Thermoplastic is also ideal for recycling because the material can withstand repeated heating and re-shaping. Think water and soda bottles and household containers.Thermoplastic is also ideal for recycling because the material can withstand repeated heating and re-shaping. Think water and soda bottles and household containers.Thermoplastic — plastic material that is pliable above certain temperatures, capable of being molded and re-shaped but that can also solidify when cooled — is a common ingredient found in everything from toys to electronics.

Often a suitable substitute for metal, thermoplastic is diverse and can often be mixed with other materials for a variety of results. For instance, thermoplastics can be mixed with flame retardant substances to achieve certain safety requirements for products like clothing or toys. Likewise, thermoplastic can be mixed with fibers to fortify certain materials or plasticizers to make certain materials more flexible.

Thermoplastic is also ideal for recycling because the material can withstand repeated heating and re-shaping. Think water and soda bottles and household containers.

Additionally, thermoplastics are often used to produce parts by techniques such as injection and compression molding and extruding. Unlike other plastic-types such as thermosets and elastomers, thermoplastics are thought to be a more useful material where thermosets retain their shape no matter the temperature and elastomers have rubber-like qualities.


Thermoplastics can often be produced in high volume for low cost —a detail that often makes it a preferable substitute for metal. Thermoplastics are strong yet capable of being remolded without affecting the materials’ physical properties, which means the applications for thermoplastic are endless.


However, thermoplastics can also have disadvantages in the form of sometimes fracturing and they can sometimes experience creep.


With the number of thermoplastic types in existence and with many of their own characteristics, thermoplastics can be used to create a number of products.

Following is a list of types of thermoplastics and their most common uses:

ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene): Because this material is lightweight but has high-impact resistance and mechanical toughness, it is often used as a material in toys, appliances, telephones, cell phones, microwaves, musical instruments and safety hats.

Acrylic: Called poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA), this thermoplastic, which is used in nearly all industries, is often used as a substitute for glass. Acrylic can be used to make motorcycle helmet visors, plane windows, aquariums, ports in submersibles, eye-glass lenses and exterior lights and lenses for cars. Also known as Lucite®, Perspex® and Plexiglas®, acrylic might resemble glass, but it is typically far more durable.

Nylon: Most often used in the manufacture of heat-resistant materials, nylon is a silky material that commonly substitutes for actual silk in products such as fabrics, rope, musical instrument strings, flak vests, parachutes, women’s stockings and much more.

Polyactic acid (PLA): PLA is biodegradable often derived from renewable resources such as corn starch and sugarcane. It is commonly used in 3D printing with fused deposition modeling techniques.

Polycarbonate: Polycarbonates are tough, transparent, heat and flame resistant and stable. Due to their easy flexibility, they are typically used in general-purpose molding and for creating parts for products used in medical applications and for parts that come into contact with food. Polycarbonate is also a commonly used ingredient in construction materials, data storage devices, electronic components and automotive and aviation parts.

Polyethylene: Tough and resistant to chemicals and temperature changes, polyethylene can be used in a number of products from moving machine parts, artificial joints, bulletproof vests, milk containers, bottles, pipes, bearings and gears, just to name a few. Considered the most common plastic, polyethylene is also used in packaging such as plastic bags, films, geomembranes, bottles and more.

Polypropylene: The thermoplastic polypropylene has a number of applications ranging from an ingredient in plastic containers, rope, carpeting, car batteries to electrical cable insulation, diapers and piping systems. Polypropylene can also be found in lab equipment, stationery and reusable containers.

Polystyrene: Polystyrene is often used to make disposable cutlery and CD and DVD cases. Likewise, it is used to create packing peanuts (expanded polystyrene foam). Extruded polystyrene foam (also known as Styrofoam) is used to make disposable drinking cups for heated beverages. It can also be used to create architectural models. Unfortunately, it is slow to degrade, which explains why quantities of it accumulate in the ocean.

Polyvinyl chloride: Lightweight and tough, this material is resistant to acids and bases. Typically, it is used as vinyl siding on homes and other construction applications such as in drain pipes, gutters and roofing sheets. Coupled with plasticizers, polyvinyl chloride can be used as an ingredient in hoses, tubing electrical insulation, upholstery and outerwear (coats, jackets). Polyvinyl chloride has weatherproof and non-flammable characteristics and is commonly used in insert molding (the process of molding/forming plastic parts around other non-plastic parts).

Teflon (PTFE): Called polytetrafluoroethylene, the DuPont Corporation named this polymer Teflon®. It is commonly used as a coating on non-stick cookware and as a lubricant, reducing wear between sliding parts.


Online Sciences—Thermoplastics properties, types, uses, advantages and disadvantages

Pleasant Precision Inc.—Different types of thermoplastic resins and their applications

Sciencing—Uses of Thermoplastics


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