All You Need to Know About PVC: Machining, Disadvantages, Toxicity, and Pliability

PVC machined parts

About PVC

PVC, also known as polyvinyl chloride, enjoys widespread usage as a thermoplastic material renowned for its remarkable mechanical and chemical properties. Its versatility has made it a sought-after option for numerous CNC machining applications. With its lightweight composition, durability, and impressive electrical insulation capabilities, PVC has found a home in various industries such as construction, automotive, and medical.

In CNC machining, PVC stands out for its ease of handling. Thanks to its low melting point and high machinability, working with PVC becomes a breeze. The material lends itself readily to cutting, drilling, and shaping intricate designs, thereby making it an optimal choice for producing prototypes, fixtures, and small production runs.

Nevertheless, it is crucial to acknowledge the potential hazards associated with PVC. When subjected to heat or machining, this material can emit harmful fumes. Hence, it becomes imperative to exercise appropriate safety precautions when engaging with PVC. By observing due diligence, one can navigate these concerns effectively.

All in all, PVC proves to be an outstanding material for CNC machining. Its versatility and affordability contribute to its enduring popularity in the manufacturing industry. As long as safety measures are diligently followed, PVC’s commendable attributes will continue to make it a favored option for those in need of quality CNC machined products.


Rigid / Unplasticized PVC

Rigid or unplasticized PVC, also known as uPVC, is a type of PVC material that has not been plasticized or softened with plasticizers. This means that it retains its original rigid and stiff form, unlike flexible or plasticized PVC, which has added plasticizers to increase its flexibility and softness.

Rigid PVC is commonly used in construction, as it is a cost-effective, durable, and easy-to-install material that can be used for various applications, including pipes, window frames, siding, and fencing. It is also used in the production of electrical components, such as cable insulation, due to its good electrical insulation properties.

One of the main advantages of rigid PVC is its resistance to chemicals, weather, and UV radiation, making it suitable for outdoor and harsh environments. It is also easy to machine, weld, and fabricate, making it a popular material for CNC machining and other manufacturing processes.

However, it’s important to note that rigid PVC can release harmful fumes when heated or machined, so proper safety precautions should always be taken when working with this material. Overall, rigid or unplasticized PVC is a versatile and reliable material that offers numerous benefits for various applications.

Surface Finishes

Polypropylene is a thermoplastic material that is widely used in CNC machining due to its excellent mechanical and chemical properties. When it comes to surface finishes, there are two main options: as-machined and paint.

As-machined finish refers to the surface texture that is left after the CNC machining process. Polypropylene parts with this finish typically have a smooth, matte surface with visible tool marks or ridges. As-machined finish is cost-effective and requires no additional processing, making it a popular choice for prototyping and small production runs.

The main advantage of as-machined finish is its cost-effectiveness and the ability to quickly produce parts with a functional surface finish. However, the main disadvantage is that it may not be aesthetically pleasing, and may not be suitable for certain applications where a more polished or refined finish is desired.

Painted finish involves applying a coating of paint or other surface finish to the polypropylene part after machining. This finish can enhance the appearance of the part and provide additional protection against corrosion, weathering, and wear.

The main advantage of painted finish is its versatility and the ability to customize the surface appearance to meet specific design requirements. However, the main disadvantage is the added cost and time required for the additional processing steps involved in applying the paint or other finish.

Overall, both as-machined and painted finishes have their own unique advantages and disadvantages, and the choice will depend on the specific requirements of the project or application. It’s important to consult with a CNC machining expert to determine the best surface finish option for your needs.

Design Tips

  1. Wall thickness: Ensure that the wall thickness of the PVC part is uniform throughout, as variations in thickness can cause warping or distortion during the CNC machining process. The recommended minimum wall thickness for PVC parts is 1 mm.
  2. Corner radii: Use rounded or filleted corners instead of sharp corners, as PVC is prone to stress concentration at sharp corners, which can lead to cracking or breaking. The recommended minimum corner radius for PVC parts is 1 mm.
  3. Draft angles: Incorporate draft angles into the design to allow for easy part removal from the mold after CNC machining. The recommended draft angle for PVC parts is 1-2 degrees per side.
  4. Undercuts: Avoid deep or complex undercuts, as they can be difficult to CNC machine and may require additional post-processing steps.
  5. Surface finish: Consider the surface finish requirements of the part when designing, as PVC parts may require additional processing steps to achieve a desired surface finish.
  6. Material selection: Choose the appropriate type of PVC material based on the specific requirements of the part, such as temperature resistance, chemical resistance, or impact resistance.


Is PVC hard to machine?

PVC is generally considered an easy material to machine due to its relatively low melting point and high machinability. It can be easily cut, drilled, and machined into complex shapes and designs. However, it’s important to note that PVC can release harmful fumes when heated or machined, so proper safety precautions should always be taken when working with this material.

What is the disadvantages of PVC?

Some of the disadvantages of PVC include its vulnerability to UV radiation, which can cause it to become brittle and crack over time, and its sensitivity to high temperatures, which can cause it to soften or melt. PVC can also release harmful fumes when heated or burned, which can be toxic if inhaled. Additionally, PVC is not biodegradable and can have negative environmental impacts if not properly disposed of or recycled.

Is cutting PVC toxic?

Cutting PVC can release harmful fumes and particles, which can be toxic if inhaled or ingested. These fumes can cause irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat, and can also cause respiratory problems over time. Therefore, it’s important to take proper safety precautions when cutting PVC, such as wearing protective clothing, using a dust mask or respirator, and working in a well-ventilated area.

What temp does PVC become pliable?

The temperature at which PVC becomes pliable can vary depending on the specific type of PVC and its additives. Generally, PVC becomes pliable at temperatures above 60°C (140°F), and can be shaped or molded into different forms when heated to temperatures above this threshold. However, it’s important to note that heating PVC can release harmful fumes, so proper safety precautions should always be taken when working with heated PVC.

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