Thermoplastics 101: What You Need to Know

Plastics are ubiquitous. They are found in numerous materials and products. Whether it’s mobile phones, radios, water bottles, or cutlery, plastic is probably more commonly found than you even realize.

One thing many people may not know is that plastics are polymers. There aren’t all that many polymer materials, yet plastic has numerous applications. What makes this possible? Thermoplastic compounding.

What is Thermoplastic Compounding?

This is a process through which base polymers are blended with other materials to enhance the properties of the base material. The process adds value to polymers.

Types of Polymers Used in Packaging

There are two types of polymers commonly used in packaging: thermoplastics and thermosets.

The two share some similarities. Both melt when heated and resolidify when cooled. However, there is a key difference between the two. When thermosets cool and harden, they don’t melt when heated. Thermoplastics, on the other hand, will melt if subjected to enough heat. Because of this significant difference, thermoplastics have one huge advantage over thermosets. They have a wide range of applications, making them incredibly versatile.

Advantages of Thermoplastics

Thermoplastics have a wide range of uses. Additionally, they have several other benefits:

  • They’re highly recyclable and eco-friendly to create
  • Most thermoplastics are chemical-resistant
  • They can be easily remolded
  • They are relatively affordable and easy to manufacture

Of course, no material is perfect. First, thermoplastics have a low melting point. As a result, certain thermoplastics can melt if subjected to extreme heat for long periods. Additionally, they have poor resistance to certain solvents. Finally, they are prone to damage when subjected to extreme stress. That said, they can be extremely durable under a variety of conditions and are still considered to be one of the best options available under many circumstances.

Uses of Thermoplastics

Because of their versatility, thermoplastics have a wide range of applications. Here are some sectors that regularly use thermoplastics in their operations.

  • Textiles: Nylon and polyester are used to manufacture clothes. Polyamide is also used to make belts and ropes.
  • Healthcare: Roughly 70% of Americans turning 65 will need long-term care at some point. Thermoplastics such as syringes, inhalers, nebulizers, and vials are vital to long-term care.
  • Kitchenware: Teflon is used to manufacture non-stick cookware, making cooking and clean-up a cinch.
  • Automotive: Thermoplastics are extensively used in automotive manufacturing. Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) is used to manufacture various car parts.
  • Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG): Plastic is the most commonly used material used in the packaging of consumer goods. Polycarbonate is often used to make drinking bottles and food and storage containers.
  • Water Supply: Steel pipes are prone to corrosion or rust, especially in acidic and polluted conditions commonly found in large cities. In such conditions, thermoplastics are a good alternative to steel pipes. They can withstand acidic conditions and can transport materials at extreme temperatures.
  • 3D Modeling and Design: Engineering design services utilize thermoplastics. Using 3D modeling, design, and printing, engineers make parts with thermoplastics such as polycarbonate.
  • Electrical and Electromechanical Components: Polyethylene is pliable and suitable for insulating electrical cables.
  • Natural Gas: Polyethylene is also used to make gas tanks that are used to transport natural gas.

Overall, thermoplastic compounding is essential to the manufacture of plastics used in several sectors. Thanks to this process, plastics have multiple uses. Oak Tree, LLC specializes in thermoplastic compounding technologies. Contact us today to learn more about thermoplastics and whether they’re suitable for your project.