From Wood Routing to Plastic Routing
Plastic routing is now one of the most commonly performed operations for manufacturing facilities that produce plastic components and other finished goods. The quality of the router bits and the machines has really taken off during the last ten years, especially when you are talking about CNC routing. The idea of plastic routing and trimming even being performed is something that people probably couldn’t have even imagined many years ago, though, since these technologies were originally only intended for wood and metal.
The same technologies used for wood router bits and metal cutting router bits were eventually extended to the plastic family after the explosive growth of market demand for thermoformed plastic components, POP displays and thermoset plastic goods. Router bits manufacturers slowly began to develop tooling that was dedicated solely to the machining of plastics, though. The plastic routing machines that have been developed are vastly different from those that were used for wood and metal, although the idea behind them is still the same.
Wood router bits are generally carbide tipped or solid carbide with cutting geometry that allows the fibrous material being cut to be sheared off cleanly, leaving no chips or grain fuzzing. The designs of wood router bits were further refined as applications began calling for faster material removal rates, better finishes, or as new wood composites began to enter the market place. Similar results are true for metal cutting router bits. A few specific cutter geometries and high speed steel or solid carbide spirals are used to machine almost all the products being produced.
Plastics routing has completely changed the router industry outlook on cutter design, because each plastic exhibits different cutting characteristics and may respond differently to different cutting geometries. This has led to an explosion in the number of cutter styles offered and a surge in the technology for cutting plastics. Now manufacturers that deal with plastics have more choices and better possibilities that ever before.