Best Tools To Assist In Your Plastic Sheet Search

Use the best available tools to narrow down the best plastic sheet material for your application.

What are the best methods to pick the proper plastic sheet material?
Use the tools that the professionals use to find the best plastic material for your application.

Where To Begin

The process of picking the proper plastic material starts with determining the ‘must have’ physical properties needed for your application. Designing a part with the minimum performance factors in mind will help to eliminate an overly
expensive part.

Critical factors to consider are:

  • Temperature requirements (short term and long term)
  • Chemical or Environmental Requirements
  • UV resistance (Will it be in direct sunlight)
  • Color or Transparency
  • Strengths (Impact and Compression)
  • Compliance Issues (Certification for FDA, NSF, Dairy, etc.)

Review The Plastic Property Comparison Guide

The first tool suggested is a chart produced by the IAPD (International Association of Plastic Distribution – http://iapd.org/) linked in picture below, and listed on this chart are the most common plastic sheet and plastic rod materials that are commonly available. In addition, the chart compares the physical properties of these common plastic materials. Click on picture to access chart.

IAPD Plastic Selection Rectangle Chart Plastic Sheet Materials Best Methods To Pick The Proper Plastic Sheet Materials iapd rectangle choose plastic
Included in this chart is a relative cost comparison, which will assist in limiting the materials to proper plastics for a application without over-designing and using an expensive ‘over kill’ material. Some common plastic sheet materials can be very expensive. Materials like PEEK (Polyetheretherketone) can be in the $100 per pound range or more.

Start Search With Temperature Resistance

After looking over the IAPD Physical Properties Chart, now it is time to evaluate specifics for your application. The critical factors listed above are ranked by most important to least important. If your part needs to handle a continuous temperature of 300 degrees F, this is a critical physical property. Picking a material that softens at 250 degrees is a
recipe for disaster. Pick a material that can handle the temperature first.

Will Part Have Chemical Exposure

Next, look at environmental requirements. Parts exposed to chemicals are important to research. Find the chemical make up and the concentration of the chemical to insure the material you pick can handle this solution. Many plastics have excellent chemical resistance as evidenced by evaluating the container the chemicals are stored in already. A common plastic that is chemical resistant is Polypropylene, the same material used for automotive batteries. While Polypropylene and HDPE sheets are excellent in chemical resistance, their temperature range is quite limited. Also, these two plastics can not be easily bonded or glued, and would require heat welding for assembly.

Does Your Part Live In The Sun

Most plastics do not handle long exposure to direct sunlight without an additional UV additive. The one exception is Acrylic, which is the most UV resistant plastic sheet available. Some plastics handle UV well if they have a carbon black additive, or a extra UV package added at time of production.

How Critical Is The Color

The most common colors in many plastic sheets are Natural (white to tan) and Black. While other colors are available with a special run, this may require a large minimum order. Some plastics, like HDPE are available in many colors and textures for use in marine, playground and food processing applications. In many plastic applications, a machined part is being made, and the color is the least important factor. If it is an internal part of a machine, no one really cares about the color of the part. Some clients look for materials in a specific color to help ‘brand’ their parts for easy replacement and identification.

How Much Stress Will The Part See

Strength is a wide range of physical properties covering many stresses a part may be exposed to. From impact to compression, expansion to tensile strength, all of these can be critical in designing a plastic part. There are other factors in the ‘Strength’ realm, like Notched Izod and Stress Can Cause Your Plastic Part to Bow, Twist and Crack Plastic Sheet Materials Best Methods To Pick The Proper Plastic Sheet Materials stressed dudewater absorption. If your part will be exposed to crushing pressure, pulling apart force or impact, these are critical things to consider prior to picking your plastic part.

PTFE is a soft and slippery plastic, but will ‘cold flow’ under high pressure, and High Pressure Laminates like G-10 FR 4 sheet can withstand some of the highest pressures. The Notched Izod tests for materials that break easily if a scored mark has been made in the surface. Acrylics break very easily if scored, but UHMW will not break at all under the same test.

What Agency Approval May Be Required

In many applications a part may require approval or testing to meet a third party certification. One such common application is for materials in food processing applications. Common requests included UL ratings, Fire Ratings, Military specifications and many more. Food contact is a popular request, coving material that is either FDA (Food and Drug Administration) or NSF (National UL Ratings for Plastic Materials Plastic Sheet Materials Best Methods To Pick The Proper Plastic Sheet Materials UL logoSanitation Foundation) approved. These agencies insure that materials are rigorously tested and comply with their requirements for safety. Some common materials used in food processing that meet the FDA certification are Delrin – Acetal, HDPE, UHMW and Nylon, plus many others.
Once these steps have been completed, several materials should present themselves as meeting your criteria and physical property requirement. Unfortunately there is no one perfect plastic that works in all applications. However, for almost every application, there is a material that will work, and work better than most other substrates.

Cool Online Tool

There is also an additional tool that can be used to help identify some of these properties quickly, the Gehr Plastic Selector online application.

If you are still in need of assistance in identifying an appropriate plastic material, contact an experienced Plasticologist at Industrial Plastic Supply, Inc. – call 866-832-9315

Also see the article, New Methods To Pick Proper Plastic Sheet Materials, for additional information on this subject.

Google+ Author – Hayden Hess
Topic: Best Tools to Assist In Your Plastic Sheet Search

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Why Plastic Materials Are Unfairly Blamed

Plastics have been around for over a century now, and are used in almost every industry and application. The problem is that society has made the plastics industry the poster child for waste, trash and pollution. This is unfair, and factually incorrect.

Plastic materials are lighter, cost less to produce, use less electrical power to produce, and are safer for use. It is not new phenomenon that a material or product, once used, gets thrown away. This is the normal life cycle of many materials. Some inexpensive plastic materials used in consumer goods are made to throw away once the item has been purchased. Things like the indestructible packing we fight on kids toys, the cheap plastic sporks from restaurants, the prolific plastic water bottles and of course, the plastic grocery bags. All of these materials are 100% recyclable, the hitch is that it requires a little effort to recycle.

Are Plastic Materials The Cause?

On the positive side, the products that plastic currently replaces are much larger, heavier and generally cost more to produce, and use more energy to produce. This means, that the large amount of plastics that are not being properly disposed of, are replacing much larger quantities of materials that would not be recycled. I still remember times when I was a kid, and seeing tin cans in the lakes and rivers when out Why Plastic Materials Get A Bad Reputation Why Plastic Materials Get A Bad Reputation Recycled Furniture made of HDPE milk jugs and detergent bottlesfishing. People polluting with their trash is not a new thing, now it is just a different group of materials.

Thermoplastic plastic materials are recyclable, and can be used over and over again. Generally, the recycled product would not be for a Food or Medical application. A common use of recycled plastic is with the collected milk jugs and detergent bottles, both HDPE, can be ground and turned into plastic lumber. The plastic lumber can be used to replace standard wood products for decks and outdoor furniture, and it will last for 15 – 20 years with no maintenance or painting. The cost savings and reduced use of natural resources for this one product can be staggering. The color doesn’t fade, it wood won’t split or crack, and it continues to look good for up to two decades.

Our recent article, “Plastic Material Bad Reputation – How did we get here?“, we discuss the factors that have lead to the ‘throw away’ society that we have become. Much of this bad reputation is for products that are designed as one use and then designed to be thrown away. So, if we are to change the bad reputation, companies need to change this design flaw, and start using materials for applications that can be reused easily.

If we can minimize the use of throw away plastics, and recycle the plastic material once we are done with it, we can help to limit plastic in land fills.plastic materials don't pollute, people pollute. Why Plastic Materials Get A Bad Reputation Why Plastic Materials Get A Bad Reputation 91cc 59ea

The blame for plastic pollution should be placed…on people. The plastic is not the cause of the problem, it is the litter-bug and irresponsible individuals that trash our planet. How do the plastic bottles and grocery bags end up in the ocean. They certainly don’t throw themselves in to the ocean, it is lack of responsibility and negligent behavior.

It really only takes a couple of seconds to throw something into a recycle bin. Even better would be to reuse the plastic bottles or plastic bags. Plastic materials are not the problem, empathetic people are the problem.

Google+ – Hayden Hess

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Topic: Plastic Materials Get Bad Reputation Unfairly