How Does Plastic Machining Work?

Due to the nature of the material, plastic machining is more of a tenuous process than metal machining. Plastic is usually a softer material and is more prone to bending, cracking, warping and losing its structural integrity than most metals.

Despite that, computer numerical control (CNC) plastic machining can still be performed safely and capably through several different methods and techniques. There are many advantages to using CNC plastic machining, and listed below are some of the tried-and-true procedures used to cut, mold and shape plastic parts and components.

CNC plastic machining

Computers have revolutionized all types of manufacturing processes, and machining is a prime example of that. For plastic shapes that are intricate, a computer can be programmed to instruct the machine to cut the part accordingly. It’s not only an accurate method of machining, but because it can be programmed to create duplicate parts, it’s efficient as well.


The process of cutting plastics is more delicate than cutting metals because of the plastics’ soft material composition. This means that heat levels must be monitored so as not to melt or warp the plastic part. But with consideration and care, a machinist can use sawing to cut plastic sheets to the requisite specifications.


For round plastic shapes, a lathe is often used. A lathe spins the plastic part at speed in a similar fashion to a potter’s wheel, and a stationary cutting tool is used to shave off any unwanted plastic portions.


Milling methods range from the simple to the complex. But like turning, the main goal is to shape the plastic block into the specified shape by removing the unwanted bits of plastic. Unlike turning, the plastic itself stays in one place, and the blade itself rotates at speed, using intermittent cuts to chip away at the stationary material.


One way to make holes in plastic parts is by drilling. But drilling into plastic is much more precarious than drilling into metal or wood. The drill spins at speed, and the friction it generates when it contacts the plastic can create heat. Heat is the enemy when working with plastics because it can cause warping or breaking. A properly skilled and careful technician can successfully drill holes into plastic, but great care is necessary.


One alternative to drilling to create holes is punching. Typically used on thinner sheets of plastic, holes or other shapes can be punched into the material with the help of a multi-tool bit and a CNC program.

Water jet cutting

This type of process is especially useful for cutting plastic. It involves a high-pressure jet of water (sometimes mixed with other chemicals) that is then used for industrial purposes to cut the material into the required shape. It’s able to make precise cuts in the plastic mold without subjecting it to excessively hot temperatures or leaving behind dust or chipped particles.

Call for plastic machining today

CNC plastic machining has made the manufacturing and production of plastic parts much more efficient and cost effective. If you want to use this technology for your machine shop or simply want to learn more about it, give Evden Enterprises a call. We’re on the cutting edge of machining technology, and we’d be more than happy to work with you and make sure you get the exact plastic parts you need.