastics to a fame source. UL approval

is given for a particular product at a measured thickness with ratings

ranging from least flame retardant to most flame retardant as HB, V2, V1,

V0, 5VB and 5VA.

• Electrical properties are the resistance, insulation, dielectric strength,

dissipation factor of the plastics. ISO 1325, ISO3915, ISO1325, ISO1325.

• Optical properties are the gloss, transparency, haze, colour and refractive

index of plastics. Plastics can be product with a wide of range of colours to

meet the lifestyle demand of people. ISO 489

2.5.2 Mechanical properties considerations

Mechanical properties describe how a material responds to the application of a

force or load. The followings are some common mechanical properties.

• Tensile Strength is the ability of a material to withstand forces pulling it

apart. ISO527-1

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• Impact Strength is the ability of a material to resist shock loading. ISO

179, 180.

• Flexural Strength is the measure of how much stress (load) can be applied

to a material before it breaks. ISO 181, 871, 1210.

• Ductility describes the extent to which a material can be deformed

without fracture.

• Hardness is the resistance to compression, indentation and scratch.

Durometer hardness tester is used to measure the material resistance

against the indentor spring load balance. The hardness is ranging from 1

to 100 with Shore A. B, C, D, DO, E, M, O, OO, OOO,OOO-Sand R standards.

The general Shore A standard is for normal elastomer and Shore D is for

hard plastics (ASTM D2240 A and D testing standards). ISO 868.

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2.5.3 Practical application considerations

In practical application different usage have different requirement, the followings

are some considerations.

• Weather Resistance is the ability of a material to withstand the effects of

wind, rain, or sun(UV) and to retain its appearance and integrity. ISO-4892 ,

ASTM D-2565.

• Wear Resistance is the ability to resist removal of material from a surface

as a result of mechanical action. ISO 2556, ISO 62,585, 960.

• Microwave Resistance is the ability of a material to resist microwave.

• Fire Resistance is the ability of a material to resist fire.

• Cost Factor is the amount of the money can be spent on the project or


• Manufacturability is the factors need to be considered in manufacturing

like the method of manufacturing, shrinkage, tolerance.

• Environmental Factors is the impact on the environment when the

material is disposed, is the material biodegradable? Can it be recycled?

• FDA Compliance is a certification of plastic materials that are used in

contact with food certified by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of USA.

2.5.4 Major Consumption of Plastics

Majority of plastics consumption (over 90%) are commodity thermoplastics such

as High Density Polyethylene (HDPE), Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE),

Polypropylene (PP), Polystyrene (PS), Polyvinylchloride (PVC), Polyethylene

Terephthalate (PET). Because of their popularity, they are respectively identified as

the recycling codes as shown on forms of plastic packaging in the following


The second category of plastics (around 8% of total consumption) is known as

engineering plastics for their improved mechanical properties and load bearing

characteristics. Examples of engineering thermoplastics are Polyamides (Nylon),

Polycarbonates (PC), Polyoxymethylene (POM), Styrene acrylonitrile (SAN),

Acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), cellulose

acetate (CA), Polyphenylene ether (PPE), Thermoplastic elastomers (TPS),

Polyurethanes (PUR) and the others.

Lastly, there is only less than 1% of plastics consumption that is classified as high

technology plastics. These plastics are with superior high temperature with much

improved mechanical properties such as liquid crystalline polymers (LCPs),

polyetheretherketone (PEEK), Polysulfones (PSU), Polyphenylene sulfide (PPS,

Polyarylates (PAR), Polyimides (PEI) and the others.

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2.5.5 Common Plastics


Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET): is used in beverage, food and other liquid

containers; thermoforming applications. For post consumer, PET is one the easier

collected and sorted in Mixed Plastic Wastes (MPW) for recycling purpose for its

dominated application and ease of identification as the bottles for drinks and

alcoholic beverage.

High Density Polyethylene (HDPE): is one of the most stable and inert polymers,

exhibiting very high resistance to chemical attack including alkalis, aqueous

solutions, non-oxidising acids and to a lesser extent, concentrated oxidising acids.

HDPE is used in hollow toys, playground equipment, tanks, milk bottles and water

pipe and very thin carry bags.

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC): is commonly used as for the insulation on electric wires

and over 50% of PVC manufactured is used in construction.PVC is used as

magnetic stripe cards, window profiles, pipe, plumbing and conduit fixtures.

Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE): is used for plastic wrap, plastic bags, dispensing

bottles, wash bottles and food storage containers for its flexibility and soft


Polypropylene (PP): has a melting point of ~160°C and is rated as 120°C operating

temperature and is suitable for food containers that need to be dishwasher safe.

Polypropylene is also very easy to add dyes to, and is used as hinges, food

packaging, textiles, laboratory equipment, automotive components, and polymer


Polystyrene (PS): Pure solid polystyrene is a colourless, hard plastic and brittle, can

be transparent for plastic assembly kits, plastic cutlery, rigid, economical plastics.

Expanded polystyrene for packaging is used as foam for protection.

Acrylonitrile-Buadiene-Styrene (ABS): is considered superior for its hardness, gloss,

toughness, and electrical insulation properties. The nitrile groups making ABS

stronger than pure polystyrene. The styrene gives the plastic a shiny, impervious

surface. The butadiene, a rubbery substance, provides resilience even at low

temperatures. ABS can be used between −25 °C and 60 °C.

Styrene-AcryloNitrile (SAN): exhibits outstanding transparency, good chemical

resistance, rigidity, dimensional stability and thermal shock resistance and

excellent resistance to outdoor exposure, aging and yellowing and is used as

appliance bodies, mixer bowls, water reservoirs.

Polycarbonate (PC): is used to create protective features, e.g. in banks bullet-proof

windows, lighting, lenses, sunglass/eyeglass lenses, compact discs, DVDs, and

automotive headlamp lenses for its impact resistance and good strength at

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elevated temperatures, to overcome the shortcomings of poor chemical and

physical weathering in an Ultraviolet light environment .

Polyamide (PA): is commonly known as nylon for its trade name, it is High

mechanical strength, rigidity and thermal stability, good impact resistance even at

low temperatures, advantageous sliding friction properties.

Polyacetal Copolymers (POM): is with a high degree of rigidity and mechanical

strength, outstanding resilience, optimal dimensional stability and excellent

resistance against a variety of chemicals and is used to make gears, bushings,

fasteners and other mechanical parts.

PolyMethyl Mehacrylate (PMMA): is commonly known as acrylic, Perspex or

Plexiglas for it clarify and transparent properties and is usually used as an

substitute or glass and cheaper but with inferior mechanical properties than



Phenol-formaldehyde (PF): is the most widely used of all the thermosets for its

excellent dimensional stability under thermal cycling and high stress conditions,

low water absorption, and high surface hardness, compressive strength and highly

resistant to petrochemicals and hydrocarbons. An Modified injection moulding

method is by preheating, metering and plunging the PF resins into a mould that is

embedded with heaters to cure the resin after the injection.

Melamine – formaldehyde (MF): is usually formed by compression moulding

method for its lack of pourability, it is with wide range of colour and scratch

resistance and is often used in tableware, bowls and plates. However, it is not

microwave safe.

Epoxies: is cured by addition of a hardener to achieve total cross linking. It is used

as electrical connectors, encapsulating components of Integrated Circuits,

electronic components and coatings for its electrical, mechanical, chemical

properties at elevated temperatures and its very high moisture resistance.

Sheet Moulding Compounds (SMC) or Bulk Moulding compound (BMC)

Composite: is typically 20-30% lighter than equivalent steel parts resulting in fuel

saving and improved performance in transportation industries (automobiles and

airplanes). Composites are with different resin systems (Polyesters, polyimides,

expoxies and polyureas) and reinforcement (chopped or woven or filament

winding of organic, boron, glass or carbon fibres), combination designed to meet

different applications. They can be moulded by convectional compression,

transfer and injection moulding and other techniques such as lay-up for

exceptional strength requirements.

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Silicones: is used as seals, gaskets, o-rings, terminal covers, lubricants in food

industries for its thermal stability, good flammability rating 94V0 in 1/16 in section,

non-stick, low chemical reactivity, low toxicity and good electrical insulation.

Natural rubber: is harvested as liquid suspension by scarping the barks of a rubber

tree and can be cured by vulcanization using sulphur, peroxide or bisphenol. It is

used as tyres, hoses, belts, matting flooring and dampeners in industrial uses and

gloves for its good elasticity.

Synthetic rubber: is made from the polymerization of monomers for a wide range

of physical, mechanical and chemical properties while maintaining the elasticity


Thermoplastics elastomers (TPE): is a physical mix of polymers as polyolefin

blends, thermoplastic polyurethanes, thermoplastic copolyester and

theromoplastic polyamides with the flexibility of rubber, silent aesthetic and

pleasant to touch. The typical crosslinking processing vulcanization in the

thermosetting elastomers is through covalent bonding. While in TPE, the

crosslinking is a weaker dipole or hydrogen bond suitable for recycling and reuse.

General properties of Plastics



g/cm 3











limit %

PET 1.37-1.455 260 75 55-75 50-150

LDPE 0.910 -0.940 98-115 - 8.0 -31

PVC 1.30-1.58 100260 57-82 50-80 20-40

HDPE 0.952-0.965 130-137 - 18.5-24.8 55

PP 0.855-0.946 160 - 31-41 15

PS 1.04-1.05 240 95 45-60 3-4

ABS 1.04-1.05 - 105-115 29.6 20

SAN 1.06-1.1 - 102-104 32-40 4

PC 1.2-1.22 267 150 55-75 80-150

PA Nylon 6 1.15 254 - 59-90 50

POM 1.4-1.5 165-178 - 18-97 40

PMMA 1.19 130-140 - 48-76 5

PF 1.30-1.51 - - 50-55 0.45-2.3

MF 1.41-1.49 345 - 45 -

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3. Plastics Processing

Many different methods are employed to convert plastics from their raw state into

finished products or to fabricate stock plastics materials into finished products. In

the industry the mass production processes are moulding and thermoforming.

Moulding includes injection moulding, extrusion, blow moulding, compression and

transfer moulding.

3.1 Injection Moulding

Injection moulding is the most important process used to manufacture plastic

products. Today, more than one third of all thermoplastic materials are injection


3.1.1 Process Description

Injection moulding is the best process to use for high-speed, low-cost moulding

of intricate plastics parts required in high volume. In this process, thermoplastic is

fed from the hopper through an opening at the rear of the heated injection barrel

(charging). The resin is forced forward to the front of the heated barrel by the

rotation of a reciprocating screw, where the material is heated in various stages

until it reaches a molten state. The injection screw forces the measured amount of

molten resin into the shaped cavity of a closed mould through the

nozzle/sprue/runner/gate by a ram action. The molten resin cools and solidifies in

the mould cavity. After cooling, the mould is opened and the moulding is ejected.

Almost all thermoplastics can be injection moulded and even some thermosets are

being injection moulded with modified equipment. PE, ABS, nylon PA, acrylic and

polystyrene are amongst the leading thermoplastics used in injection moulding.

Typical injection moulded products include appliance housings, camera cases,

lenses, gears, fan blades, spoons, wastebaskets etc…

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3.1.2 Injection moulding machine

An injection moulding machine consists of three units; they are the plasticating &

injection unit, the clamping unit and the mould cavity.

Clamping Unit

Plasticating and Injection Unit

• Plasticating & Injection Unit : The major tasks of the plasticating &

injection unit are to melt the polymer, to accumulate the melt in the screw

chamber, to inject the melt into the cavity and to maintain the holding

pressure during cooling.

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The recent development of all electrical or hybrid injection moulding machines

offer greater high speed performance, low power consumption and increased

precision, microprocessor control and robust & versatile in machine

configuration using the more accurate electric servomotors .

• Clamping Unit

The major tasks of the clamping unit are opening and closing the mould, close

the mould tightly during injection. There are three clamping types: mechanical,

hydraulic and their combination.

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• Specification of Moulding Machines

Shot size and clamping force are usually used to describe a machine. We need

to consider both shot size and clamp tonnage when choosing a machine.

i) Shot size is the maximum amount of material the machine will inject

per cycle (single shot) and the unit is ounces (oz) or grams (g). The

standard for shot size measurement is general purpose polystyrene

moulding in single shot.

ii) Clamping Force is the maximum force a machine can apply to a

mould. The unit of clamping force is tons.

3.1.3 Part Design for injection moulding

Part design is a very important in injection moulding, good part design can reduce

the manufacturing cost and reduce the defects during manufacturing.

• Uniform Wall Thickness

Uniform wall thickness should be the primary consideration in part design

because different wall thickness causes different shrinkage which increases the

difficulties dimension control and cause serious warpage in the injection

moulded products.

• Draft Angles

Draft Angles are added in the internal

and external walls for the mould part to

be ejected from the mould. Draft angle

requirement are smaller in external walls

than internal walls.

• Radii/Fillet

Internal sharp corners and notches are the leading cause of failure in injection

moulded thermoplastic parts. To avoid the problem occurred, radii / fillet is

commonly employed to all “sharp” feature.

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Fillet radius is determined by the wall thickness and the carrying load. Fillet

radius should be between 25 to 60% the nominal wall thickness. The larger

fillet radius is suggested for load carrying features.

• Ribs

Ribs are used to strength the structure and reduce the weight of the product.



Rib thickness should be 50 to 60% of the nominal wall thickness t, the rib

height h should not excess three times of the nominal wall thickness.

Spacing between two parallel ribs should be more than two times of the

nominal wall thickness. Draft angle for ribs is 1 to 1.5°.

• Bosses

Bosses are thermoplastic cylinders attached to a side wall or end corners. They

can be used for assembly with self-tapping screws. A boss should not be

attached directly to a side wall because it will cause sinks or voids.

The outer diameter of the boss should be two times the inner diameter of the

boss. The height of the boss should be less than three times of the outer

diameter of the boss. The distance between two bosses should be more than

two times of the nominal wall thickness t, the wall thickness at the base of the

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boss should less than 60% of the nominal wall thickness t. the minimum draft

angle on the outer diameter of the boss is 1/2° and inner diameter is 1/4°.

• Snap-fit Design

Snap fits are commonly used as an assembly method for injection moulded

parts. Snap fits are very useful because they eliminate screws, clips, adhesives,

or other joining methods. The snaps are moulded into the product, so

additional parts are not needed to join them together. There are three main

types of snap fits: Annular, Cantilever, and Torsional.

• Annular snap fits are

generally stronger, but need

greater assembly force than



counterparts. They are

basically interference rings.

• Cantilever snap fits are the

most widely used type of

snap fit. There is a

considerable amount of

calculation and engineering

that goes into designing a

good snap fit.

The torsional snap-fit relies for its spring effect on twisting rather than

flexing like the other types. It is a good way of fastening a hinged lid on a

box or container.

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3.1.4 Mould Design

The mould is an important element in the moulding machine, apart from

determine the shape of the product, the mould vents the entrapped gas, cools

the product and ejects the product. The quality of the product and the

manufacturing cost are largely determined by the mould.

The mould is comprised of mould base, core and cavity that determine the

feature of the product, sprue, runner and gate that deliver the melt to the cavity,

cooling system and ejection system.

• Mould Base: As a matter of fact, nearly all moulds consist of the same

basic components. There are some standard mould bases in the market

that provide cheaper and more reliable than custom design mould base.

The followings are some standard mould bases.

In very broad sense, moulds can be classified as cold runner and hot runner

moulds. Two-plate mould and three-plate mould are most common in cold

runner moulds.

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i) Two-Plate Mould

This is the most basic and most

common type of mould. Twoplate

mould has a single parting

line, there are two plates in the

cavity plate, with the central

sprue bushing assembled into

the stationary half of the mould,

the moving half of the mould

contains the cores and ejector

mechanism, and in most

designs the runner system.


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Three-Plate Mould

Three-plate mould has two

parting line, one more

intermediate and movable plate

is introduced which increase the

flexibility on gating locations.

There are other types of cold runner moulds like external under-cut mould,

internal under-cut mould, side core mould, unscrewing mould, stack mould.


Hot Runner Moulds

A hot runner mould refers to a mould in which the runner stays molten and is

not ejected during the moulding cycle. In hot runner mould, the runner is

eliminated so that the shot size, plastification time, runner cooling time and the

clamping force can be reduced. The hot runner system is comprised of two

primary components that are the manifold and the drop.

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• Core and Cavity

A mould must consist of core and cavity. The core (male) is fixed on the

moving half of the mould and the cavity (female) is fixed on the stationary

half of the mould. Gate is always on the cavity.

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• Feed System

The feed system is the flow-way of plasticized material to the cavity; it consists of

a sprue, runner and gate.

i) Sprue: is the entrance of the feed system. It is a divergent taper and

highly polished.

ii) Runners is the channels through which the plasticized material enters

the gate areas of the mould cavities are called runner. Normally,

runner is round or trapezoidal in cross section.When designing a

runner layout, the runner length should be minimized and balanced.

The large parts and small parts should not be combined.

iii) Gate provides the connection between the runner and the mould

cavity. It must permit enough material to flow into the mould to fill

out the cavity. The followings are common types of gates.

• Cooling system

Cooling means to maintain the

temperature of the mould/die

evenly in the moulding process

by cooling channel, poor cooling

design will affect the functioning

of the mould and the quality of

the moulded part.

• Ejection system

Ejection is necessary for part to be removed from the mould. The hot

materials injected into the cavity will shrink and stick tightly onto the mould

core. The ejector plate will be driven by the injection machine to carry the

whole Ejection system travels sufficiently to clear the moulding from the


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3.1.5 Moulding Defects

Injection moulding is a complex technology so defect may happen if it is not

careful or experience enough. The followings are some common defects.

• Burn Marks are caused by poor venting. It can be solved by adding

venting at parting line.

• Sink Marks are caused by insufficient

injection pressure and holding time. It can

be solved by increasing holding pressure.

• Warpage is the shape deformation due to uneven shrinkage. It can be

solved by increasing cycle time and using shrink jig.

• Weld line is due to insufficient air venting and injection speed too low.

It can be solved by increasing injection speed and providing air venting.

• Air Trap is caused by poor venting, not

enough injection pressure. It can be

solved by adding air venting.

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3.2 Blow Moulding

3.2.1 Extrusion Blow Moulding

The extrusion-blow moulding process is extensively used for making bottles and

other hollow plastics parts having relatively thin walls. To blow mould a part, the

extruder first extrudes a hollow tube (parison) in a downward direction, where it

is captured at the proper time between two halves of a shaped mould. After

trimming the top and bottom of the parison, air is blown into the soft parison,

expanding it until it uniformly contacts the inside contours of the cold mould

and solidifies. Then the mould automatically opens, the part is ejected and a

new cycle begins.

PE, PVC, PP and PS are commonly used plastics for blow moulded articles. Typical

products include bottles, watering cans, display fruit and other hollow parts.

3.2.2 Injection Blow Moulding

In the injection blow moulding process, the polymer is injection moulded onto a

core pin; then the core pin is rotated to a blow moulding station to be inflated

and cooled. The process is divided into three steps: injection, blowing and


The injection blow moulding machine is based on an extruder barrel and screw

assembly which melts the polymer. The molten polymer is fed into a

manifold where it is injected through nozzles into a hollow, heated

preform mould. The preform mould forms the external shape and is clamped

around a mandrel (the core rod) which forms the internal shape of the preform.

The preform consists of a fully formed bottle/jar neck with a thick tube of

polymer attached, which will form the body.

The preform mould opens and the core rod is rotated and clamped into the

hollow, chilled blow mould. The core rod opens and allows compressed air into

the preform, which inflates it to the finished article shape.

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3.3 Extrusion

Extrusion is common process in plastic manufacturing, nearly 40% plastic

product are made from extrusion. It is a process used for making indetermined

length of thermoplastics with constant cross-section. Pellets (or powder) are

drawn continuously from a hopper into a heated barrel by the action of a

rotating screw, where they are heated and softened as they progress through the

heated barrel. At the front end of the extruder, the melted plastics are forced

through a shaped die that determines the final cross-section of the extrudate,

after which it is uniformly cooled and carried away on a continuous basis. Length

can be cut as desired.

ABS, PE, PS and PVC are extensively used in extrusion. Typical product includes

piping, drinking straw, window track, wire and cable coating, film and sheet.

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3.4 Compression Moulding

Most thermosets must be moulded under heat and pressure to achieve a

satisfactory end product. The most widely used methods for moulding

thermosets are compression and transfer moulding.

In compression moulding a pre-weighed and preheated amount of thermoset

powder is loaded into a heated mould, the mould is closed and pressure is

applied to the powder. The powder melts under heat and pressure and flows

into all parts of the mould cavity, after which an internal chemical reaction

crosslinks the plastics chain, hardening the plastics into its final irreversible state.

The cured thermoset part is removed from the mould while still hot and allowed

to cool outside the mould.

3.5 Transfer Moulding

Transfer moulding is similar to compression moulding except that the heated

plastics powder is placed in a separate chamber in the form of a cylinder &

plunger, then transferred under heat and pressure into a closed mould where the

shape of the part is determined and the final crosslinking reaction takes place.

Phenolic PF, melamine formaldehyde MF, urea formaldehyde UF and epoxy EP

are common materials used in these processes. Typical products include pot

handle, electrical connector, button, dinnerware, knob and tool handles.

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3.6 Thermoforming / Vacuum Forming

This is a process for forming moderately complex shapes of uniform wall

thickness, particularly when walls are very thin and cannot be injection moulded,

or when parts are very large and too expensive to be injection moulded. The

thermoforming processes uses sheet plastic that is softened by heat until pliable,

then forced by vacuum, negative air pressure, or mechanical drawing against a

cold mould surface where the sheet cools and retains the shape of the mould.

Almost all thermoplastics sheet can be used in this process. The commonly used

plastics are HIPS, ABS, PVC, acrylic, cellulosic. Typical application includes blister

pack, suitcase and disposable plate.

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4. Other Plastic Fabrication processes

In addition of the above mentioned mass production manufacturing processes,

single piece or small quantity of plastic models can be produced by others

processes, the following session will introduce three common techniques for

making plastic parts.

4.1 Plastic board Fabrication

In general, the working of plastic materials by hand tool or by machine usually

uses the same methods as those commonly employed for work on wood and

metals such as filing, drilling turning, milling , Hot Wire Bending, Engraving, Sand

blasting, Fastening, Laser Cutting, Mechanical fastening, Bonding or sawing.

4.1.1 Cutting Plastics - Plastics can be cut by methods commonly employed for

wood, metals and paper. Among the various cutting methods sawing is the most

effective one.

• Hand Saws - Many hand saws

can be used to cut plastics. Hack

saws work well for cutting rod,

tube and sheet. Jig saws are

useful for cutting intricate

shapes and holes in plastic


• Circular Saws - Circular saws are suitable for straight cuts. A speed of

about 1,500 m/min is a reasonable average for cutting plastics. Carbidetipped

saw blades will hold up longer with less maintenance, but hollowground

cross-cutting blades with zero rake and 2-3 mm pitch will do

many jobs well. All blades must be kept clean and sharp.

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• Band Saws - Band saws are generally used for cutting curbes, irregular

cuts, and thick materials. The advantage of using a band saw instead of a

circular saw is that the cut is cooler. It is, however, more difficult to obtain

as straight and as smooth a cut as with a circular saw.

• Jig Saws - Power jig saws are more efficient than hand jig saws. They are

suitable for cutting intricate curves and holes.

• Sanding - Belt and disc sanding machines are effective finishing

equipment for plastics. For parts which are too large to be worked by

these machines, portable sanders or hand sanding may be employed.

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• Buffing - Buffing is a polishing operation using a cloth or felt that

contains fine abrasive. The coarseness of the abrasive used depends upon

the original roughness of the part and the degree of luster desired.

Buffing will not ture a surface, but tends to round sharp edges and

produce a lustrous appearance.

4.1.2 Cementing- There are two basic methods of cementing plastics, i.e.

Cohesive and Adhesive-bonding.

• Cohesive Bonding - Cohesive bonding is also known as solvent

cementing, in which the surfaces of the joint are dissolved by a suitable

solvent and then pressed together. However, this method is only suitable

for thermoplastics and the material of the joint must be the same, e.g.

acrylic with acrylic or styrene with styrene.

• Adhesive Bonding - This method is suitable for joining any materials,

similar or dissimilar. It is necessary to find an adhesive which will stick to

the materials involved. Although adhesive-bonding can be used with any

plastics, it is generally not used where solvent bonding is satisfactory. This

means that the most common application of adhesive bonding is with

thermosets or where dissimilar materials are to be joined.

4.1.3 Mechanical Fastening

The use of screws, bolts and nuts for fastening two pieces of plastics is also a

common practice in joining plastics. The decision to use mechanical fasteners is

based on the strength of the plastic

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4.2 Welding

Welding by heat is only suitable for thermoplastics. The process consists of

heating joint areas to fusion and then presses the joint surfaces together. After

joining, the areas are cooled to their rigid forms.

4.2.1 High Frequency Welding

High-frequency Welding can only be carried out by a high-frequency (27.12

MHz) welding machine with a suitable welding electrode and a suitable plastics

material. The equipment consists of a high-frequency generator, a press which is

either pneumatic or mechanical operated, a machine table which forms the

negative electrode and a welding tool which forms the positive electrode. The

positive electrode defines the shape of the weld. When a material with a large

dielectric dissipation factor is subject to a high frequency direct current, the

molecules are forced to rearrange their polarities on either side of the positive

and negative electrodes in the electric field, and thus cause a fusion by molecular

friction heat.

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4.2.2 Hot Air Welding

Hot-air Welding involves the heating of the plastics joining area to fusion state

by a jet of hot air from a hot air gun and then filling up the joint by a filler rod

which is similar in properties with the plastics sheet being welded.

4.2.3 Ultrasonic Welding

Ultrasonic plastic welding is the joining or reforming of thermoplastics through

the use of heat generated from high-frequency mechanical motion. It is

accomplished by converting high-frequency electrical energy into highfrequency

mechanical motion. That mechanical motion, along with applied force,

creates frictional heat at the plastic components' mating surfaces (joint area) so

the plastic material will melt and form a molecular bond between the parts. The

following drawings illustrate the basic principle of ultrasonic welding.

4.3 Resin Casting

For Resin casting please refer to the rapid tooling section in the reading material

of Rapid Prototyping & Manufacturing

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• Manas Chanda, Salil K. Roy, (2009) “Plastics Fabrication and Recycling”, CRC


• Erik Lokensgard, (2004) “Industrial Plastics Theory and Applications”, Thomson.



• Osswald, T., Hernandez-Ortiz, J. P., (2006) Polymer Processing-modeling and

simulation, Hanser

• Hans-Georg, E. (2003) An Introduction to Plastics, Wiley-Vch

• Friedrich Johnnaber, (2008) Injection Molding Machine- A Use’s Guide, Hanser

• Osswald, T.,Turng, L.S., Gramann, P. (2008), Injection Molding Handbook,


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