What, Exactly, Is A Living Hinge?

You’re no doubt familiar with hinges, which add convenience to our daily lives. Just look at any door, from your front door to cabinets in your home, and you’ll find hinges that allow these portals to open and close with ease.

Of course, these hinges are made of separate materials, typically sturdy metal, and screwed into place to connect doors to framing. What if, instead, the hinges were part of the door and frame materials themselves? It may sound crazy, but this is the basic premise behind a living hinge.

While you’re not likely to find living hinges on wooden doors, there are likely several products in and around the average home that employ this handy technology. Here’s what you should know about living hinges and why they’re so important.

What Is A Living Hinge?

Whereas traditional hinges are made from a separate material and attached to surfaces to create a stable and lasting open/close mechanism, a living hinge is made from the same material as the pieces it connects and is an extension of them, creating a seamless transition from a base to an opening/closing part.

How is this possible? The hinged portion of the material is much thinner than the parts it connects, allowing for a degree of flexibility without breaking. Often, this process is used with plastics—just look at the lid of your shampoo bottle—but it can also be applied to a diverse range of materials, such as paper, cardboard, wood, and more.

Typically, such hinges used in everyday products are designed using sophisticated technologies like computer aided design (CAD) software and produced via injection molding (for plastics), although other methods are sometimes used. The growth of 3D printing has created a new, cheaper avenue of production, but the quality simply isn’t as good as traditional methods.

Benefits Of Living Hinges

There are several reasons why manufacturers might choose living hinges over the alternative. For one thing, they’re easier and less expensive to produce, since they’re made from the same materials as the surfaces they connect and they’re already attached.

They also tend to create a more streamlined aesthetic, and you won’t have to worry about wear as much as you would with separate hinges that are attached to surfaces. Plus, a living hinge is designed to bend, with plenty of flexibility; so no matter how much you open and close a door or lid, it shouldn’t break.

In Conclusion

A living hinge made from thinned material connecting two surfaces isn’t ideal for every hinged application, but with easy and inexpensive manufacturing, flexible and durable construction, and a sleek appearance, living hinges are great options for many manufactured products.