Industrial Plastics and Custom Colors

A common question we receive is “can I get this in a different color?”. That is tough to answer in the world of industrial plastics! The short answer is many plastics are available in a variety of colors but price, availability, and minimum order quantity (MOQ) are often strongly affected by this choice. In general, industrial plastics are fairly bland, coming in white, black, or a shade of brown. Certain plastics can be colorful, such as nylons and polyurethane, but for the most part they come in black and white.

When Are Colors Feasible?

First of all it never hurts to ask, and we’ll always be straightforward. For the most part; however, we do not stock any plastics in custom colors. This can strongly affect the price if orders need to be brought in on special and in small quantities. Remember that we have to ship product all over North America to “land” it at one of our Regional Sales Offices (RSO). Often, this means you are paying much more for the same plastic just to have a non-standard color. How long you have to wait for delivery is context dependent on your order, but 4-6 weeks would be typical.

Polyurethane, nylon, and some profiles of UHMW are the easiest to get in non-standard colors.

When Are Colors Not Feasible?

The primary barrier to getting a product in non-standard color is when you have to stick to a certain grade of plastic or have a certain additive. For example, we get asked if the anti-static UHMW is available in colors: it is not, because the additive itself makes the plastic black. Also regarding UHMW, “clean” reprocessed UHMW in non-standard colors are much easier to get ahold of in rod or extrusion rather than virgin grade material and a colorant.

Specs given for a product might also confuse requirements. We recently saw a spec for a project that called for black virgin UHMW that was certified to ASTM D4020 but this is impossible as ASTM D4020 specifically excludes UHMW with any and all additives, including color. Natural UHMW is white so a black colored resin, or any additive, automatically cannot meet D4020.

In summary, if you want a non-standard color for your project you need to realize that while it is technically possible you will pay significantly for it in increased cost, delivery, and minimum order quantity.

If you have questions or a request for a non-standard colored plastic – please contact us today.

 

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4 Tips For Your Fabricated Plastic Application

Have an idea for an application requiring machined, molded, or fabricated plastic and now you’re ready for some pricing? Having your requirements organized and prepared will not only lead to a quicker quotation but could also lead to a more successful application and quite possibly – save some money. If you’re ready for that quote these tips will help make it the smoothest possible process:

1.) Have some sort of drawing or sketch to send

We don’t expect everyone to have a technical drawing but we at least need a sketch to get started. Sometimes applications that seem simple (a bearing or a pulley) are more involved than you would think. Take a bearing for example, if you just give us the outer diameter/inner diameter/length that doesn’t answer all we need to know. We’d want to know what the tolerances are, specifically in relation to a press fit or running clearance. Does it have a grease groove? Any flanges? A simple sketch can answer many of those questions.

2.) Have quantity and budget in mind

Truth is there isn’t always just one plastic that works in an application. Often there are multiple options that are “good, better, best” and your budget determines where the ideal material lies. Quantity is important too, as quantity can (but not always) lead to price breaks. However, narrow it down to 2-3 quantities at most for quotation. There are not price breaks at all quantities and putting too many tiers will delay your quote.

3.) Know the operational environment and inform us proactively

Often our reps will ask you questions about your application. Basic, yet important parts of the operational environment often get overlooked when choosing a plastic, so think of this in advance and, better yet, inform us at the outset. For example: is the application outside and therefore needs UV-protection? Is it exposed to any chemicals, acids, or bases? Does it take impact or is immersed in water? All of those are critical to the success of an application.

4.) Ask questions

We can’t answer absolutely everything, but we do know our plastics. So if you’re unsure if a plastic is best for your application then ask. Even if we’re not familiar with the application itself, we can at least discuss how other plastics compare to the one you’re considering and that may lead to more success and satisfaction with the end result.

For help with your plastic applications please contact us.

3 Critical Issues You Need To Know About These Popular Plastics

Many industrial plastics can “overlap” in applications where sometimes the optimal choice is only marginally better than several others. Many plastics may work in an application, such as nylon and acetal for sheaves, but certain issues in the operational environment may mean you need to stay away from a certain plastic! Three of the most popular plastics we carry are UHMW polyethylene, cast nylon, and PTFE. But each of the following has a critical issue you need to know about that often discredits the material in certain applications.

UHMW – Impingement

UHMW is a great wear material at an affordable cost…Usually. The one place where it isn’t good at all is with impinging wear, that is wear from a mating partner (could be anything from grains, to rocks, to another sliding component). Impingement is when something hits that UHMW on an angle. With UHMW anything that is remotely abrasive needs to hit it on a 90 degree angle. If the angle is any sharper you risk very quick deterioration of the UHMW plastic. It simply does not hold up to impingement. Often polyurethane, which has excellent impingement resistance, is a substitute and one can be creative, for example only using polyurethane in the impact zone and use UHMW for the rest of the application.

Nylon – Cold Temperatures

Many people know that nylon is affected by moisture swell, what fewer people know is that it gets brittle in cold temperatures, about 10 Fahrenheit or -12 Celsius. This can come as a shock, as nylon is known as a high-load plastic able to handle 4,000 PSI in bearing applications. It is not intuitive to think that cold temperatures would greatly affect the nylon but it is true. Fortunately, replacements are available, specifically Redco Tuffkast is often best to replace nylon. Tuffkast solves not only cold weather issues with nylon but also absorbs much less moisture, so Tuffkast’s properties help in that case as well.

PTFE – Wear

It is often that customers request PTFE for a wear or lining application, even including heavy applications such as dump truck liners! We do try to warn them that PTFE has very poor wearing ability. It is a soft, almost waxy material, that while it is available in sheet form (and seems solid enough) it really cannot hold up to aggressive wear. Bronze filled PTFE is available which increases the wear capabilities; however, by that point there is often a less expensive, more available plastic, that can be suggested as a replacement. PTFE should be avoided in high wear applications wherever possible.

Hopefully you are surprised by at least one of those points, in the hopes that it will assist your material choice in your next application.

To discuss the optimal plastic for your application, get in touch with us today.

BRAXX Anti-Slip Surfacing

After decades research and design, several “anti-slip” plastic options are now available and BRAXX should not get lost in the shuffle. BRAXX is a standardized UHMW based anti-slip plastic which comes in 36″ x 108″ sheets that are 0.30″ thick. The material comes in two forms “BRAXX Sand” which has a base color of blue dotted, with a sand-impregnated surface and “BRAXX Luns” which has a high-visibility safety yellow colored base and is dotted with LUNS clean coal slag anti-slip grit. BRAXX serves as a heavy-duty replacement for anti-slip tapes and paints. Both types of BRAXX are comparable in price and effectiveness, it comes down to personal preference for color and grit.

Applications for the two materials have few limitations. At 0.30″ thick, BRAXX is non-load bearing and is meant to be placed on top of another surface, typically flooring, stairs, etc. As the plastic is UHMW nothing sticks to it and mechanical fixation is required: you will not to bolt or screw into the substrate. Advantages of BRAXX are that it will not rot, rust, absorb moisture, or otherwise corrode. It is impact resistant and easy-to-install on top of other substrates such as wood, aluminum, or steel. Originally developed for the U.S. military, BRAXX is now available to the general public.

For pricing or information on what BRAXX can bring to your application, please contact us today.

 

Product Spotlight: Redco ULTEM

High performance plastics face extra challenges other materials do not. Because of the prevalence of consumer grade plastic, unfortunately plastic with much of the public has become synonymous with “cheap” – low price and low quality. Unfortunately, this is a complete myth for the three grades of plastics (engineering/industrial, high performance, and imidized) that are above consumer grade plastics. In fact, at the higher tiers of quality plastics widely outperform metal and other traditional materials in most applications. And this does come with a subsequent increase in product cost (though usually a lower “lifecycle cost”). But for your money you get quality in a phenomenal material.

ULTEM (polyetherimide – “PEI”) in its virgin form has an interesting amber/translucent color. It handles hot water and air well, up to 332 Fahrenheit in continuous operation. Its resistance to repeated steam sterilization makes it a prized material for medical tools and devices. ULTEM is also very useful to the electronics industry due to its dielectric constant and arc resistance. It is also resistant to gamma radiation and does not absorb water. ULTEM is considered a dimensionally stable plastic with high strength and rigidity allowing it to be machined precisely to tighter tolerances than other plastics would allow. It is also available in 10, 20, and 30% glass filled grades to offer even higher dimensional stability.

If you have a high heat application requiring a precisely machined part ULTEM may be the optimal plastic for you. To discuss this or other plastics please contact us.

Application Spotlight: Redco HDPE “Play” As Outdoor Tabletops

Recently Terrapin Brewing Co (www.terrapinbeer.com) approached us with an interesting application. They wanted to create a plastic table surface for use at their brewery but this offered some unique challenges. For one, the tables were outside which meant that a UV-stable plastic was in order. Secondly, a variety of properties were important: wear, impact, anti-slip and non-fading color would be desirable. But most importantly the color had to be green and a green that was fairly close to the branding of Terrapin Brewing Co. This is difficult in the world of industrial plastics where custom colors can mean extra costs, long lead times, and minimum order sizes. In addition, an industrial plastic such as UHMW would be overkill for this application and would even have some undesirable characteristics, such as being very slick.

But our representative working on the application made an intuitive leap. We had access to a specialized HDPE material Redco “Play” board designed for playgrounds. In our world of sawmills, mines, and heavy construction this isn’t something we focus on! Nevertheless, Redco Play satisfied all the requirements of the application: it was green, UV-stable, impact-resistant, wear-resistant and had an “orange peel” textured surface so glasses wouldn’t slide around. They were supplied pre-cut into 24″ x 24″ x 1/2″ (thick) squares with a minimum order of 16. Terrapin quickly installed these and you can see a picture they sent us below. They have said they are very satisfied with the material and this application.

For assistance with your applications contact us today.

terrapin

 

 

5 Tips To Ensure The Success Of Your New Plastic Application

When selecting a plastic for an application its very important that you do not get “tunnel vision” with your selection. For example, focusing on the properties of UHMW in cold temperatures (which are excellent) while ignoring the fact that your application is outdoors and the UHMW natural material you selected has poor UV resistance. Asking the right questions about your application, and knowing your budget and timeline, before you approach us will speed up both the quotation process and help to ensure that your applications matches your goals. The following are our five best tips to help you along this process with a new plastic application:

1.) Understand Your Operational Environment

The best way to ensure you are going to use the optimal material is to know everything about the environment the plastic will be subjected to. What is the operational temperature range? What chemicals may it come in contact with? How much sunlight exposure does it have? Is it a wear application? What is wearing against the plastic? How fast is it moving? What pressure is being put on the plastic? We could go on and on but the point is that a fundamental understanding of the operational environment your plastic is going to be in is critical to that application’s success – and knowing the environment will help guide your search, or help us select, the best plastic for your application.

2.) Have Your Firm Budget In Mind

Our most disappointed customers are those that do not have much experience with industrial plastic materials and fabricated parts and come to us solely with the expectation that plastic will be cheaper than metal – because it is cheaper for the most part with cheap consumer products. That is not true when it comes to industrial grade plastics! But we also get disappointment from customers who don’t have a firm budget, yet it somehow needs to be low-cost, yet want something very high performance. Obviously, this is often impossible to deliver! But the problem is the customer is demoralized as several materials are quoted repeatedly and the price seems to be “too high” – even though there isn’t a set amount for what “too high” is. We often find ourselves having spent hours to discover that the application simply isn’t feasible for the customer.

We care for two reasons. First of all, as your distributor we can add value with our honesty: setting you up with the best available material, on the first quote. We can also be honest with the drawbacks, if any, compared to the optimal material for your application. It also saves both of us time as we are not re-quoting different materials to try to go lower and lower on price to fit a budget that never existed in the first place. So come up with a budget with a firm range, and let us know.

3.) Be Willing To Test

We’ve been in business since 1971 and so you might think we’ve seen everything – not true! New applications are brought to us daily, if not weekly, that surprise us with their creativity and goals. That means that often it’s unreasonable to suggest that we can supply a “turnkey” solution guaranteed to work the first time. Our preference in many cases is to have you purchase a small amount of material or parts and test it, perhaps against a couple other plastics. While this is the best way to figure out what is the optimal material in most cases, too often the expectations are too high for a solution right out of the gate or not enough time is given to permit a test and this is to the customer’s detriment.

4.) Be Willing To Take Advice

The counterpoint to tip #3 is that when we do have experience with an application, let us make suggestions. One of the best examples of this are custom UHMW extrusions. Customers with small quantity needs may think they need an extrusion (with long leads and expensive tooling fees) where often we can supply a machined solution. Is the per piece price more expensive? Yes. Is it less expensive for your quantities since you will save on tooling and very long delivery times? Yes also! There are a wide variety of applications in many industries we are confidant with so be willing to check your preconceptions if we believe we can offer value in our suggestions.

5.) Plan Ahead For Delivery

If the potential of a new application falls apart due to customer dissatisfaction with price than the second most common cause for disappointment is delivery time. To be frank, we’re a busy company, and you will find that with most distributors or fabrication shops. It is unrealistic to expect fabricated products to be manufactured within a day or two. In fact, fabricated parts can often exceed 3 weeks delivery and that is just to ship from the point of origin. Rush orders add cost and can’t be done often anyways, so the best idea is to get your application moving as soon as possible but expect that it may take several weeks to get the the parts into your hands. If delivery is critical, know in exact terms “I need it by this friday” orĀ  “I need it within two weeks” and we’ll be honest and upfront on our ability to deliver.

If you need help with your new plastic application contact us today.

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