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What Are Engineering Plastics?

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  • Written By: Patrick Roland
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 07 July 2014
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Engineering plastics are rugged, durable polymer plastics used in manufacturing. They frequently are found as part of consumer goods. There are dozens of kinds of engineering plastics, but there are five that are most popular because of their abilities to handle stress and heat.

Engineering plastics differ from commodity plastics because they are always used as parts, never packaging or containers. Also known as thermoplastics, these materials are designed to withstand large amounts of stress and high temperatures. These plastics normally are not available to the public and frequently are available only to manufacturers in raw material form in order to be melted and molded into end products.

Polycarbonate is one of the most commonly used engineering plastics because of its strength. Its properties also make this plastic easy to color. Often compared to the durability of metals, this thermoplastic has found its widest use in the technology field, where it is used in the shells of computers, digital versatile disc (DVD) players, televisions and more. In addition to these products, this plastic also is used in things such as safety light covers, motorcycle helmets and airplane cockpit glass.

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Polymide is another popular form of engineering plastics. These plastics' properties actually have a stronger resemblance to metal's properties than to those of polycarbonate. This is obvious because it is one of the most commonly used plastics in the automobile industry. Its toughness and ease of production have helped it be used in place of metal in automobile bumpers, fan blades, dashboards and a variety of valves.

Polyoxmethylene has been nicknamed "supersteel" for its incredible strength and ability for precision. Unlike the other engineering plastics, this has the ability to be used in sensitive products such as mechanical gears and instruments. Sprinkling machines also commonly employ this plastic in order to create a lightweight, exact system.

Polyester traditionally is thought of as part of the garment industry, but its chemical makeup is great for electronics. Its low glass transition temperature makes it perfect for jobs that require a high insulation rate, such as the kickback plate of televisions, automobile section boards and ignition coils. Tempering this plastic takes more work and precision, but the results are savored by many producers.

Polyphenel is renowned throughout plastic process engineering for its high temperature threshold. Heat generating products such as washing machines, hair dryers, coffee makers and ovenware all utilize this plastic. It toughness ensures that it will not melt during repeated usage.

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