When creating plastic components, many manufacturers may utilize the vapor polishing process. This polishing technique offers several benefits, making it a popular option for many plastics applications. At COMCO Plastics, we offer vapor polishing services to improve the surface finish of your plastic parts.

What is Vapor Polishing?

Vapor polishing is a process used by professional plastics processors to improve the surface finish and optical clarity of amorphous thermoplastic materials such as Polycarbonate (PC), Polyetherimide (PEI), Acrylic (PMMA), and more. By smoothing out the plastic resin material at the microscopic level, vapor polishing can attain an optical finish and drastically enhance the transparency of machined plastic surfaces.

Benefits of Vapor Polishing

Vapor polishing offers numerous benefits that make it a prime choice for enhancing plastic components. These benefits include:

  • Improves aesthetics. Vapor polishing helps to enhance the overall appearance of plastic components by achieving excellent optical clarity with a high gloss, or ‘water clear’, finish.
  • Well-suited for medical applications. Vapor polishing is specified by the medical community to smooth out tool marks where debris can collect in medical instruments like blood pumps.
  • Enhance surface conditions. Vapor polishing can smooth out surface irregularities, markings, and gate areas on plastic components.
  • Improve light transmission. Vapor polished surfaces allow unobstructed light to pass through, which is crucial in light-emitting applications.

How Does Vapor Polishing Work?

After machining, plastic components often have rough or pitted surfaces and other imperfections that can negatively affect their appearance or performance. Vapor polishing smooths the peaks of the plastic surface at the microscopic level to achieve the desired look. It’s done by using the volatile gas of an aggressive solvent that is highly reactive to the surface chemistry of the polymer.

The solvent is heated to its boiling point in a controlled environment, and the resulting vapors are sprayed across the component’s surface. This causes the plastic to melt at the surface, filling in any voids and minute scratches. When the vapor is removed, the plastic solidifies again, leaving behind an improved surface finish with an enhanced optical appearance. This process is also often used to improve microfluidic passages for consistent and efficient flow. 

Since this process only works at the molecular level, it will not erase deeper scratches and other large surface deviations. Because of this, it’s important to manually improve the finish of the plastic parts prior to vapor polishing to ensure the best possible results.

Vapor Polishing Services from COMCO Plastics

At COMCO Plastics, we’ve been manufacturing top-quality plastics for over six decades. As a one-stop shop for all your plastic needs, we offer a range of value-added services for the parts we manufacture, including vapor polishing. With our vapor polishing capabilities, we can achieve optimal plastic part transparency and fluid flow to meet the needs of various applications. 

In addition to vapor polishing, we also offer annealing, CNC milling and turning, vacuum forming, and much more, enabling us to handle your plastics projects from start to finish. For more information about our vapor polishing services or other manufacturing capabilities, contact us today or request a quote.