8 Exotic Plastics to Consider for Plastic Machining Services

Plastic Machining

Plastics are an excellent material choice for many applications throughout diverse industries, including medical, defense, aerospace, automotive, and consumer products.

Polyhistor has extensive experience working with the world’s most exotic plastics, and we’d love for you to put our plastic machining services to the test!

Keep reading to learn how our expert team leverages the unique properties of eight exotic plastics for a wide range of applications.

Processes for Manufacturing Plastic Parts 

We produce superior plastic prototypes and parts using one of these distinct processes:

3D printing is an excellent choice for low to mid-volume productions. The top benefits include extremely short lead times and minimal design constraints. You will have fewer materials to choose from, though. And surface finishing may be required to mask the layer lines caused by the printing process.

Machining is often the best choice for low-volume productions of low-complexity parts. Lead times are generally reasonable, and you can select from a moderate range of plastics with different surface finishes. The biggest downside is that if your design is highly complex, the cost of plastic machining services can be high. Discuss your design with our CNC machine shop’s engineers to receive DFM help!

Injection molding is a top choice for higher-volume productions that can offset the hefty cost of custom tooling. Though lead times are longer for molded parts than with other processes, you’ll enjoy a vast range of material options with many surface finishes to choose from. Talk to our team in advance to learn our Design for Manufacturing guidelines for molded parts.

Polyhistor Customers Prefer These 8 Impressive Plastics

Get familiar with these plastics before selecting the material for your plastic machining services:

1. Acrylic

Made from the chemical compound polymethyl methacrylate, acrylic is one of the most widely used thermoplastics thanks to its versatility and affordability.  

We can quickly and easily cut acrylic into practically any shape. The edges of CNC machined acrylic are simple to polish, while laser cutting creates a beautifully finished edge without requiring additional services.  

Acrylic is often used as an alternative to glass due to its comparable light transmission, lower weight, and superior impact resistance. Also, like glass, acrylic can be obtained in a variety of colors and opacities, including the most common selection: clear.

Polyhistor Pocket Guide to Acrylic
ProcessesCNC machining, laser cutting
IndustriesMedical, food and beverage, construction
ApplicationsSignage, aquariums, display cases
Properties– Optically clear
– Strong yet lightweight
– Weather resistant
– Heat resistant
– Chemical resistant
– UV resistant
ConsiderationsBrittle; prone to cracking

2. Polycarbonate

Incredibly strong, durable, and impact-resistant, polycarbonate can be further enhanced with protective coatings that resist UV rays and abrasions.  

Our CNC machine shop’s powerful equipment easily cuts this nearly unbreakable thermoplastic, which is available in clear, black, and white. We also offer 3D printing for polycarbonate prototypes and parts.

Polycarbonate grades 1-6 are impact-resistant against various types of ammunition, making it a top-choice material for bulletproof windows and other security features.

Polyhistor Pocket Guide to Polycarbonate
Processes3D printing (white only), CNC machining
IndustriesAutomotive, construction, defense
ApplicationsBulletproof windows, protective surfaces, storm shelters
Properties– Transparent
– Impact resistant
– Flexible
– Durable
– Strong
– Low-heat resistant
ConsiderationsCan fade, discolor, and scratch without protective coatings

3. Torlon®

Torlon® is currently the highest-performance thermoplastic that can still be melt-processed. 

Though moldable and extrudable, Torlon offers outstanding heat deflection and incredible strength at high temperatures. Even in cryogenic environments, Torlon outperforms other high-strength polymers.

Torlon can be reinforced with glass or carbon fiber for enhanced mechanical and thermal properties. The material is available in wear-resistant grades, too—just ask!

Polyhistor Pocket Guide to Torlon®
ProcessesCNC machining
IndustriesAerospace, automotive, industrial
ApplicationsBushings, electrical insulation, seal rings, compressor plates
Properties– Low friction coefficient
– High strength and rigidity
– Thermal stability
– Dimensional stability
– Chemical resistance
– Long-life performance
ConsiderationsSlowly absorbs water in moist environments (but recoverable with drying)

4. ULTEM™ 1010

Holding both NSF 51 and ISO 10993/USP Class VI certifications, ULTEM™ 1010 is a 3D-printable polyetherimide (PEI) resin with the highest heat and chemical resistance of any FDM thermoplastic.

Although similar to PEEK, ULTEM 1010 resin costs 60-65% less than polyetheretherketone. A clear-to-amber color, this FDM thermoplastic offers incredible tensile strength and flame resistance, making it a top choice among aerospace and automotive customers.

Polyhistor Pocket Guide to ULTEM™ 1010
Processes3D printing
IndustriesAerospace, automotive, medical, food
ApplicationsFood production tools, medical devices, interior aerospace panels
Properties– Highest FDM heat resistance
– Highest FDM chemical resistance
– Highest FDM tensile strength
– Lowest FDM thermal expansion
– FDA certified NSF 51
– Certified ISO 10993/USP Class VI
ConsiderationsVery expensive; susceptible to moisture

5. UHMW: Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene

Strong, lightweight, and durable, UHMW is available with or without oil impregnation, making it highly versatile and suitable for many industries and applications.

In our CNC machine shop, we prefer UHMW for industrial applications requiring slick surfaces, such as cable raceways, and we’ve made low friction UHMW for Pile Drivers for customers in the heavy construction industry.

UHMW is a terrific alternative to Teflon when Teflon is too soft. Like Teflon, UHMW is an FDA-compliant material that appears in many food-related applications, from processing to packaging.

Polyhistor Pocket Guide to UHMW
ProcessesCNC machining
IndustriesConstruction, industrial, food
ApplicationsCustom tools, boat dock pads, body armor
Properties– Optional oil impregnation
– Low friction coefficient
– Moisture resistance
– Chemical resistance
– High impact strength
– Lightweight
ConsiderationsNot suitable for high-temperature applications

6. Teflon®

Many people assume Teflon® and PTFE are two different substances, but they’re one and the same! Teflon, or polytetrafluoroethylene, is the synthetic fluoropolymer you find coating nonstick cookware, insulating electrical wiring, and sealing components against aggressive chemicals.

Teflon’s excellent performance-to-price ratio makes it a premium choice for any industry seeking an affordable, FDA-approved fluoropolymer that’s durable throughout a wide temperature range. Teflon with 25% glass fiber filler is available when you need increased compressive strength.

Polyhistor Pocket Guide to Teflon®
ProcessesCNC machining, laser cutting
IndustriesAutomotive, energy, semiconductor
ApplicationsChemical-resistant seals, electrical insulation, gaskets
Properties– High thermal stability
– Chemical resistance
– Low friction coefficient
– Corrosion protection
– Non-wetting
– Electrical insulative
ConsiderationsMay produce toxic fumes when overheated; lower abrasion resistance

7. Delrin®

“Acetal” is the industry name for POM-C (copolymers), but Delrin® is the commercial name for POM-H (homopolymer), a stronger, stiffer formulation that offers better abrasion resistance and a higher melting point.

Often used in place of metal to make corrosion-resistant parts, Delrin® is even easier to machine than aluminum, allowing us to make thin, lightweight parts quickly and at a competitive price. While CNC machining is our go-to service for this material, the material can also be 3D printed and injection molded.

Polyhistor Pocket Guide to Delrin®
ProcessesCNC machining
IndustriesAerospace, energy, defense
ApplicationsBushings, rails, rollers
Properties– High strength
– High stiffness
– Low friction coefficient
– Dimensional stability
– Chemical resistance
– Low moisture absorption
ConsiderationsFlammable; adhesive resistant; can deform under high temperatures

8. GFRP: Glass fiber reinforced polymer 

Metal-free and rust-proof, GFRP is a woven composite of fiber E-glass (electrical glass) and polyester. Many industries are replacing their steel components with GFRP due to the plastic’s strength and impact-resistance. The material also happens to weigh 75% less than its steel counterpart, even when hardened with a thermosetting polymer. 

GFRP materials generate excessive dust during machining, which means exhaust fans are a must on our machines. Despite the mess, GFRP has many beneficial uses, and we’re particularly big fans of the composite material’s design flexibility.

Polyhistor Pocket Guide to GFRP
ProcessesCNC machining
IndustriesAerospace, automotive, construction
ApplicationsElectrical insulators, water tanks, windmill blades
Properties– High tensile strength
– Lightweight
– High durability
– High impact strength
– High durability
– Moisture resistance
ConsiderationsPricier than steel; low elasticity modulus

Plastic Machining Services at Polyhistor

Plastics can present as many manufacturing challenges as metals. But when they’re the right choice for a particular project, we’ll gladly help you select the right one for your plastic machining services.

With so many grades to choose from, it’s wise to reach out early and discuss the possibilities with our team. Polyhistor’s engineers can help you refine your design for our manufacturing processes and your desired material.

Reach out and request a quote to get started!