Extreme Operating Conditions

Understanding Extreme Operating Conditions and the Plastic Components that can Withstand Them

You can find plastic machined parts and manifolds as critical parts of devices in almost any environment: from cell counters in a climate-controlled lab to components on the International Space Station. When machining components that must perform in an extreme environment, a good engineer understands that selecting the right material is a critical step. One of the major advantages of choosing plastic over glass/metal alternatives is the existence of a polymer that meets the environmental requirements of any project. Thanks to advances in polymers, engineers can find a material that will work in just about any stressful environment. A few of the more common environments our engineers find themselves considering are extreme heat, chemical exposure, and water exposure.

Extreme Heat

Before making any decisions, it’s important to define what “extreme heat” means for your specific project. There are three important details to consider: the most extreme temperature the component will face and the frequency of the spikes, the continuous operating temperature, and the potential of/frequency of dips below the continuous operating temperature. Understanding the entire operating environment conditions is essential for selecting the right material for your project. Specifically, understanding the relationship between continuous operating temperature and temperature spikes will impact material choice. Some materials might be able to handle spikes outside their continuous operating range – giving you a wider range of materials to consider when making your selection.

Some materials that we frequently turn to for projects that operate in extreme heat are:

Chemical Exposure

Chemical exposure – and machining components that operate consistently well despite frequent chemical exposure – is a common consideration in projects in the life science and medical industries. Choosing the wrong material can result in stress cracks and non-functional components. Before moving forward with your project, determine the type of chemical the component will be exposed to and the frequency/duration of the exposure. Then work with an engineer (and a reference guide) to determine the best material for your project.

Some materials that we frequently turn to for projects that require chemical resistance are:

Moisture and Water Exposure

The need for moisture resistance spans industries. Weather, sterilization techniques, and overall operating environments all require components that can operate despite some degree of exposure to moisture. Choosing the wrong material can cause moisture absorption that will lead to decreased dimensional stability. The result will be a component that doesn’t operate consistently – or at all. To select the right material, make sure you know the type of moisture (water/steam/lubricant, etc) the component will need to withstand, and how often the moisture will be present. A component destined to operate underwater needs a very different material than a component that will experience occasional bursts of steam.

Some materials we frequently turn to for projects that require moisture resistance are:

The bottom line: a component destined for an extreme environment must be machined well and use the best material possible. The experienced engineers at Controlled Fluidics can help on both fronts. Contact us today to discuss your projects specific needs and learn more about how we can help.