Several industrial sectors are converting metal components to plastic to gain efficiencies in cost, weight, performance, aesthetics, and durability. While these are compelling reasons to consider plastic versus metal, the process isn’t necessarily right for all industrial applications.
A comprehensive feasibility analysis can help you determine if your project is suitable for metal-to-plastic conversion by evaluating it from three fundamental perspectives: design, manufacturability, and return on investment.
With the rise of electric vehicles, new technologies, and tougher fuel standards, the automotive industry is booming these days, and so is the plastics industry. With manufacturers looking to make lighter, less expensive components, while also installing new electronics and their housings, there have been numerous innovations involving plastic automotive parts and designs in 2020, and there are even more on the horizon.
Federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) Standards coupled with heightened consumer sensitivities to the environmental impact of using fossil fuels are tightening fuel consumption requirements for the auto industry.
When engineering-grade resins were introduced in the 1950s, some auto manufacturers were unfamiliar with the benefits of metal-to-plastic conversion, i.e. how to design plastics into products, and how to manufacture with plastics. Today this practice, also known as “lightweighting,” is becoming increasingly popular with automakers as they race to comply with a federal mandate calling for automobiles to average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.
Design teams are always trying to come up with something better—better shapes and designs, better performance, better materials, and most importantly, a better cost. If there's a way to give their product an edge over the competition, the design team will do everything they can to incorporate it into their process and product.
For OEMs that use metal as their primary material, it’s likely they’re very happy with the parts they’re producing. There are a number of key benefits to using metal components, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?
In 2012, President Obama finalized standards to increase fuel efficiency in cars and light-duty trucks to nearly 55 mpg by model year 2025, with the aim of saving Americans more than $1.7 trillion at the gas pump and reducing U.S. oil consumption by 12 billion barrels.
While there are several ways to meet this mandate, reducing the car’s weight is one of the best – and easiest – ways to improve fuel economy without impacting other design and safety factors. That's why many automakers are rethinking production and using custom injection molded plastic components instead of metal assemblies.
Metal-to-plastic conversion is a decades old concept, and it remains a popular option for addressing concerns about component or end product cost, weight, manufacturability and compliance. While metal-to-plastic conversion is effective, many industries — notably automotive, defense and medical — are leaning into it further in order to reap more benefits by consolidating multiple existing parts into a single complex injection molded plastic part.
Converting metal parts to plastic is becoming an increasingly standard practice in a number of industries from automotive to defense and public safety. The decision to use plastic instead of metal seems like a no brainer given the many advantages like lighter weight, lower material costs, quicker manufacturing times and extended tooling life.