Plastic is a very large group of materials used in areas ranging from household goods to medical implants, paint and sunglasses.

Plastics are generally considered synthetic although there are also natural ones. The first synthetic plastic was made in the early 1900s but the majority of plastics were developed after WW1 when the chemical technology exploded.

Plastics are divided into two cathegories:

  • Thermoplastics - can be melted and re-moulded again and again and again
  • Thermosets - after being moulded and solidified, they cannot be re-moulded. The solidifying process involves a chemical reaction (curing/cross-likning) which is irreverisble

Some plastics can be both theroplastic and thermoset, depending on the molecule structure and ingredients used. The table below list some examples from both cathegories.



Plastic Properties Products
Polyethylene (PE, LDPE, HDPE) Soft to rigid depending on type, gas tight, chemical resistant, cheap to expensive depending on type Cling foil, household goods, supermarket bags, plastic bottles
Polyamide (Nylon, PA) Strong and light weight Fibers, textiles (stockings), fishing line, car engine mouldings
Polyvinylchloride (PVC) Soft to rigid depending on type, flame- chemical- & weather resistant Plumbing pipes, window frames, rain wear, boots, flooring
Polyester (PES) Strong and light weight, low water absorption Fibers, textiles, clothing, furniture upholstery, velcro
Polytetrafluoroethylene (Teflon, PTFE) Heat and chemical resistant, low friction, very expensive Non-stick surfaces
Polystyrene (PS) Rigid, hard, brittle, low weight Packaging foam, disposable cups/plates/cutlery
Polycarbonate (PC) Rigid, strong, glass clear, good chemical resistance, expensive CDs, eyeglasses, visors
Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) Strong, impact resistant, glass clear, good gas and moisture barrier, lightweight Carbonated drinks bottles, microwavable packaging
Polymethylmetacrylate (PMMA) Rigid, strong but brittle, glass clear, good chemical resistance, cheap Windows (Plexiglass), visor, lenses for car lights




Plastic Properties Products
Epoxy plastics Heat and chemical resistant, electrically insulating, god adhesion High strength adhesives, composites (fibreglass)
Phenol plastics (Bakelit) Electrically insulating, heat and chemical resistant, hard, brittle Electrical plugs and switches, brake pads
Polyurethane Strong and light weight, abrasion resistant, heat resistant Foam mattresses (Tempur), rollers
  • Last updated 7/20/2018
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