How are Plastic Buttons Made? Ultimate Button Manufacturing Process


Have you ever noticed the buttons sewn on your clothes? Clothes buttons have a long history and can be seen from as early as the middle ages. Besides being used to fix clothes, they also have decorative effects.

Most people know about buttons, but few know how they are made.

This article will show you how a plastic button is made. What is the clothing button’s manufacturing process?

Learn About Different Button Materials

Before we start to learn the production of a button, we need to understand what material buttons are made from first. After all, different material has different production procedure.

Buttons are made of a variety of materials, including natural materials such as shells, nuts, coconuts, wood, bones, metals, gems, glass, as well as ceramics, and various plastic materials. 

Plastic buttons have been the most commonly used material since the industrial revolution in the 19th century. They are we widely seen on clothing, coats, shirts or even diy drafts.

Materials of Plastic Buttons

Plastic buttons can be made from different materials, such as ABS, acrylic (PMMA), nylon, resin (polyester), urea, etc. The common plastic for buttons is resin (the full name is unsaturated polyester resin button), which is the most produced plastic button in the world.

Because of its color, variety of patterns, heat and corrosion resistance, wear-resistance and other characteristics, and it can be produced in large quantities by machines; thus it is used extensively on clothing.

Buttons material and their types are as following:

Natural Materials Shell Buttons, Leather Buttons, Nut Buttons, Coconut Buttons, Wooden Buttons, Bamboo Buttons
Metal Materials Copper Buttons, Aluminum Buttons, Zinc Alloy Buttons, Iron Buttons, Stainless Steel Buttons
Plastic Materials (thermoplastic) Nylon Buttons, ABS Buttons, Acrylic Buttons
Plastic Materials (thermosetting) Urea Buttons, Polyester Resin Buttons, Epoxy Buttons
Others Glass Buttons, Ceramic Buttons

However, the processes for the production of resin buttons include liquid polyester mixed with dye and curing agents in a stainless steel kettle, then poured into the large rotating metal cylinders and sheets or bars are formed after hardening. The buttons are then cut, polished, drilled and lasered to form buttons.

Due to the resin being thermosetting plastic and not easy to shape, there are other thermoplastic materials such as ABS, acrylic, and nylon as well.

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resin buttons production-2

Next, we will discuss the production process of thermoplastic buttons in detail. Find out how those vintage, cute, and different styles of clothing buttons are made.

Plastic Button Manufacturing Process

1. Raw Materials

Raw materials for thermoplastic buttons include ABS resin, nylon, acrylic, and more. They are considered as synthetic resin. Its heat, low temperature, and chemical resistance, easy to process and shape, good surface gloss, and other characteristics are the reasons for their wide usage as thermoplastic engineering plastics.

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ABS Resin Raw Material

2. Button Mold Development

In the production of buttons, the most important is the mold. The manufacturer will work with the mold manufacturer to develop the appropriate mold according to the button design. Each pair of mold size and design is also developed for demand. The quality of the mold will affect the quality of the button.

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Button Mold

3. Injection Molding

If the mold is available and ABS raw material is ready, then it is ready for production.

First, install the mold on the machine and set the production conditions such as temperature and pressure on the machine. The ABS material will be heated and melted in the barrel of the machine through the plastic injection machine.

When it is in a liquid state, the molten plastic is compressed and moved forward under the pressure of the plunger or the screw, and then passes through the nozzle at the front end of the barrel. It is injected into the closed mold with a lower temperature at a rapid speed. After a certain period of cooling and setting, the mold is opened to obtain the product.

Injection moulding
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Semi-finished Product

4. Buttons and Runner Separation

The ABS button is molded, so the product needs to be separated by the button separator. This step puts the button of the entire mold into the button machine. After a few minutes of mixing, the button is separated from the runner, then the semi-finished button is removed.

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Button and Runner Separator

5. Etching

The ABS semi-finished product after the aggregate separation is placed therein using a machine similar to a paddlewheel, and lime powder and water are added to cause friction in the machine when rolling. This process can make the injection gate and edge of the product smoother. In addition, the ABS product can have more pores on the surface to make the plating more durable.

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Machine for Etching
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Semi-finished Product after Etaching

6. Electroplating

The ABS button produced has a gray-black semi-finished product that needs further processing. Plating is the most commonly used post-processing method and is divided into vacuum plating and electroplating.

The production procedure we are introducing here is the electroplating method.

Using the principle of electrolysis, the conductor is covered with a layer of the metal strike, and then, after striking, the button is put on the hook, plated with acid copper solution and the required plating effect, and finally separates the button from the hook.

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Buttons on the Hook
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7. Finished Product

After the electroplating is completed, the button is finished.

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Now we know how ABS plastic buttons are made. Its most notable characteristic is that it is easy to shape, so buttons with different designs and shapes can be designed and developed. After electroplating, the buttons, they will have a metallic texture. Gold, silver, vintage anti-copper effects are common electroplating effects.

After understanding the production process of plastic buttons, you will find even they are all plastic buttons, but ABS electroplated buttons have more shape variety than resin buttons. Therefore, they are more suitable for use in clothing such as coats, military uniforms, and shirts.

Buttons for Clothes

Plastic clothing buttons like ABS plastic plated with silver, gold or vintage colors are widely used on coat, military uniform and sweater.

Other than that, you will also find fashion button like plastic acrylic buttons being used on coat, sweaters, or even shoes decoration.

plastic acrylic buttons on shirts shoes and crafts

Where can I Get Buttons Made?

Do you need a plastic button design? Are you still looking for a suitable button? Or are you looking for a manufacturer to get your button made? 

Please refer to our ABS plating button product page for more types buttons. Of course, you can also contact us directly for samples or quotations.

SUNMEI is a shirts plastic button factory for over 20 years. We are happy to help if you need any plastic button advise.

Looking for more information? We can help you!

SUNMEI provides a wide range of catalogues and free samples. Get in touch now. We would be happy to help!


SUNMEI is a specialized manufacturer of acrylic rhinestone and button for over 20 years. We provide a wide selections of acrylic rhinestones and buttons. Visit our product page and find out more styles!