Parts made from metals like steel and aluminum can be welded by applying enough heat that they melt and join permanently together. Many types of plastics are even easier to weld and form joints that are as strong and resilient as the surrounding material.
Manufacturers tend to appreciate the versatility and accessibility of plastic welding, but there are often easy ways to improve upon the status quo. The three tracks that follow can turn almost any plastic welding process into a more efficient, cost-effective one.
Compared to most metals, thermoplastics are amenable to welding by a surprisingly large number of techniques. Being sure to use the approach most appropriate to a particular product or operation will ensure the best possible results. Some of the most popular plastic welding techniques use heat sources like the following:
- Hot air.
- tools found here
- and many other best-sellers enable the welding of thermoplastics using hot air. This especially flexible welding technique is a perennially popular one for many good reasons. Inexpensive and approachable, hot air welding nonetheless tends to produce very strong joints in many plastics.
- Radiofrequency energy (RF).
- RF welding tools can reach places that would block other implements out. Using RF welding techniques can allow the permanent joining of especially intricate, complex parts. Although it can be slower than certain alternatives, RF often excels where especially
- precious, expensive thermoplastics
- are being employed.
- Lasers are capable of focusing large amounts of energy onto carefully defined targets. That makes lasers perfect for many plastic welding projects where a high degree of precision is a must. A laser can also produce an especially clean weld, making for a more elegant look, in many cases.
- Hot plates.
- Appropriately sized and shaped metal plates can be heated up to produce a weld that joins two or more pieces of plastic. As one of the first plastic welding techniques that were elevated to an industrial scale, hot plate welding has a long history of successful application.
While there are several other common ways to weld plastics, these are a few of the most popular. Switching to a more appropriate plastic welding technique can virtually transform a manufacturing business overnight, in certain cases.
Strong, reliable welds can sometimes be formed with pieces of plastic simply being held in place by appropriate external means. In many cases, though, it will be better to first tack portions of the parts together before forming the desired permanent weld.
Welds produced this way tend to hold up better over time and to be more regular. The tacking process also opens up opportunities for spotting problems that need to be addressed before a potentially irreversible weld gets created.
Tacking is not always necessary or even appropriate, but it can be a valuable addition to certain production processes. Looking into whether tacking might make sense, at the very least, will often be productive.
As with metal welding, plastics can be joined together using welds of many possible forms. Each weld shape has distinctive characteristics and advantages over others.
Classic fillet-style welds, for example, are often found where plastic pieces meet at right angles. Several styles of butt welds join plastic parts that are aligned in one plane. Inner and outer corner seams can be used to create complex shapes that might otherwise be impossible.
As with welding techniques and tacking, making sure that the weld to be used is as appropriate as possible will always be beneficial. Simple tricks like these can help make plastic welding even more of an asset for manufacturers of various kinds.