Understanding Thermoplastic Uses for the Most Effective Design
Do you know the design process when it comes to thermoplastic uses? Read all the details about creating the most effective design.
Is there a particular type of thermoplastic that you consider as the most suitable for your product design? This is a valid question because polymers are not entirely the same as each of them – along with co-polymers – come with specific characteristics. This is why you must understand thermoplastics in order not to make errors in your design.
Understanding The Design Process
Material selection should be at the top of your list when thinking of designing a particular product. And it is also vitally important in order to avoid designing something that cannot be fabricated.
This is why before anything else, always consider your application as well as the material and how seamlessly – or not – it will flow through the injection mold. Your application intentions must be well laid out, or you could end up with a failed design. This is the perfect way to approach design as it will provide an excellent chance for minimal changes.
Best Practices/Questions to Ask About Application Intentions
It sounds unbelievable, but many individuals that dabble with thermoplastics do not believe that any polymer-based design can be affected in any way unless you reach the final stages.
But the truth is, the design can be affected as you will lose efficiencies during the design process. The fundamentals may remain the same, but sticking to some industry best practices is highly crucial, irrespective of whether you are working with an engineered grade glass-filled nylon or a commodity-grade polypropylene.
Everything boils down to these significant areas when mulling over the application:
- What, precisely, is this product designed to do or achieve?
- In what environment will this product be used extensively?
- What are the essential functionalities/characteristics of this product?
- Does this product have an expected lifecycle? Then what is it?
When you come up with excellent answers to the questions, you will have the information you need to start narrowing down your choices of thermoplastic families. But then, what is thermoplastic?
What is Thermoplastic?
A thermoplastic is a polymer or plastic material that only becomes moldable or pliable when it reaches a particular temperature but solidifies as soon as it cools down. In other words, it is a material that becomes very soft when hot or heated and very hard when it cools.
The majority of the thermoplastics in use today for various applications or purposes come with a high molecular weight. Polymer chains generally associate via intermolecular forces that readily become weak when exposed to high temperatures. And this makes such materials turn to viscous fluid.
This is why thermoplastics can easily be re-shaped when heat is applied to them and are used to produce numerous parts via a wide variety of polymer processing methods like compression molding, injection molding, and extrusion.
The physical properties of any thermoplastic material change drastically without associated phase changes, especially below its melting point and above its typical glass transition temperature. A few retain all or some of their amorphous characteristics since they do not crystallize below their average glass transition temperature.
Both amorphous, as well as semi-amorphous thermoplastics are employed when high optical clarity is vital. This is because light rays are strongly scattered by crystallites that are larger than their wavelength. And since amorphous and semi-amorphous plastics lack crystalline structures, they are highly resistant to environmental stress cracking as well as chemical attacks.
Plasticizers, when added to plastics, help to minimize brittleness. And this, in turn, boosts the mobility of amorphous chain sections in order to bring down the glass transition temperature. The glass transition temperature can also be lowered by adding non-reactive side chains to monomers right before polymerization or via copolymerization.
Types of Thermoplastic Materials
There are 2 major groups or classes of thermoplastic materials: commodity-grade and engineered-grade thermoplastics.
Commodity-grade thermoplastic materials are mainstream and generally employed in lightweight applications. Most disposables are made of this type of thermoplastic material. However, a few commodity-grade thermoplastic materials can be incredibly robust under specific applications and designs.
Engineered-grade thermoplastic materials are much more robust resources. They are typically employed in a wide range of additives, polymer blends, etc., in order to create resilient or durable materials that perform excellently well even under challenging environments.
Common Uses of Thermoplastics
Here are some of the more common thermoplastic materials and what they are used for today:
This tough thermoplastic material is a member of the polyamides family. Nylon possesses properties that can make it dull, lustrous, and even semi-lustrous. It also exhibits excellent chemical and abrasion resistance.
If you need die-cast metal for an application but can’t get your hands on it, nylon is an excellent alternative. And it even has a great advantage over die-cast metal, which is significant weight reduction.
PEEK (Polyether ether ketone) is a colorless organic polymer within the PAEK (polyaryletherketone) family. This thermoplastic material has stunning properties such as low flammability, excellent abrasion resistance, low emission of toxic gases and smoke, etc. PEEK is generally employed in engineering applications.
- Carbon PEEK
Carbon PEEK refers to a composite material heavily reinforced with carbon fiber. This thermoplastic material exhibits extraordinary characteristics such as chemical, mechanical, and thermal resistances.
Adding carbon fiber to PEEK further enhances the polymer by making it even more resistant, enabling you to use it for any metal replacement process you may have in mind.
Carbon PEEK is used in a wide variety of applications across several industrial sectors. It is often used in areas where extraordinary performance is required, which results in a further increase in mechanical action.
This is a polymer, otherwise known as poly (methyl methacrylate) or PMMA. Acrylic, a hardy substitute for glass, is also known by the following trade names: Perspex, Plexiglas, and Lucite.
As you can see, understanding thermoplastic uses is highly crucial for the most effective design. When you have a list of thermoplastics at your disposal, an epiphany may occur which shows you the direction to go when you want to design a product.
And if you work with a knowledgeable injection molding partner, you may get key insights or information about the thermoplastic grades that are highly suitable for your application.
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