Choosing the correct type of plastic for your product manufacture is a complex and critical task for product development. Everyday products that we buy such as furniture, toys, clothes, electronics and packaging are all made in part or entirely out of plastic. Plastic properties can be quite complicated with very complex scientific names.

All plastics are made with synthetic or semi-synthetic organic solids used in the manufacturing process of the majority of industrial products. The two most basic raw materials used to make plastics are petroleum and natural gas.

When your company is developing a product, sourcing the wrong type of material for manufacturing could lead to hazardous results. Chemical composition and flexibility are important when the plastics are to be combined with other materials. Certain glues work best with some plastics for example.  Some plastics are rigid and others are flexible.

All plastics fall into two categories either thermoplastics or thermosetting polymers.

  • Thermoplastics are plastics that never undergo chemical transformation in their composition when they are heated. These types of plastics can be molded over and over again, thus they are recyclable.
  • Thermosetting polymers are plastics that are chemically altered during the curing process. Once they are molded they stay solid and can not be altered by any way possible. This is very important factor to know if you want to source your product using recyclable materials Thermosetting polymers are very difficult and costly to recycle. They cause more harm to the environment then thermoplastics.

A perfect example of thermoplastic recyclable processes is used by Patagonia when they take old plastic water bottles and transform them into fibers to be used in fleece sweaters. This increases the life cycle for the material and causes less harm to the environment.

Thermosetting polymers are hard to decompose thus they are hard to dispose of and emit higher levels of pollution.

Here is a list of the different types of plastics and some examples of  products they are used for:

Thermoplastics:

  • Polyethylene (plastic bags and bottles).
  • Polystyrene (PS) (plastic tableware, plates, cups, food containers, CD and cassette boxes).
  • Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) (pipes, gutter, flooring, window frames).
  • Polyethylene terphthalate (Plastic jars, Microwavable packaging, Cans).
  • Polyester (used in textile and fibers). (mostly a thermoplastic but can also be a thermosetting polymer).
  • Low density polyethylene (LDPE) (furniture, floor tiles, shower curtains).
  • High density polyethylene (thicker type of plastic bottles).
  • Polyvinylidene chloride (PVDC) (food packaging).
  • Polypropylene (PP) (Straws, bottle caps, car bumpers, all types of appliances).
  • High impact Polystyrene (HIPS) ( Refrigerator liners).
  • Polyamides (PA) ( Fibers, toothbrush bristles, car engine moulding).
  • Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) ( Electronic cases, monitor cases, printer cases etc)
  • Polycarbonate (PC) ( Eyeglasses, riot shields, security windows, lenses).
  • Polycarbonate / Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (PC/ABS) (mix blend of PC and ABS plastics, creates a very strong density plastic. Used for mobile phone parts, car parts exterior and interior).
  • Many more plastics…

Thermosetting polymers:

  • Polyurethane (PU) (Cushioning foam, used for thermal insulation, surface coating, one of the most used plastics on the market). (Can also be a thermoplastic).
  • Polyimide (PI) (Used to make plane parts and circuit boards).
  • Duroplast (Used to make car parts).
  • Polyester Fiberglass.
  • Many more plastics…

Contact ODM for any help sourcing your product and for more information about what kind of plastics to use in the manufacturing of your products.