Polypropylene, like other plastics, typically starts with the distillation of hydrocarbon fuels into lighter groups called “fractions” some of which are combined with other catalysts to produce plastics (typically via polymerization or polycondensation).
Polypropylene for Prototype Development on CNC Machines, 3D Printers, & Injection Molding Machines:
3D Printing Polypropylene:
Polypropylene is not readily available in filament form for 3D printing.
CNC Machining Polypropylene:
Polypropylene is widely used as sheet stock for CNC machine manufacturing. When we prototype a small number of polypropylene parts we typically CNC machine them. Polypropylene has gained a reputation as a material that cannot be machined. This is because it has a low annealing temperature, which means that it starts to deform under heat. Because it is a very soft material in general, it requires an extremely high skill level to be cut with precision. Creative Mechanisms has been successful in doing so. Our teams can use a CNC machine and cut the polypropylene cleanly and with extremely great detail. In addition, we are able to create living hinges with polypropylene that have thickness as little as .010 inches. Making living hinges is a difficult endeavor on its own, which makes using a difficult material like polypropylene even more impressive.
Injection Molding Polypropylene:
Polypropylene is a very useful plastic for injection molding and is typically available for this purpose in the form of pellets. Polypropylene is easy to mold despite its semi-crystalline nature, and it flows very well because of its low melt viscosity. This property significantly enhances the rate at which you can fill up a mold with the material. Shrinkage in polypropylene is about 1-2% but can vary based on a number of factors, including holding pressure, holding time, melt temperature, mold wall thickness, mold temperature, and the percentage and type of additives.
In addition to the conventional plastic applications, polypropylene also lends itself well to fiber applications. This gives it an even wider range of uses that go beyond just injection molding. Those include ropes, carpets, upholstery, clothing, and the like.