We found an interesting blog that brings up a great point for those of us with a green thumb – in many areas of North America late fall and even winter does not mean the end to the growing season! Lots of cold-hardy vegetables and herbs are available but you do need to make some precautions. Specifically, you need to shelter the plants from heavy frost. What we like about the idea on this blog is that it’s 1.) easy and 2.) fits around your standard rectangular planter bed. You just need some PVC brackets, some 3/4″ OD PVC pipe and a bunch of flexible 1/2″ OD pipe. Over that you can drape some flexible clear plastic. The plastic protects the plants from frost damage and also provides some heat insulation.

You can read the blog in its entirety here.

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We write a lot on this blog about doing things with plastics purchased from distributors – but what if you could create your own plastic at home? We stumbled on an open-sourced recycled plastic manufacturing system called the “Precious Plastic V1.0” and, at least from the video, it looks to be a really neat system. What is interesting is that it combines an extruder, rotational molder, a shredder, and compression molding system. This would allow you to create a wide variety of plastic products because those are three main processes to manufacture virgin plastics. The only system missing is a cell cast mold for sheet but presumably you could make one yourself by laying out the plastic from the extruder in between some metal sheet than compressing it.

The system allows you to recycle old plastic into items you would use. They look…Creative, but anyone who bothers to set up this system likely doesn’t care about the funky colors and look! The best part of all is that the creator of the system wants it to be “open-source” so the information and plans he has are free for you to use. You can find them on his website here.

Here is a quick video of the system in action:

3 “Insider” Plastic Tips for the DIY Community

Posted: September 30, 2016 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

When you’re a member of the public who just needs some plastic for a home project, dealing with a plastics distributor can be a little awkward. They’re not like a “store” in the traditional sense, with product neatly displayed with nice little price tags. Product is quoted based on specific needs – and often, you don’t even know what those needs are! Sure, you may have an application in mind, and you might have heard of a plastic that works well in that application. But how do you know for sure? In addition, industrial plastics are a premium material and the cost can be a surprise to some people. Here are three “insider” tips from those of us in the plastic industry which will help you have a more satisfying experience with your DIY application:

1.) Be open-minded – and don’t care about looks

Many people have an idea that, like with products made of consumer or “commodity” plastic, that a wide array of colors, textures, and sizes are available. This is not the case at the level of industrial plastic. Most plastics only come in one color per grade and the color is often just white or black. Colorful plastics like frosted acrylic are hard to come by in small quantities. You need to place the needs of your application beyond color matching or other aesthetics.

Also, be open-minded about material. It’s quite possible a knowledgeable salesperson will recommend a different material. If you’re worried about the increased costs, ask for some clarification on why the suggested plastic might be better and what other options you have available.

2.) Ask about offcuts

For many smaller projects you don’t need a lot of material but plastics will commonly be offered in 4′ x 10′ or 4′ x 8′ sheets. One potential option is to ask your distributor if they have some offcuts they would be willing to sell. Many plastic distributors will have companies under contract to buy their offcuts, but some are usually kept on the shelf and either way the distributor usually makes a bit more by selling offcuts for cash. You may have to take a slightly larger piece, but it could save you money, and it’s worth an ask.

3.) Arrange your own pickup/freight

“Quote and include the freight” is a common request a plastic distributor gets but do you know what you’re actually asking for? True, to get a contract done industrial supply companies will mostly quote the freight. But what they’re doing for the most part is contacting a freight broker and getting them to spit out a quote, which is then marked up to you by 10-15%. The time a salesperson takes away from their primary job needs to be compensated for. Your best option is to just ask for the product weight and dimensions and contact a logistics provider yourself. Or make a UPS, Purolator, or Loomis account for the smaller orders.

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UHMW polyethylene is probably the most popular engineering plastic for use in DIY projects. But how do you work with it? People often get overly concerned with fabrication, especially in regards to the “tolerances” needed for most home projects, but regardless here are some tips to get the most out of your UHMW application.

Sawing:

UHMW can be cut with either a circular or band saw. A band saw is best as it will vent heat away from the plastic and allow for faster cutting speeds. The band saw blades may be 10-30mm wide and about 1-2mm thick with the circular pitch between 3 and 10mm. To prevent the saw blades from becoming jammed, the teeth must be set at approximately 0.5mm. When using circular saws, saw blades with a minimum setting 0.5mm are also preferred. Normal cutting speed for band saws is 1,000-2,000m/min and for circular saws, 3,000-4,000 m/min.

Drilling:

Lower RPM drilling is recommended unless compressed air, water, or cooling oils are used – UHMW melts easily. Twist drills are most commonly used but pointed drills and circular cutters can be used for higher diameter holes.

Welding

Because of its high melt viscosity, friction and butt welding are the only practical methods for joining Redco UHMW by welding.

Machining

Machining is the principal method used to fabricate finished parts from UHMW. UHMW can be sawed, turned, planed, milled drilled, stamped and welded easily on woodworking or metalworking machines. The following general directions should be observed in these operations: To obtain surfaces of high quality, tools should always be sharp. For the most purposes, normal tool steel is satisfactory through many fabricators use special steels.

The optimum cutting speed is between 250 and 1,000 m/min. At lower cutting speeds cooling is not required, but at higher cutting speed range, water cooling or the use of soluble cutting oil is essential. In all cases, care must be taken to avoid heat build-up in the machining operation, so that the work piece does not smear the cutting edges. In milling and turning, the feed should not be too fast and the depth of the cut should be greater than 0.3mm.

Bonding

Questions about solvent bonding are common but unfortunately this is not recommended with UHMW. It resists most solvents and, at best, will create a below-average to poor bond. Mechanical fixation is recommended wherever possible.

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This is a really neat project with materials available from any hardware store. We found a video of a “do-it-yourselfer” (Alan) in Texas on YouTube who made a simple, yet rugged, sprinkler out of PVC pipe. Really not much is needed here in the way of materials and you likely could get it all in one stop to the hardware store: PVC pipe and caps, a female socket for the hose, the sprinkler, and PVC glue. The nice thing about Alan’s design is that it works better than many traditional sprinklers. You know, the ones that oscillate back and forth with separate streams of water? In this case, the sprinkler seems to even cover 360 degrees of space providing excellent coverage. If it’s an inexpensive build that works better than store bought alternatives, you know you’ve got a good idea on your hands!

 

Multi-wall (also known as “twin wall”) polycarbonate is a very popular plastic product for use by the DIY community. This is because the product is inexpensive, readily available, and easy to work with. In fact, often the most “complicated” part of the job is convincing users how simple working with the product is! Whether its concerns about special hardware, installation, fabrication or estimating what product you need – these three tips will assist you in optimizing your multi-wall polycarbonate application.

1.) Don’t overestimate the product’s thickness

Most of the customers for multi-wall polycarbonate are people using it for “residential” applications such as a home greenhouse or awning. But for whatever reason people often ask for thick multi wall polycarbonate such as 10mm+ thickness. Thick multi-wall polycarbonate is designed for large, commercial greenhouse, and for home use is overkill. In fact, in almost all cases material thicker than 6mm is not required and in fact has two disadvantages.

The first is cost, as thicker polycarbonate will cost much more than the more readily accessible 6mm variety and secondly, thicker polycarbonate lets in less light. This means that your plants in your greenhouse get less light and could grow slower and your living space below your awning could be a bit darker. Combined with increased cost and less availability, why would you want that?

2.) No special hardware, and oversize holes by 1/8″

Ok, we cheated with two tips at once. But truth is we get asked all the time to supply special hardware for multi-wall polycarbonate. In the case of fasteners, there is none. Just use whatever screws or bolts you have lying around…3/16″, 1/2″…Whatever you have. Whatever hole you do drill, oversize it by 1/8″ to account for thermal expansion and to help avoid cracking of the material.

3.) Masked side up

When you get your polycarbonate sheet you will notice one side has a masking on it of plastic film. It is that side that has the UV protective coating. And it is that side you must have “face up” or “to the outside” as it will be hit with the light.

polycarbonate-roof

One of the things we are most concerned with is connecting people with the right material for their application. Often, people especially in the DIY community generally know what they’re looking for but there is some confusion when you get into specifics. “Black” UHMW is one of the major areas of confusion for people not very familiar with industrial plastics. UHMW polyethylene is probably the best known industrial plastic and has many excellent DIY applications. However, the plastic also comes in 10+ grades with three of those grades being ‘black’ in color!

The three types of black UHMW vary widely in price and application. In many cases, when we try to help someone with selecting a ‘black’ UHMW the response is “quote them all” – that doesn’t help us, given the extra work to quote, and it doesn’t do anything to help you either!

A quick introduction on the three types of “black” UHMW:

-Black-Reprocessed: Economy-grade UHMW with regrind (colored flecks) in the plastic. It is inferior to natural grade UHMW in every way except it does have better wear properties due to cross-linking in the manufacturing process and it is about 30% cheaper. Widely stocked at many plastic distributors.

-Black-Virgin: Natural UHMW (no regrind) with carbon black. The product is equivalent to natural (white) UHMW but has better UV resistance. It is often used in rugged outdoor applications such as on the underbelly of jet boats.

-Anti-Static: The rarest UHMW for people to refer to as “black” this UHMW has additives so that small materials do not stick, such as grains. It is almost never used in DIY applications as it is very specialized.

Understanding which “black” UHMW you are searching for is critical to ensure your application is successful.

UHMW_Black