One of the most difficult tasks when developing injection molded plastic components is selecting the appropriate material for the job. Many times, this process can be overwhelming – seemingly never ending. Having a complete understanding of the selection process for materials is vital, and will both time and some excruciating headaches. Determining the material properties needed, such as strength, appearance, and material resistance is the easiest way to shrink the list of material options. These 5 tips should help you narrow that list even further, so you can select the right material for the job:

1. Availability

After setting the material capabilities, the next step is to determine which material has the greater availability. This is a crucial step, as users should have a bias towards the materials with greater ease of access. Often times, small quantities are readily accessible for various research and development activities, so there isn’t an issue. However, this does not mean that production quantities will be the same. Therefore, users must consistently monitor material availability to avoid the risk. A helpful strategy is to also have a backup material selected in the case that your selected material is unavailable.

2. Costs

An obvious factor in selecting material is the price. Low cost materials can often serve as viable substitutes for expensive materials. Users should weigh their options to determine if the amount they are going to spend is worth the cost it carries. On many occasions in the development process, people focus on getting their material fast rather that being hesitant and researching all options. Natech Plastics begs the appropriate question that users must ask themselves:

“If a material works perfectly but is far too expensive to offer a feasible solution, was it worth the effort to test at all or would the resources have been better spent testing more affordable solutions?

3. Requirements

Users should also be encouraged to select a material that has meets generalized requirements rather than specific ones. Selecting a material that requires both the material grade and manufacturer to be specified can become both expensive and time consuming if the material is discontinued or is not in supply because a specified backup material would then have to be selected. By avoiding the inclusion of a manufacturer, users will have more supplier options. Another helpful strategy is to include backup material(s) in order to avoid the risk of material scarcity. Specifying the material grade is also not always necessary, so users should monitor this aspect in order to avoid unnecessary costs and delays.

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4. Processing

Every material and material grade has a different injection molding process time for each part. Some require a timely processing window that may not even be necessary if a viable substitute material is available. Choosing a material with resins that are easier to process is by far a better option, clearly, but users must keep the previous recommendations to determine if this it is a suitable choice.

5. Formulations

In some cases, finding the material that meets performance requirements cannot be achieved. When this occurs, users must keep in mind that there are still options. Custom formulations, or blends, of different materials can be achieved in order to generate a viable material. Certain fibers, such as glass or carbon, can serve as fillers in order to boost the material performance and capabilities. The problem with this is that it carries a level of risk, therefore communication is vital to the success.

Learn More about Selecting the Right Material:

A Guide to 3D Printing Technologies

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