Ask the Plastics Professionals at AIP Precision Machining!


Do you know why AIP Precision Machining includes stress-relieving and annealing plastics as part of our machining process? We’ve talked about this a bit in our plastic machining guides (like our polymer machining brief on RADEL, but this post serves as a more thorough explanation of annealing does to improve your machined parts.


What’s the purpose of stress relieving and annealing plastics, then? Read on to learn the answer from the plastics professionals at AIP Precision Machining.


What is annealing, and how does AIP anneal its plastic parts?


Let’s start with the basic definition of annealing: it’s a heat treatment that changes the properties of a material to make it easier to machine. Annealing does this by increasing ductility and reducing hardness for the material.


AIP Precision Machining has programmed annealing ovens for plastics that heat the material above its recrystallization temperature. By maintaining the heat at that specific point, the structure of the material changes to become finer and more uniform. This process relieves internal stresses in the material.


The final part of annealing is allowing the material to cool back down once after it’s been heated for a suitable amount of time. Proper annealing requires precise temperatures and timing control to accomplish the right result, which is why AIP uses computer controlled annealing ovens for plastics.


Why is annealing & stress-relieving crucial for plastics?


While not every machined component has to rely on annealing, we at AIP believe it is an important part of the plastic machining process for several reasons. For one thing, it reduces stress in the material.


Plastics that experience internal stress can turn out warped or cracked, have inferior physical properties, or finish with unexpected changes in their part dimensions. Obviously, we want to avoid this as much as possible.


Reducing stress enhances the mechanical and thermal properties of a material by limiting the opportunity for cracking and other issues like the ones above. Since stress build-up can lead to part failure or reduced performance, stress-relieving improves the overall quality of your product.


By doing this, annealing extends the life of your machined plastic parts and components.


Is the process of annealing plastics the same for different materials?


Not at all. Some engineering plastics like ULTEM and TORLON benefit enormously from post-machining annealing. At AIP, proper annealing of TORLON can require more than seven days in special ovens!


Other materials that will undergo a lot of machining time, like some applications of PEEK, can require more intermediate annealing steps to make sure they maintain critically tight tolerances and flatness.


That means it’s essential for your machinist to know what plastic material you’re working with and what particular needs it has. Be sure you’re working with an experienced plastics manufacturer like AIP or else you risk having a lower quality product.


With over 35+ years of experience working with hundreds of polymers and composites, we’re more than just familiar with the machining process. We’re ready to handle any geometry and any challenge.


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How Aluminum Got Dethroned by Thermoplastics in Aerospace


Cup holders. Magazines. Suit cases. Aircraft engines. Here’s a riddle, what do these items all have in common? If you’re an aircraft operator, the answer is obvious: they all add weight, making them a drain on your fuel costs.


If weight is one of the main operating costs of an aircraft, then it’s no surprise that airlines want to lose a few pounds. Over the last 35 years, AIP has witnessed firsthand the incredible weight savings that can be gained from using lightweight polymers and composites for aerospace applications.


How Airlines “Slim Down” Operating Costs

How much can an ounce cost you? Plenty. In the case of United Airlines, removing a single ounce from its in-flight magazine has translated to saving $290,000 a year. Yes, a single ounce can hit an airline with up to six digits in costs.


If thinner paper can have such an impact on your bottom line, then you can imagine the significant cost savings that can come from manufacturing lighter aerospace components. What’s the most lightweight solution for aircraft operators today? We have one word for you: plastics.


What Makes Plastics the Secret to Aircraft Fuel-Efficiency

Aluminum was popular during the “Golden Age of Aviation” because of its strength and durability as well as its lightness when compared to other metals like steel. As a result, many aircraft components have traditionally been metal, from aircraft interiors, to landing gear, aircraft engines and structural components.


Now consider the fact that polymer and composite materials can be up to ten times lighter than metal. It’s no wonder that as more thermoplastic materials come on the market and new manufacturing opportunities arise, metal replacement has been seen as one of the best opportunities to reduce airline weight.


How big is the impact of switching from aluminum to plastic parts like PEEK and ULTEM in aerospace applications? Operators can earn weight savings of up to 60%. This translates to lower lifetime fuel costs, reduced emissions and extended flight range for operators.


“Weighing” the Option of Plastics in Aerospace

Weight alone is a massive reason to consider thermoplastics for aerospace, but weight isn’t the only factor at play in material selection.


After all, wood is lighter than metal, but there’s a reason we don’t build spruce airframes like the first plane from the Wright brothers: it wouldn’t be safe today to fly a wooden plane! Aerospace components need to be able to survive in corrosive, harsh environments as well as provide resistance to high temperatures.


In other words, it’s crucial that your mission-critical components aren’t just lightweight, but also high-performing.


At AIP, we carefully apply our decades of material expertise to select the right material for your application’s needs. Remember that your aerospace plastics manufacturer should understand the unique demands of your industry and your application, and have experience machining the material you require.


Want to learn more about how AIP reduces costs for aircraft operators?

Read how machined polymer components can take a load off aircraft interiors in our aerospace case study.


Download Our Case Study

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