TIPS WITH TONY: The Material Properties of Machined Plastic

If your ultimate product development plan involves a move to injection molding, CNC machining offers a material selection conducive to a transition into increased molded quantities. Proto Labs has more than 30 engineering-grade thermoplastic materials with various benefits.

To illustrate the material properties better (Figure 1), we took four frequently used thermoplastics — ABS, polycarbonate (PC), polypropylene (PP) and nylon polyamide (PA) — and compared the maximum heat deflection, tensile strength and elongation at break that occurs within injection molding, machining and 3D printing.

ABS Molded

ABS Machined

ABS-like SL

Heat Deflection

215°F

214°F

138°F

Tensile Strength

6,091 psi

6,100 psi

7,800 psi

Elongation at Break

30%

40%

6-20%

PC Molded

PC Machined

PC-like SL

Heat Deflection

280°F

280°F

482°F

Tensile Strength

10,442psi

8,000 psi

11,300 psi

Elongation at Break

100%

50%

1.0-13%

PP Molded

PP Machined

PP-like SL

Heat Deflection

203°F

210°F

142°F

Tensile Strength

5,801 psi

4,800 psi

7,250 psi

Elongation at Break

100%

14%

7-25%

PA Molded

PA Machined

PA SLS

Heat Deflection

410°F

370°F

370°F

Tensile Strength

16,500 psi

10,000 psi

6,946 psi

Elongation at Break

60%

25%

14-51%

Figure 1: Thermoplastic material properties compared between different manufacturing processes. Properties are dependent on actual material selected, part thickness and geometry. Please review each material data sheet individually as these are estimates.

Translation: CNC machining is ideal for functional prototyping and end-use production parts, and readies your design for an eventual move to injection molding. We have a full staff of technical experts that can answer any machining questions you have at customerservice@protolabs.com or 877-479-3680. For more information on 3D printing, CNC machining or injection molding at Proto Labs, head over to protolabs.com.

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About Tony Holtz

Tony is a technical specialist at Proto Labs with more than 10 years of experience ranging from CNC mill operator to mold designer to customer service engineer. While his formal education is in industrial machinery operations, he has extensive knowledge and experience in both traditional and advanced manufacturing processes and materials. Throughout his tenure at Proto Labs, Tony has worked with countless designers, engineers and product developers to improve the manufacturability of their parts.

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