Even just 10 years ago, metal-to-plastic conversion as a large-scale plan for manufacturing in certain industries would not be seen as a viable proposition. Typical rebukes would be that available materials could not provide the necessary physical properties; plastic was too weak or brittle; consumers and customers would frown upon too many plastic components; and besides, metal manufacturing was just “the way it was always done.”
While there was an understanding of the benefits of replacing metal parts with molded plastic parts — such as lower weight and increased production speed — the assumed downsides were simply too much to overcome. With advances in plastics formulation, however, and the lowering of costs for specialized, high-strength plastic materials that are better able to replicate the key properties of metal, there are now many more reasons to replace metal parts with plastic parts — and far fewer reasons not to do so.
Below, we will take a closer look at the realities behind plastic vs. metal.
Reasons to Investigate Metal-to-Plastic Conversion
The metal-to-plastic conversion conversation almost always starts at the same place — the bottom line. With ever-thin margins, manufacturers are always on the lookout for ways to save costs while maintaining quality, speed and service. In the past, focus on the bottom line could make plastic vs. metal a non-starter, specifically in cases where the plastic materials that could successfully mimic the needed properties of metal were considered more specialized, and thus were more expensive.
Similarly, less-expensive materials were often not able to provide the necessary material properties — which are often critical — putting an end to the conversation.
As plastics have become more advanced and widely used — and more inexpensive — manufacturers are revisiting their viability for metal replacement parts. They are often finding that metal-to-plastic is, in some capacity, a good fit for them.
These are the reasons why:
- Lighter weight: Frequently reason No. 1 for making the switch. The lighter weight that plastic parts offer over identical metal counterparts is often advantageous for weight-sensitive products, such as ground vehicles (which enjoy better fuel efficiency with lighter weight) and aircraft (where every ounce must be considered). Moreover, lighter components make for easier handling and lower shipping costs for products across all sectors, from medical to industrial.
- No quality sacrifice: In critical manufacturing, quality should always be the primary concern. Safety, product integrity and reputation depend on it. The increased viability of replacing metal parts with plastic parts is, in large part, thanks to the evolution and increased availability of plastics. These materials offer properties that can match those of metal — whether strength, hardness, flexibility, environmental resistance or other key concerns.
- Advantageous material properties: In addition to matching many material properties as metal, plastics can even yield advantages. Paramount among these is corrosion resistance.
The result of these benefits is a better bottom line in many areas: production, assembly, handling, fulfillment and shipping — as well as the benefit to the end user or customer.
Which Industries Are Best-Suited for Metal-to-Plastic?
Numerous industries have seen the benefits of switching from metal parts to identical plastic parts. These include:
Injection Molding and Metal Replacement Parts With Crescent Industries
With full custom injection molding, product design and prototyping services, Crescent Industries is ready to facilitate your metal-to-plastic shift, at any scale, for any types of products. Understanding that not every metal product can be switched to plastic, we work with you in design, engineering, and production to determine which products are the best fit — and to help you realize the benefits described here. For more information, contact us today.