Home 9 Materials 9 Unraveling the Mysteries of PVC

Polyvinyl Chloride, commonly known as PVC, is one of the most widely used synthetic plastics in the world. It is a versatile material that has revolutionized various industries, from construction to healthcare, due to its unique combination of properties. PVC is known for its durability, affordability, and resistance to environmental elements. Additionally, it can be made into rigid or flexible forms, making it suitable for a vast array of applications.

This article will delve into the details of PVC, its types, properties, CNC machining considerations, and the various applications it serves in our daily lives.


What is PVC?

PVC sheets

Polyvinyl Chloride, commonly known as PVC, is one of the most widely used synthetic polymers in the world. It is a type of plastic made from vinyl chloride monomers (VCM). PVC was first synthesized in 1872, but it was not until 1926 that Waldo Semon and the B.F. Goodrich Company developed a method to make it flexible and suitable for commercial applications.

Structure of PVC

PVC is a thermoplastic, meaning it can be softened by heating and hardened by cooling. This property makes it suitable for molding into different shapes. The molecular structure of PVC consists of two carbon atoms, three hydrogen atoms, and one chlorine atom arranged in a vinyl structure. The vinyl chloride monomers are polymerized to form polyvinyl chloride (PVC) resin.

Structure of VC and PVC

The polymerization process involves the use of a catalyst and heat to initiate a reaction that links the monomers together to form a polymer chain.

  • Molecular Formula: (C2H3Cl)n
  • Monomer: Vinyl Chloride Monomer (VCM)
  • Polymerization: The process of linking monomers together to form a polymer chain.

Production of PVC

The production of PVC involves the following steps:

  1. Production of Vinyl Chloride Monomer (VCM): Ethylene and chlorine gas are combined to produce ethylene dichloride (EDC), which is then cracked to produce vinyl chloride monomer (VCM).
  2. Polymerization: The VCM is polymerized to form PVC resin. This can be done using different methods, such as suspension polymerization, emulsion polymerization, or bulk polymerization.
  3. Compounding: The PVC resin is mixed with other additives, such as stabilizers, lubricants, plasticizers, and pigments, to produce the final PVC compound.
  4. Processing: The PVC compound is then processed into the desired form, such as sheets, pipes, or profiles, using various methods such as extrusion, injection molding, or blow molding.

Furthermore, various additives are used in PVC to enhance its properties and make it suitable for specific applications:

Table : Common Additives used in PVC

Additive Function Examples
Stabilizers Prevent degradation of PVC Lead, tin, calcium-zinc compounds
Plasticizers Make the PVC flexible Phthalates, adipates, trimellitates
Lubricants Reduce friction Paraffin waxes, metal soaps
Pigments Give color to PVC Titanium dioxide, carbon black


What Are the Different Types of PVC?

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) is a versatile material that can be manufactured in various forms and compositions to suit a wide range of applications. There are primarily two basic forms of PVC: rigid PVC (un-plasticized PVC or uPVC) and flexible PVC (plasticized PVC). However, these can be further categorized based on their properties and applications.

Table: PVC Types

Type of PVC Properties Applications
Rigid PVC (uPVC) High tensile strength, high chemical resistance, low water absorption, good electrical insulating properties, and elf-extinguishing. Construction materials: pipes, window frames, doors, siding Electrical insulations: electrical conduits and boxes Medical devices: containers, tubing, other medical equipment
Flexible PVC Good flexibility, good chemical resistance, good electrical insulating properties, and resistant to fire and water. Cable insulation, sheathing , flooring & roofing membranes, inflatable products, and medical tubing and bags.
Chlorinated PVC (CPVC) Higher heat resistance than uPVC, good chemical resistance, good flame retardancy, and good mechanical strength. Hot and cold water pipes, Industrial piping systems, and fire sprinkler systems.
High Impact PVC High impact resistance, good chemical resistance, good weatherability. Window profiles, signs and displays, and automotive parts.

Other Types of PVC

  • PVC Blends: PVC can be blended with other polymers to improve its properties. For example, PVC can be blended with ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) to improve its impact resistance.
  • PVC Composites: PVC can also be combined with other materials, such as wood fibers or glass fibers, to produce composites with enhanced properties.
  • PVC Foams: PVC can be made into foam, which is a lightweight and insulating material used in construction and packaging applications.

Properties of PVC

Polyvinyl chloride is a versatile material with a wide range of properties that make it suitable for various applications. Let’s discuss the properties of PVC in detail, including its mechanical, thermal, electrical, and chemical properties with a detailed table.

Table: Properties of PVC

Property Description uPVC Flexible PVC
Tensile Strength (MPa) The tensile strength of PVC varies depending on its type and formulation. Rigid PVC (uPVC) has a higher tensile strength compared to flexible PVC. 40-80 15-30
Impact Strength (kJ/m²) PVC has good impact resistance, which can be further enhanced by adding impact modifiers. High Impact PVC, for example, has been modified to have even higher impact resistance than standard PVC. 2-20 2-10
Flexural Strength (MPa) The flexural strength of PVC is also influenced by its type and formulation. uPVC has a higher flexural strength compared to flexible PVC. 60-90 20-40
Hardness (Shore D) PVC is available in different levels of hardness, depending on the amount of plasticizers added. uPVC is hard and rigid due to the absence of plasticizers, while flexible PVC is softer and more flexible. 70-85 55-70
Elongation at Break (%) The elongation at break of PVC varies depending on its type. uPVC has a lower elongation at break compared to flexible PVC. 20-50 100-300
Melting Temperature (°C) PVC has a relatively low melting temperature compared to other plastics. 160-210 150-200
Glass Transition Temperature (°C) The glass transition temperature of PVC is around 80°C for uPVC and slightly lower for flexible PVC due to the presence of plasticizers. 80 60-80
Thermal Expansion (10^-5/°C) PVC has a relatively low coefficient of thermal expansion, which makes it suitable for applications where dimensional stability is required. 5-8 6-9
Thermal Conductivity (W/mK) PVC has low thermal conductivity, which makes it a good insulator.    
Electrical Properties 0.16-0.24 0.14-0.22  
Dielectric Constant PVC has a low dielectric constant, which makes it suitable for electrical insulation applications. 3-4 3-4
Dielectric Strength (kV/mm) PVC has high dielectric strength, which means it can withstand a high voltage without breaking down. 40-60 20-40
Volume Resistivity (Ω.cm) PVC has high volume resistivity, which makes it a good electrical insulator.    
Chemical Properties 10^15-10^16 10^13-10^15  
Chemical Resistance PVC has excellent chemical resistance to most acids, bases, and salts. However, it is not resistant to aromatic hydrocarbons, ketones, and chlorinated solvents. Excellent to most acids, bases, and salts Excellent to most acids, bases, and salts
Water Absorption (%) PVC has low water absorption, which makes it suitable for applications where resistance to water is required. 0.1-0.5 0.2-0.6
Flammability PVC is self-extinguishing and has good flame retardancy. However, when burned, it releases toxic fumes of hydrochloric acid. Self-extinguishing Self-extinguishing


CNC Machining of PVC

CNC machining is a subtractive manufacturing process where computer-controlled machine tools are used to remove material from a workpiece to create a finished part. PVC is one of the many materials that can be processed using CNC machining. However, due to its specific properties, there are several considerations that must be taken into account.

Material Characteristics

Firstly, understanding the material characteristics of PVC is crucial for successful CNC machining. PVC is relatively soft compared to metals, but it is harder and less flexible than many other plastics. This affects the machining parameters, such as feed rate and cutting speed.

  • Rigid PVC (uPVC) has high tensile strength, chemical resistance, low water absorption, good electrical insulating properties, and is self-extinguishing.
  • Flexible PVC has good flexibility, chemical resistance, electrical insulating properties, and is resistant to fire and water.
  • Chlorinated PVC (CPVC) has higher heat resistance than uPVC, good chemical resistance, flame retardancy, and mechanical strength.
  • High Impact PVC has high impact resistance, good chemical resistance, and good weatherability.

Tool Selection

Tool selection is another crucial aspect of CNC machining of PVC. Since PVC is a softer material, sharp tools with a high rake angle are recommended. This helps in producing a smooth surface finish and reduces the chances of the material melting or deforming during machining. Additionally, using tools with a larger diameter can help in minimizing tool deflection.

Cooling and Lubrication

PVC has a relatively low melting temperature, which makes it susceptible to heat buildup during machining. Therefore, proper cooling and lubrication are essential to prevent the material from melting or deforming. However, traditional coolants and lubricants are not recommended for PVC machining as they can cause the material to swell or degrade. Instead, compressed air or a special plastic cutting fluid can be used to dissipate the heat generated during machining.

Feed Rate and Cutting Speed

The feed rate and cutting speed must be carefully selected to avoid excessive heat buildup and material deformation. A slow feed rate and high cutting speed are generally recommended for PVC machining. However, it is always advisable to perform a test cut to determine the optimal parameters for the specific type of PVC being machined.

Clamping and Work-holding

PVC is a relatively flexible material, especially in its flexible form. Therefore, proper clamping and work-holding are essential to prevent the material from moving or deforming during machining. It is recommended to use soft jaws or fixtures with a soft lining to avoid damaging the material. Also, the clamping force should be evenly distributed and not too high to avoid deforming the material.

Machining Strategies

PVC CNC machining

Different machining strategies can be employed when CNC machining PVC. For example, climb milling can be used to produce a better surface finish and reduce tool wear. However, conventional milling may be preferred in some cases to avoid excessive force on the workpiece. Additionally, using a smaller stepover and a larger step down can help in producing a smoother surface finish.

Surface Finish and Post-Processing

PVC usually produces a good surface finish when machined properly. However, if a smoother surface is required, post-processing techniques such as sanding or polishing can be used. Additionally, PVC can be glued, welded, or mechanically fastened if required.


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Common Tools for PVC Machining

Tools for CNC machining

PVC is a relatively soft and easy-to-machine material. However, it is important to select the appropriate tools for PVC machining to ensure a good surface finish and to prolong tool life. Here are some common tools used for PVC machining:

  • End Mills: End mills are the most common cutting tools used for PVC machining. Solid carbide end mills are recommended for PVC machining as they offer better wear resistance and longer tool life.
  • Drill Bits: Solid carbide drill bits are recommended for drilling holes in PVC as they offer better wear resistance and longer tool life.
  • Router Bits: Router bits are used for edge finishing and surface smoothing. Solid carbide router bits are recommended for PVC machining as they offer better wear resistance and longer tool life.
  • Taps and Dies: Taps and dies are used for threading PVC parts. High-speed steel (HSS) taps and dies are commonly used for PVC machining as they offer a good balance between wear resistance and cost.
  • Saw Blades: Saw blades are used for cutting PVC sheets and rods. Carbide-tipped saw blades are recommended for PVC machining as they offer better wear resistance and longer tool life.

Table: Common Tools for PVC Machining

Tool Material Application
End Mills Solid Carbide General machining
Drill Bits Solid Carbide Drilling holes
Router Bits Solid Carbide Edge finishing and surface smoothing
Taps and Dies High-Speed Steel (HSS) Threading
Saw Blades Carbide-Tipped Cutting sheets and rods


Applications of CNC Machined PVC Parts

CNC machined PVC part

PVC, being a versatile and cost-effective material, is widely used in various industries and applications. CNC machining of PVC parts allows for precise and complex components to be produced quickly and accurately. Here are some common applications of CNC machined PVC parts:

  • Electrical: Due to its excellent electrical insulating properties, PVC is commonly used for electrical conduits, boxes, and insulations. CNC machining allows for the production of intricate electrical components with high precision.
  • Medical: PVC is used for various medical devices such as containers, tubing, and other medical equipment. CNC machining ensures the production of medical components with tight tolerances and high precision.
  • Automotive: PVC is used in the automotive industry for various components such as dashboards, interior trim, and cable insulation. CNC machined PVC parts ensure a high level of precision and consistency.
  • Signage and Displays: PVC is commonly used for signs and displays due to its lightweight, durability, and ease of machining. CNC machining allows for the production of complex signs and displays with intricate details.
  • Industrial Piping Systems: PVC is widely used for industrial piping systems due to its chemical resistance and durability. CNC machined PVC parts are used for pipes, valves, and fittings.


Prolean’s Plastic Machining Services: Accuracy and Perfection

In a world where plastic components are integral to various industries, it’s essential to choose a service provider with the expertise and experience to deliver high-quality parts. Prolean offers specialized plastic machining services that cater to a wide array of needs. Whether it is PVC or any other plastic material, Prolean has the capabilities to machine it precisely according to your specifications.

Apart from CNC machining, Prolean also offers services such as plastic welding, bending, and assembly. This means that you can get a complete solution for your plastic component needs, from initial machining to final assembly. Prolean ensures that each step of the process is conducted with the highest standards of quality and precision.

If you are in need of high-quality, precision-machined plastic components, our plastic machining services are the ideal choice. With their expertise, state-of-the-art technology, and commitment to customer satisfaction, Prolean is the partner you can trust for all your plastic machining needs.



Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) is one of the most widely used plastics worldwide, thanks to its versatility, durability, and cost-effectiveness. Its properties, such as high tensile strength, chemical resistance, low water absorption, and good electrical insulating properties, make it suitable for a variety of applications, from construction materials and electrical insulations to medical devices and automotive parts.

The ability to modify PVC by adding plasticizers, impact modifiers, or by chlorination, enables the creation of materials with tailored properties for specific applications. However, it is crucial to consider the environmental impact and safety concerns associated with PVC, as it releases toxic fumes when burned.

Overall, PVC is a crucial material that contributes significantly to various industries. Its machining considerations and applications underscore its importance and utility in today’s world.



What is PVC?

PVC, or Polyvinyl Chloride, is a type of thermoplastic made by polymerizing vinyl chloride monomers.

What are the different types of PVC?

PVC comes in two basic forms: rigid (uPVC) and flexible. uPVC does not contain any plasticizers, making it rigid and strong, while flexible PVC contains plasticizers to make it more flexible and soft.

What are the properties of PVC?

PVC has good mechanical strength, chemical resistance, thermal insulation, and electrical insulation properties. It is also biocompatible and does not support combustion.

What are the applications of PVC?

PVC is used in various applications, including construction (pipes, window frames, siding), medical devices (blood bags, tubing), electrical insulation (cables, conduits), and packaging (bottles, food packaging).

What are the considerations for CNC machining of PVC?

CNC machining of PVC requires special considerations due to its low melting point, softness, and potential release of chlorine gas when heated. It is essential to use low cutting speeds and tool temperatures, sharp tools with high rake angles and low lead angles, and proper ventilation and safety precautions.

How can Prolean’s Plastic Machining Services help with my PVC machining needs?

Prolean’s Plastic Machining Services offers expert guidance, state-of-the-art CNC machines, and skilled technicians to provide precise, high-quality PVC parts for your application. Our team can advise on the best machining practices for PVC and help optimize your design for manufacturability.

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