Plastic molding is a manufacturing process used to produce everyday products, from small intricate components to large hollow objects. It is widely used in industries like automotive, packaging, consumer goods, and healthcare.

Lerner Molded Plastics is a leading provider of custom plastic molding services. We produce high-quality plastic parts and products for various industries, including automotive, consumer goods, electronics, and medical devices. Our dedicated team of experts collaborates closely with clients to meet specifications and deliver products on time and within budget.

The Five Main Types of Plastic Molding Techniques

Depending on your needs, there are various plastic molding techniques you can use to create products and parts. These include:

1. Extrusion

Extrusion plastic molding is a versatile technique that can produce a wide range of products, from simple tubes to complex profiles. It uses raw plastic material in the form of pellets, which are fed into the extruder’s hopper. A screw then moves the pellets through a heated barrel, where they are melted. Once the plastic reaches the right temperature and consistency, it is forced through a die — a specialized tool that shapes the material into the desired form. As the plastic emerges from the die, it is cooled and solidified using air or water and then cut into the desired lengths.

Applications of Extrusion Molding

Extrusion molding is used in various industries to produce a multitude of products. Some common applications include:

  • Construction: create profiles and components for windows, doors, and architectural elements
  • Automotive: weather seals, trims, and window gaskets
  • Medical: IV lines, catheters, and surgical devices
  • Agricultural: irrigation pipes, greenhouse films, and agricultural nets

Advantages of Extrusion Molding

Extrusion molding offers several advantages:

  • High production rates: The continuity of the process allows for high production rates, making it suitable for large-scale manufacturing.
  • Minimal post-processing: Extrusion molding often requires minimal post-processing, as parts are produced with a smooth surface finish. This reduces the need for additional finishing operations, saving time and cost.
  • Customizable: Extrusion molding can produce a wide range of shapes and sizes, making it highly customizable to meet specific design requirements.
  • Uniformity: Extrusion molding produces parts with a consistent cross-section, ensuring uniformity in shape and size. This is particularly important in applications where precision is critical.

2. Thermoforming/Vacuum Forming

Thermoforming or vacuum forming is used to create thin-walled plastic parts and is suitable for producing large quantities of lightweight products. It involves heating a plastic sheet — typically made from polyethylene, polystyrene, or polypropylene — until it becomes pliable. Once heated, the sheet is placed over a mold, forming it into the desired shape using vacuum or positive pressure. The formed part is then cooled and trimmed to size, completing the process.

Applications of Thermoforming

Some common uses of thermoforming include:

  • Packaging: blister packs, clamshells, and trays for packaging food, electronics, and more
  • Automotive: dashboards, door panels, trim pieces, bumpers, and spoilers
  • Medical: trays for surgical instruments and packaging for pharmaceuticals
  • Aerospace: lightweight, durable parts for aircraft interiors, such as seat backs and overhead bins
  • Consumer goods: toys, sports items, and household products

Advantages of Thermoforming

Thermoforming has several benefits, such as:

  • Quick turnaround: Thermoforming can be faster than other molding techniques, such as injection molding. This results in shorter lead times for producing parts.
  • Material variety: This technique is compatible with numerous materials, including ABS, PVC, PET, and more.
  • Lightweight parts: Thermoformed parts are typically lightweight, which can be advantageous for applications where weight is critical, such as in the automotive and aerospace industries.
  • Good surface finish: This process can produce parts with a high-quality surface finish and can accommodate textures and other surface treatments to achieve the desired appearance.

3. Blow Molding

Blow molding can produce hollow plastic parts with uniform wall thickness. It uses melted plastic resin pellets extruded into a parison hollow tube. The parison is then inflated into a mold cavity using compressed air or nitrogen, taking the shape of the hole. Once the plastic cools and solidifies, the component is removed.

Applications of Blow Molding

Blow molding is used across various industries and applications, including:

  • Bottles and containers: beverages, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and household products
  • Automotive: fuel tanks, air ducts, and fluid reservoirs
  • Sporting goods: toys, sports equipment, and recreational items like kayaks and surfboards
  • Agricultural: industrial components, tanks, and containers for chemicals and fertilizers.
  • Medical: IV bags and catheters

Advantages of Blow Molding

Blow molding provides numerous benefits, such as:

  • Design flexibility: This technique allows for creating complex shapes and incorporating features like handles, threads, and textures.
  • Fast production: Blow molding can produce parts quickly, especially when using high-speed machines. This makes it a suitable choice for applications that require rapid production.
  • Sustainability: Blow molding produces minimal waste, and most materials used are recyclable.

4. Injection Molding

Injection molding is among the most popular plastic molding techniques across numerous industries. It uses raw plastic pellets fed into the injection molding machine’s hopper. The pellets are then heated to a molten state and injected into a mold cavity under high pressure, filling the mold and taking its shape. Once it cools and solidifies, the plastic part is removed.

Applications of Injection Molding

Injection molding finds applications across diverse industries, including:

  • Automotive: dashboards, interior panels, and exterior trim
  • Electronics: electronic enclosures, connectors, and components
  • Medical: syringes, IV components, and surgical instruments
  • Consumer goods: toys, kitchenware, and household items
  • Packaging: packaging for food, beverages, cosmetics, and other consumer goods.

Advantages of Injection Molding

Injection molding offers key advantages over other plastic molding processes:

  • High Precision: Injection molding produces parts with tight tolerances and high precision, making it suitable for products with strict dimensional requirements.
  • Repeatability: The process ensures consistent part quality across production runs.
  • Complex Geometries: It can produce parts with complex shapes and designs, including thin walls, undercuts, and intricate features.

5. Rotational Molding

Rotomolding or rotational molding is used to create large, hollow plastic parts. It starts by placing plastic resin into a mold and then heating and rotating it around two perpendicular axes, typically at low speeds. This causes the molten plastic to coat the mold’s inner surface, creating a hollow part. After cooling, the plastic component is extracted.

Applications of Rotational Molding

Rotational molding is applied to create various components in different industries, including:

  • Tanks and containers: large, hollow containers for storing liquids, chemicals, and bulk materials
  • Automotive: fuel tanks, air ducts, and bumper fascias
  • Playground equipment: slides, climbers, and swing sets
  • Furniture: chairs, tables, and benches
  • Medical: orthopedic supports and prosthetics

Advantages of Rotational Molding

Below are some of the key benefits of rotomolding:

  • Low tooling costs: Rotational molding molds are typically less expensive than injection molds, making this process a cost-effective option for low to moderate production runs.
  • Durability: This technique produces parts with excellent impact resistance and durability, suitable for outdoor and heavy-duty applications.
  • Minimal waste: Rotomolding produces minimal waste, as excess material can be reused in subsequent cycles.
  • Material variety: Rotational molding is compatible with various materials, including polyethylene, polypropylene, and PVC.

Choose Lerner Molded Plastics for Unmatched Plastic Manufacturing Expertise

If you need a reliable plastic parts manufacturer, look no further than Lerner Molded Plastics! We have over 35 years of experience and specialize in plastic molding and forming to create top-notch components. Our state-of-the-art facility boasts advanced equipment capable of handling parts ranging from 3 to 600 ounces, with 30 to 3,000 tons of clamping forces. Whether you want to re-shore your overseas manufacturing or launch a new product, we offer competitive pricing and complete supply chain services.

Contact us today to discuss your project needs! You can also request a quote now to get started.