There are many important processes involved in the plastic routing process that machine shops must follow if they are going to have a successful finished product time and time again. There are many things that must be considered that simply do not come into play with metal cutting router bits or wood boring drill bits, such as the collets and the collet matting surfaces. These parts of the plastic routing machines must be examined and cleaned regularly.
When the collets on plastic routing machines have been well used they may need to be replaced, which is why they should be examined regularly. The same can be said of machines that use metal cutting router bits or wood boring drill bits, although the routing of plastic can often be more strenuous and requires a more perfect finish. It is best to replace plastic routing collets after 400 to 600 hours of runtime, a tool has broken in the shank, a tool has spun in the collet, a tool has been “short shanked” in the collet or the collet has been sprung.
With wood boring drill bits and router bits the collet condition typically has the greatest effect on tool life and breakage, but with plastics, the condition of the collets has an effect on the finished product much sooner and the effect is much more obvious. This is why there are plastic routing accessories such as specially designed felt and brass brushes shaped for cleaning the insides of tapers and collets. These should be used on the plastic routing machines during every shift change, every manual tool change, and every time a collet is changed.
There are also various chemical cleaning products available for routine collet maintenance on plastic routing machines, and they do a good job of removing buildup that brushes simply can’t do. Try to avoid petroleum products, but alcohol, citrus cleaners, and other formulations are okay.