WHAT TYPE OF PLASTIC TO USE?

Did you know that the word “plastic” originates from the Greek adjective ‘plastikos’ meaning ‘formative’ or capable of being shaped or moulded’?
There are many different types of plastic, the most commonly used are thermoplastics:

D W Plastics extrude most of the above plastics apart from Acrylic and Polycarbonate.

custom coloured plastic tube manufacture

WHAT IS PVC (POLYVINYL CHLORIDE) USED FOR?

PVC can be rigid (UPVC) or flexible and is one of the most versatile plastic materials. It is used for a wide range of products across many industry sectors: door and window profiles, drainage pipes, water service pipes, wire and cable installation, flooring, roofing membrane, healthcare products, automotive parts, sports, textiles, footwear, packaging, containers, etc.

PVC’s compatibility with many different types of additives such as stabilisers, lubricants, flame retardants, biocides, mineral fillers, blowing agents, and in the case of flexible PVC, plasticisers, make it a very adaptable polymer.

Flexible PVC has several benefits like good chemical and corrosion resistance, excellent abrasion and wear resistance, rubber-like flexibility.

PVC KEY PROPERTIES:

  • Good UV resistance – therefore good for long-life and outdoor applications
  • Good impact strength
  • Flame retardant – self-extinguishing, good fire retardancy
  • Good cost/performance ratio – provides good cost-performance benefits, is durable and low maintenance
  • Abrasion-resistant, SG is 1.4 – 1.5 and strong
  • Good electrical insulation & damp proofing properties
  • Good dimensional stability at room temperature
  • Widespread European food contact approvals
  • Fully recyclable

WHAT IS POLYETHYLENE USED FOR?

PE is part of the polyolefin family of polymers and is one of the most widely produced plastics in the world. The most common types of polyethylene are:

  • Low-density polyethylene (LDPE); Linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE)
  • High-density polyethylene (HDPE)
  • Ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene (UHMWPE)
  • Medium-density polyethylene (MDPE)
  • Very-low-density polyethylene (VLDPE)
  • High-molecular-weight polyethylene (HMWPE)
  • Ultra-low-molecular-weight polyethylene (ULMWPE)
  • Chlorinated polyethylene (CPE)
  • Cross-linked polyethylene (PEX or XLPE)

WHAT IS HDPE (HIGH-DENSITY POLYETHYLENE) USED FOR?

HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene) is used in many applications:

Packaging – including plastic bags, plastic films, geomembranes, containers for liquids (soap, cleaning solutions), bottles, trays, caps for food packaging, etc.

Consumer Goods – waste containers, food & drink storage, household items, ice boxes, toys, etc.

Fibres and Textiles – ropes, fishing and sports nets, nets for agricultural use, industrial and decorative fabrics, etc.

HDPE KEY PROPERTIES:

  • Solid material that can tolerate with useful temperature
  • Good corrosion and chemical resistance
  • Moderate resistance to oils and greases
  • Higher tensile strength compared to other forms of polyethylene
  • Good low-temperature resistance
  • Excellent electrical insulating properties
  • Good impact strength of the final product, e.g. containers
  • Very low water absorption
  • Recyclable
  • Limited UV resistance

WHAT IS LDPE (LOW DENSITY POLYETHYLENE) USED FOR?

Although not as strong as HDPE, it is more resilient. It can withstand temperatures up to 100°C. At normal temperatures, LDPE is a highly non-reactive material, which explains why it has become one of the most common plastics used today.

LDPE most common uses:

Packaging – including film, shopping bags, plastic wrap, trays, containers, work surfaces, bin-bags, laundry bags, etc.

Utilities – mains gas and water pipes

Consumer Goods – including containers, lids, drink holders, drink cartons, protective shells, dispensing bottles, computer casings components, playground equipment (slides and similar),

LDPE KEY PROPERTIES:

  • Good corrosion and chemical resistance
  • Limited resistance to mineral oils and greases
  • Temperature resistance up to 80°C continuously, and 95°C for shorter periods
  • High impact strength at low temperature, good weatherability
  • Excellent electrical insulating properties
  • Very low water absorption, good moisture resistance
  • Transparent in thin-film form
  • Recyclable
  • Food safe

WHAT IS PP (POLYPROPYLENE) USED FOR?

Common uses of Polypropylene:

Packaging – including films, reusable crates, caps, closures, water bottles, edible oil containers, bottles for detergents, condiments and toiletries, yoghurt pots

Consumer products – including furniture, luggage, toy battery cases, garden items, leisure items, food containers, straws, packing tape

Automotive – internal trims

Medical – including surgery tools

POLYPROPYLENE KEY PROPERTIES:

  • Good impact strength
  • lightweight
  • hard-wearing
  • high chemical resistance
  • high tolerance to high temperatures, relative to other plastics
  • considered a food-safe material
  • Recyclable
  • Low flame retardancy

WHAT IS PET (POLYETHYLENE TEREPHTHALATE) USED FOR?

PET can be completely rigid or flexible, and because of its molecular construction, it is impact, chemical and weather resistant and a terrific water and gas barrier. It is one of the plastic materials that you are most likely to come across on a daily basis.

Common uses of PET: soft drink, water, cooking oil bottles, packaging trays, frozen ready-meal trays, first-aid blankets, polar fleeces, to name but a few.

PET KEY PROPERTIES:

  • Good impact strength
  • Lightweight
  • high strength to weight ratio
  • Naturally transparent
  • Resistant to water
  • Shatterproof
  • high chemical resistance (except to alkalis)
  • Recyclable

WHAT IS ABS (ACRYLONITRILE BUTADIENE STYRENE) USED FOR?

ABS is a relatively inexpensive engineering plastic that is not typically used in high heat situations due to its low melting point. It is flexible and lightweight and that can be made into many items that are used in everyday life.

ABS does not fare well in sunlight so UV absorbers and light stabilizers are added to ABS products to make sure that they provide the durability we have come to know and rely on from this fine line of plastics.

There are countless applications for ABS. Among the most widely identifiable are keys on a computer keyboard, power-tool housing, telephone housings, plastic face-guards on wall sockets (oftentimes a PC/ABS blend), and children’s building bricks.

ABS is used in drain pipe systems (pipes, fittings), plastic musical instruments, protective headgear and, because of its durability, it is used in luggage and small kitchen appliances.

ABS plastic is lighter than PVC (SG 1.2) but heavier than PE, if used in vehicles it can decrease the weight of vehicles by 10%, making them more fuel-efficient. Typically, ABS plastic sheet is used on dashboards, wheel covers, and body parts because of its strength, low-temperature resistance, and rugged surface that doesn’t easily scratch.

ABS plastic sheets create a clean cosmetic surface for prototypes and are easier to paint than other types of plastic. Furthermore, ABS plastic is more economical for creating temporary prototypes because of its low cost.

ABS KEY PROPERTIES:

  • Structural strength and stiffness
  • Strong resistance to physical impacts
  • Durable and abrasion-resistant
  • Good resistance to corrosive chemicals
  • Excellent high and low-temperature performance
  • Great electrical insulation properties
  • Easy to paint and glue
  • Recyclable

WHAT IS POLYMETHYL METHACRYLATE (PMMA)/ ACRYLIC USED FOR?

Common uses of Acrylic:

Due to its transparency and outstanding strength and stiffness, it is used for shatter-proof glazing, skylights, aquariums, indoor and outdoor signage, retail and exhibition displays including shelving, and brochure holders, LED lighting panels, exterior car light lenses, optical lenses, plastic optical fibres. It is lighter and has a much higher impact resistance than glass. It is also used in the medical and dental industry.

ACRYLIC KEY PROPERTIES:

  • Excellent clarity and transparency
  • Good impact strength
  • Lightweight
  • Tends to be brittle unless high impact version used
  • Good chemical and heat resistance
  • Good weathering properties compared to other transparent plastics
  • Versatility
  • Bonds well with adhesives and solvents

WHAT IS POLYCARBONATE (PC) USED FOR?

Common uses of PC:

Engineering Polycarbonates are one of the strongest plastics around strong and highly impact resistant. Due to its transparency and outstanding strength and stiffness, it is used for shatter-proof glazing, skylights, aquariums, indoor and outdoor signage, retail and exhibition displays including shelving, and brochure holders, LED lighting panels, exterior car light lenses, optical lenses, plastic optical fibres. It is lighter and has a much higher impact resistance than glass. It is also used in the medical and dental industry.

POLYCARBONATE KEY PROPERTIES:

  • Lightweight
  • High-performance
  • Tough with good impact resistance
  • Optical clarity
  • High heat resistance
  • Excellent electrical resistance
  • UV resistant
  • Expensive material.

WHAT IS POLYSTYRENE (PS) USED FOR?

Common uses of Polystyrene:

Polystyrene is a versatile plastic used to make and protect a wide variety of consumer products. As a hard, solid plastic, it is often used in products that require clarity, such as food packaging and laboratory ware. It is widely used in the automotive industry to make car parts such as instrument and door panels. When combined with various colours, additives or other plastics, polystyrene is used to make appliances, electronics, toys, a wide range of medical applications, such as housings for test kits and medical devices.
Polystyrene is also made into a foam material, called Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) or Extruded Polystyrene (XPS), which is valued for its insulating and cushioning properties. Foam polystyrene is lightweight and has excellent insulating properties which makes it widely used in the construction industry. It is also used to manufacture home and appliance insulation, lightweight protective packaging, pharmaceutical and medical devices and packaging, seed trays and plant pots for gardening and horticulture, foodservice and food packaging, automobile parts such as child safety seats, and many other products.

POLYSTYRENE KEY PROPERTIES:

  • Versatile
  • Durable
  • Lightweight and buoyant
  • Inert (does not react with other materials)
  • Long-lasting
  • Shock absorbant
  • Excellent insulating performance
  • Good electrical properties
  • Poor chemical and UV resistance
  • Recyclable
  • Cost effective