Diane posting, here to talk about—or rather scratch the surface of—plastic. In the nearly 150 years since plastic materials were conceived, these man-made materials have evolved into countless types for every possible use. Today I’ll just touch on a few categories of plastic that are frequently used in industrial parts.
Nylon is a technopolymer, and is typically referred to as polyamide (PA). Nylon was the first commercially successful synthetic polymer. The wide variety of different modifications that can be made to technopolymer allows it to be produced with different mechanical properties, chemical resistance, temperature resistance and colors, even crystal-clear. Nylon can be used as the matrix material in composite materials, with reinforcing fibers like glass or carbon fiber, and which then have a higher density than pure nylon. Such thermoplastic composites (25% glass fiber) are frequently used in components where their good heat resistance—up to 150°C (300°F)—making them practical competitors with metals. Glass fiber reinforced nylon is used in the production of J.W. Winco’s WN 300 Nylon Plastic Adjustable Levers, shown here.
Polypropylene (PP) is a thermoplastic polymer that is rugged as well as unusually resistant to many chemical solvents, bases and acids. It is resistant to fatigue and tolerates high heat—66°C (150°F). It can be extruded or molded. Many physical finishing techniques can also be used on polypropylene, such as machining. Surface treatments can be applied to PP parts in order to encourage adhesion of inks and paints. Fiberglass reinforced polypropylene is used for our MFE Cabinet U-Handles.
Elastomers/thermoplastic elastomers are polymers with the property of elasticity. The term, which is derived from elastic polymer, is often used interchangeably with the term rubber. Components of these materials can be stretched and bent without exerting great force. Once the deforming force relaxes or no longer acts at all, the parts take their original shape. At ambient temperatures rubbers are relatively soft and deformable. Their primary uses are for seals, adhesives and molded flexible parts such as wheels. Elastomers can be made in varying degrees of hardness and can be dyed easily. Elastomer is also often used for non-skid pads like those on the bases of our SNSM Snap-Lock Non-Skid Leveling Mounts.
Thermoplastic elastomers (TPE), sometimes referred to as thermoplastic rubbers, are a class of copolymers or a physical mix of polymers (usually a plastic and a rubber) which consist of materials with both thermoplastic and elastomeric properties. TPE is used as an outer coating on our EN 5337.6 Softline Star Knobs, to provide a soft, ergonomic grip.
Duroplast is a resin plastic reinforced with fibers (either cotton or wool) making it a fiber-reinforced plastic similar to glass-reinforced plastic. It is light, flexible and strong, but has low elasticity. Phenolic resins are among the most commonly used Duroplast materials. Unlike technopolymer, Duroplast and phenolic plastics cannot be melted because they remain rigid up to degradation temperature. The coloring and dyeing options of components made of Duroplast are limited. Duroplast is used in our EN 940 Three Spoked Handwheels to make them strong and durable.
Like I said, that just scratches the surface of plastics and all there is to know about their use in industrial components. You can find some additional technical information about plastics in our Web site’s Technical Section, including General Heat Resistance for Plastic, Material Characteristics Chart of Duroplast and Technopolymer Plastics, and
Material Properties Chart of Elastomers (Rubber).