A thermoplastic material is any plastic polymer that can be heated and reset into a particular designated shape upon cooling. Most thermoplastic materials have a high molecular weight and will melt into a molten state quickly.
It is these general qualities that make thermoplastic polymers ideal for injection molding. However, each particular thermoplastic exhibits different qualities, advantages, and disadvantages, making it critical to select the right material for the application at hand. Additional fillers and additives can be also be used to provide specific characteristics that better meet the application requirements.
Thermoset vs. Thermoplastic Material
It should be noted that thermoplastic materials are very different from thermoset materials. Though similar, thermosets can only be heated and molded once—they cannot be changed or melted back into their original shape.
- Recyclable & reusable
- Environmentally friendly
- More options for sheen, variance, etc.
- Chemically retardant options
- More cost effective
- Dimensional stability
- Very malleable design
Modern technology has recently given rise to thermoplastic elastomers, a.k.a. TPEs or thermoplastic rubbers. Basically, before this technology, all rubber materials were thermosets, and once injected and molded, could not change. Now, TPEs have blended the two materials (rubber and plastic) to provide the best of the both worlds. These new materials have proven very useful in the automobile industry, aerospace industry, and many consumer markets.
Common Thermoplastic Materials
A thermoplastic polymer that exhibits many glass-like optical qualities, but is much more hardy and protective. Acrylics are used in nearly every industry.
ABS, or acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, is a synthesized plastic that combines styrene and acrylonitrile. This safe thermoplastic is used in many consumer products that humans come in direct contact with, such as cell phones, toys, microwaves, and other appliances. ABS thermoplastic is known for being strong, light, versatile, and tough.
Polybenzimidazole is an artificial thermoplastic polymer with one of the highest melting points of any material that is applicable for use as a fiber. Because of this, this thermoplastic is used as a base for high demand equipment that is used by militaries throughout the world, as well as firefighting and police forces.
Polyethylene is not one specific material, but actually a group of materials characterized by the type, structure, and thickness of the polymer. Because these thermoplastic polymers are highly resistant to temperature changes, they are often used in high stress environments, such as piping, oil transportation, and in the retail industry.
Teflon, scientifically known as polytetrafluoroethylene (“Teflon” is a trademark of DuPont Corporation) belongs to the fluoropolymer family of thermoplastic materials. Teflon rose to fame in its use for non-stick cookware.
Homopolymer is known for being a tough, and resistant thermoplastic material. It is commonly used in the end consumer market for smaller goods, such as kitchenware.
Copolymer is a glossy, cost effective material. Copolymer thermoplastic material is used in a variety of applications, including industrial back end applications and smaller consumer items such as kitchenware.
Polyesters are extremely hardy materials that are fit for a large range of temperature and environmental demands. Polyester thermoplastics are among the most widely used injection molding polymers, seen most commonly in water bottles, but also have wide applications in the industrial sphere.
Polyurethane is a clear and flexible thermoplastic polymer that is most often used to produce shoe soles, gaskets, and wheels.
This polymer is common for outdoor household applications, such as gutters, drains, insulation, and roofing. This thermoplastic is known for its weatherproof and non-flammable characteristics. Often used in insert molding as well.
Styrene acrylonitrile is one of the toughest polymers in common use. It is highly resistant to breaking, and is often seen in kitchen applications.
This list is by no means exhaustive. Please contact Stack Plastics to discuss your unique material requirements.