Everything we see and use in our surroundings are all made of partly or entirely plastic material. Almost all home appliances, electronics casing and accessory items are composed with at least one type of plastic material in them. Even though plastic is often described as a general term, there are actually many different kinds of plastic differentiated based on their physical and chemical properties. Here are the 7 most commonly used types of plastic materials that you should know when you want to buy or make your own plastic item.
Find the Ideal Type of Plastic for Your Needs
1. Acrylic or Polymethyl Methacrylate (PMMA)
Acrylic is a see-through thermoplastic often used as a lightweight and break-resistant replacement to glass. It is a type of plastic known for its heavy use in manufacturing optical devices and products. Acrylic or PMMA plastics is often produced in sheets to accommodate products such as mirrors and glass boards. Acrylic glass and boards can be made colored, shaded, abrasion-resistant, shock-resistant, non-glare, UV-resistant and a lot more which is why it is a popular material for different types of products and applications.
2. Polycarbonate (PC)
Polycarbonate is a popular kind of plastic known for different engineering uses and applications in structures and products we see and use today. It is transparent like glass but is five hundred times more break-resistant and flexible but solid and stable. Unlike acrylic or glass, Polycarbonate sheets can easily be molded, cut or cold-formed to achieve different forms retaining the same qualitative properties. This is the reason why polycarbonate is heavily used in a wide range of products such as compact discs, lenses, safety gears and a lot more.
3. Polyethylene (PE)
Polyethylene is the most widely-used type of plastic around the world, especially for all kinds of packaging. It is a cheap plastic which can be manufactured in different densities and each density can provide a specific set of physical properties. The versatility is the main reason why polyethylene is used on a wide range of products. You can read more on PE here and these are four are the most commonly used polyethylene densities:
a. Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE)
This polyethylene density is ductile and used for items such as shopping bags, plastic bags, transparent food containers, disposable utensils and other cheap plastic products.
b. Medium-Density Polyethylene (MDPE)
With greater density than the LDPE, MDPE is typically used in gas pipes, plastic tubes, heavy duty bags and as a packaging material for numerous products and materials out there.
c. High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
The HDPE is designed to be rigid through long polymer chains and normally presented as plastic sheets to be used in various products such as plastic bottles, water pipes, skateboards, travel vehicles, tables and household pieces.
d. Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE)
UHMWPE has the highest density level among these different kinds of polyethylene. It possesses great density and low abrasion and friction properties mainly due to its extreme length of polymer chains making it more rigid and sturdy. UHMWPE is heavily used in body armour, mechanical accessories, biomaterial products and bone implants.
4. Polypropylene (PP)
Polypropylene is the second-most widely used kind of plastic used around the globe. It is a synthetic kind of a thermoplastic polymer and is the most flexible in all manufactured thermoplastics. Stronger than polyethylene, it still retains the flexibility property which allows it to withstand repetitive stress and friction. This type of plastic material is popularly used as mechanical parts, heavy duty equipment, medical devices and large food containers.
5. Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE or PET)
Polyethylene Terephthalate is a thermoplastic resin under the polyester family and is the fourth-most widely used type of plastic material around the world. This type of plastic has high chemical resistance against regular substances such as water and is widely popular these days due to its easy recyclability. PET is durable and shatterproof with an excellent strength against weight ratio. This kind of plastic is used as a clothing fiber, engineering resins, glass fiber, food containers and many other products we use in our daily lives. It doesn’t have a good reputation, but its recycling properties are quite good.
6. Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
Polyvinyl Chloride is the third-most used synthetic plastic polymer used around the world. PVC is known for being both rigid and flexible which makes it useful to blend with other materials. Most common uses for this kind of plastic are in household materials and structures, construction materials, bottles and as packaging material. When combined with plasticizers such as phthalates, flexible and softer PVC can be used for electrical components, clothing material, plumbing products, medical tubing and a lot more.
7. Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene (ABS)
Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene is produced when styrene and acrylonitrile is polymerized with the presence of polybutadiene. ABS is rigid, flexible and glossy. Its most important feature has to be its susceptibility to processing and molding. ABS can be manufactured in varying thicknesses from 200 microns to 5mm with a maximum width of 1600mm. This cheap plastic is commonly used in simple plastics parts and industry equipment up to regular and daily products such as boxes, clothing and toys. It is very relevant if you’re looking into new product development.
These seven different kinds of plastics may sound strange based on their proper names but you would be surprised to know all of them are part of your daily life. Differentiated mainly because of their physical and chemical properties, each kind of plastic are accustomed to specific uses and are designed perfectly for sole purposes. Talk to an experienced plastics manufacturing company to learn more.