Environmental concerns, limited energy resources, and increasing competition are the key drivers for manufacturers to produce sustainable and economic products.
Traditionally metals have been used for the strength, stiffness, conductivity, durability, fire and heat resistant.
Unlike metals, thermoplastic are low density and easy processing materials that require much less energy for production and recycling. Moreover with a single step, sophisticated components can be produced without need of any further secondary operations like machining, painting and surface treatments. Several components can be integrated as one providing decrease in the number of assembly operations. In addition, corrosion and chemical resistance increase the durability and life span of the products. Therefore plastics are environmentally friendly and cost effective materials.
Although some the key properties cannot be matched by standard thermoplastics, manufacturers can replace them by using specially engineering thermoplastics modified with reinforcements, fillers and additives. These compounds can enhance wear resistance, toughness, stiffness, flame resistance, conductivity, and thermal stability and also offer significant cost reduction over metals.
In order to achieve success in metal replacement, following steps should be taken into consideration:
- What is working temperature?
First step should be narrowing down the base polymer type which can be done by evaluating maximum and minimum operating temperature.
- In which environmental conditions product will be operating?
Contact with chemicals, UV and light exposure, atmospheric condition.
- What are the key requirements?
Mechanical properties, dimension stability, wear resistance, conductivity, fire resistance, aesthetics, etc.
- How long is the life expectancy?
In their service life thermoplastics will be subjected to physical aging like creep and relaxation. Therefore reinforcements and modifications should be chosen regarding to life expectancy.
- Are there any regulations that must be fulfilled?
Safety and fire standards, restricted substances, food contact legislations, etc.
- Product method and part design
Stiffness of the part can be greatly enhanced and ribs and stiffness/wall thickness balance should be optimized to acquire maximum cost advantage through reduced weight.
In addition to steps above, role of the material supplier is very crucial. Achieving success in metal replacement projects require not only a thermoplastic compound supplier but also a solution partner.