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Polymer Types

Understanding Polymer Types: Comparing Plastics and Elastomers

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When it comes to polymers, plastic and elastomer are two common polymers types. They are major players that dominate various industries. While they share the commonality of being polymers, plastic and elastomer exhibit distinct characteristics and behaviors that set them apart. In this post, we will delve into the relationship between plastic and elastomer, highlighting their key differences and examining their unique applications. Join us as we explore the fascinating world of these versatile materials and uncover their individual strengths in various industries.

What Is Polymer?

A polymer is a large molecule made up of repeating subunits called monomers. These monomers are chemically bonded together to form long chains or networks. Polymers can be classified into several categories based on their structure, behavior, and chemical composition. Common polymers types are plastics and elastomers:

Plastics: These are synthetic polymers that can be molded and shaped into various forms. They are typically derived from petrochemicals and can be further classified into thermoplastics and thermosetting plastics.

Related blog: Thermoset vs Thermoplastic: What is the Difference?

Elastomers: Elastomers are polymers that exhibit rubber-like elasticity and flexibility. They can undergo large deformations and recover their original shape after the deformation force is removed. Rubber is a well-known example of an elastomer.

Polymer Types

Understand Plastics

Plastics can be molded into different shapes and forms through processes like injection molding or extrusion. They possess a wide range of properties, such as flexibility, durability, and resistance to chemicals. Plastics can be divided into two types based on their behavior and structure. The main types of plastics include thermoset plastics and thermoplastics.

Thermoset Plastics

Thermoset plastics, also known as thermosetting plastics or thermosets, are a class of polymers that undergo a permanent chemical change when heated and cured. Once cured, they become rigid, strong, and resistant to heat and chemicals. Unlike thermoplastics, which can be melted and reshaped multiple times, thermoset plastics cannot be reprocessed once they are cured. Here are some common examples of thermoset plastics and their applications:

  1. Polyester Resin:

Applications: Fiberglass composites, boat hulls, automotive body parts, pipes, tanks, electrical enclosures, laminates, and decorative items.

  1. Silicone:

Applications: Gaskets, seals, electrical insulation, medical implants, automotive components, cooking utensils, adhesives, lubricants.

  1. Melamine Formaldehyde:

Applications: Kitchenware, dinnerware, electrical sockets, automotive parts, laminates for furniture and flooring, and fire-resistant coatings.

  1. Polyurethane:

Applications: Foams for mattresses, cushions, and insulation; coatings, adhesives, sealants, automotive parts, synthetic leather, and elastomers.

  1. Epoxy Resin:

Applications: Adhesives, coatings, electrical and electronic components, composites for aerospace and automotive parts, construction materials, and encapsulation of electronic devices.

  1. Urea Formaldehyde:

Applications: Particle boards, plywood, molding compounds, electrical insulators, automotive interior components, and decorative laminates.

Thermoplastics

Thermoplastics are a type of plastic that can be melted and re-melted multiple times without undergoing significant chemical changes.  It offer advantages such as easy processability, recyclability, and the ability to be molded into complex shapes, making them widely used in various industries and consumer products. Here are some common examples of thermoplastics and their applications:

  • Polyethylene (PE): Lightweight, flexible, and chemically resistant. Used in packaging, pipes, toys, and insulation.
  • Polypropylene (PP): High strength, excellent chemical resistance, and low density. Widely used in automotive parts, packaging, textiles, and household appliances.
  • Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC): Durable, versatile, and cost-effective. Used in pipes, electrical cables, window frames, flooring, and medical tubing.
  • Polystyrene (PS): Lightweight, rigid, and good electrical insulation properties. Used in packaging, disposable cutlery, insulation, and consumer electronics.
  • Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS): Tough, impact-resistant, and easily molded. Commonly used in automotive parts, electronics, toys, and household appliances.
  • Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET): Strong, transparent, and resistant to moisture and chemicals. Used in beverage bottles, food containers, synthetic fibers, and films.
  • Polycarbonate (PC): High impact strength, transparency, and heat resistance. Used in automotive components, safety helmets, eyewear, and electronics.
  • Polyamide (PA or Nylon): Strong, lightweight, and wear-resistant. Used in automotive parts, electrical connectors, sports equipment, and textiles.
  • Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol (PETG): Clear, durable, and easy to process. Often used in medical equipment, food packaging, displays, and signage.
  • Polymethyl Methacrylate (PMMA or Acrylic): Transparent, UV-resistant, and excellent optical clarity. Widely used in signage, lighting fixtures, automotive lenses, and display cases.
  • Polyvinylidene Fluoride (PVDF): Chemically resistant, high thermal stability, and excellent weatherability. Commonly used in pipes, wire insulation, chemical containers, and architectural coatings.
  • Polyoxymethylene (POM or Acetal): Strong, low friction, and excellent dimensional stability. Used in gears, bearings, automotive components, and plumbing fittings.
  • Polyimide (PI): High-temperature resistance, excellent electrical insulation, and mechanical strength. Found in aerospace components, electrical insulation, and semiconductor manufacturing.
  • Polyphenylene Sulfide (PPS): High chemical resistance, dimensional stability, and flame retardancy. Used in electrical connectors, automotive parts, and industrial applications.

Understand Elastomers

Elastomers are a type of polymer characterized by their high elasticity and ability to return to their original shape after being stretched or deformed. Rubber is the main types of elastomers. They are commonly used in applications requiring flexibility, resilience, and sealing capabilities. Here are some common examples of elastomers and their applications:

  1. Natural Rubber (NR):

Applications: Tires, automotive components, conveyor belts, footwear, adhesives, medical devices, and seals.

  1. Styrene-Butadiene Rubber (SBR):

Applications: Tires, gaskets, seals, shoe soles, conveyor belts, adhesives, and electrical insulation.

  1. Nitrile Rubber (NBR):

Applications: O-rings, gaskets, seals, fuel hoses, gloves, hydraulic and pneumatic seals, and oil-resistant components.

  1. Butyl Rubber (IIR):

Applications: Inner tubes, tire inner liners, diaphragms, seals, hoses, pharmaceutical stoppers, and adhesives.

  1. Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer (EPDM):

Applications: Seals, gaskets, weatherstripping, roofing membranes, electrical insulation, automotive hoses, and belts.

  1. Silicone Rubber (VMQ):

Applications: Electrical insulation, medical implants, gaskets, seals, automotive components, cookware, and consumer electronics.

  1. Fluoroelastomers (FKM):

Applications: O-rings, gaskets, seals, fuel system components, aerospace seals, and chemical-resistant equipment.

  1. Chloroprene Rubber (CR, Neoprene):

Applications: Wetsuits, weatherstripping, electrical insulation, conveyor belts, automotive hoses, and adhesives.

Rubber material typically divided into natural rubber and synthetic rubber, learn the differences through our blog: From Natural to Synthetic: Exploring Different Types of Rubber and Their Properties

Key Difference Between Plastics and Elastomers

Plastics and elastomers are both types of polymers, but they have distinct differences in their properties and applications. Understanding these differences is important when selecting materials for specific applications. Here is an overview of the key differences between plastics and elastomers:

 

Plastics

Elastomers

Physical Properties

Rigid or semi-rigid, with a wide range of hardness and stiffness

Highly flexible and elastic, with the ability to stretch significantly

Morphology

Formed by long chains of polymer molecules

Rubber-like properties

Elasticity

Exhibit low elasticity

Show high elasticity

Flexibility

A higher stiffness compared to elastomers

Highly flexible and have a low modulus of elasticity

Tensile Strength

Have higher tensile strength than elastomers, better resistance to breaking or tearing

Have lower tensile strength

Applications

Widely used in various industries for rigid components, packaging, consumer goods, and structural applications

Primarily used for applications requiring flexibility, sealing, vibration dampening, shock absorption, and elasticity, such as gaskets, O-rings, tires, and footwear

Injection Molding With Zhongde

Zhongde’s injection molding expertise extends to both plastics and elastomers, offering a comprehensive solution for various applications. Such as automotive, electronics, and consumer goods, etc. Zhongde’s knowledge and experience in processing different types of plastics and elastomers ensure optimal material selection, efficient production, and high-quality end products. Whether it’s plastics or elastomers, Zhongde’s injection molding services provide reliable and efficient manufacturing for a variety of applications.

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