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9 Benefits of Metal-to-Plastic Replacement

Plastics have been highly successful in replacing traditional materials in applications where they can provide value through improved performance at lower systems cost. Here are some of the benefits of metal-to-plastic replacement:

  1. Weight reduction: plastics yield lower density and are about six times lighter than zinc. Less weight leads to ease of use and better gas mileage, resulting in cost savings for both parts and raw materials.
  2. Parts consolidation: plastics allow for reduced part count and inventory through redesign. Oftentimes, a single injection molded part can replace multiple metal pieces.
  3. Productivity gains: processes like plastic injection molding allow for higher volumes and shorter cycle time conversions.
  4. Labor savings: plastic requires minimal assembly and, due to in-mold decorating technologies, reduced secondary operations such as welding, painting, and laser marking.
  5. Safety: plastics are impact resistant, flame resistant, and also non-conductive, which can improve the overall safety of the end product.
  6. Balance of properties: plastics have a broad spectrum of chemical formulas each having different beneficial traits. Engineering resins are then the blending of these basic resins to provide yet additional optimized properties.
  7. Re-process (thermoplastics): in some cases, start-up or scrap parts are allowed as regrind for the application or scrap is utilized in other plastics through reprocessing.
  8. Longer product life: high performance resins are corrosion resistant, which reduces the need for secondary coatings and sprays.
  9. Design freedom: plastics provide the flexibility to use complex geometry.

In summary, metal replacement is largely driven by system cost reduction. Plastics may offer additional performance advantages, such as weight reduction, impact improvement, and corrosion resistance. The most impactful metal replacement successes typically require a cross-functional team reviewing an entire subsystem, rather than a one-for-one replacement.

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