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Plastic

Plastic is a material used everywhere in our modern world. Each type of plastic has unique properties that we must take into account when choosing our speeds and feeds.

Acrylic/Polycarbonate

  • Although acrylic and polycarbonate look almost identical visually, they have different properties. Most common issue with cutting acrylic and polycarbonate is melting as they have very low melting points.
  • Reducing spindle speed can reduce heat build-up and prevent the chips from welding themselves onto your part of end mill.
  • Acrylic, with the right settings, cuts incredibly easily. Typically, standard wood cutting spiral flute end mills will work fine. However, you may choose to use single flute end mills that are designed for plastics for better cuts.
  • Polycarbonate tends to be more flexible plastic, making it more challenging to cut than acrylic. Properly securing your workpiece to prevent your material from flexing while cutting is important.
  • It is advisable to use single flute end mills on polycarbonate as well.

ABS/PVC/HDPE

  • These plastics are a joy to cut. With a sharp cutter, you these plastics cut like butter.
  • Standard 1/8″ and 1/4″ 2 flute end mills work well with these materials, you can also find special plastic cutting end mills as well.
  • If you experience melting, increase your feed rate or decrease your spindle speed.
  • These plastics can gain a static charge and stick to surfaces.
  • Laser cutting/burning PVC releases toxic gases and chemicals.

Delrin/Teflon

  • Low friction plastics like Delrin (POM) is also quite easy to machine.
  • Standard 1/8″ and 1/4″ 2 flute end mills work well with these materials, you can also find special plastic cutting end mills as well.