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An Overview of Common Plastics

ABS

General use, mid-level performance material. The go-to option for prototyping and 3D printing. Read more.

Acetal

Low friction and stiff. Often used for gears and other high-wear applications. Read more.

Acrylic

The clearest plastic available. Strong, but brittle. Learn More

Nylon

Used where strength and temperature resistance are key. Often a replacement for metal parts. Can also be formed into filament for fabrics. Read more.

Polycarbonate

Transparent and highly impact resistant. Used for protective equipment. Read more.

Polyethylene

Versatile and diverse applications from plastic bags or construction materials to medical device implants. Read more.

Polyethylene Terephthalate

PET Commonly used for clear bottles. Can also be formed into “polyester” fabric. Read more.

Polypropylene

Ideal material for living hinges, low cost and versatile. Read more.

Polyvinyl Chloride

Available in both rigid and soft forms. Often used as a building material. Also known as “vinyl”. Read more.

Material Properties For Different Plastics

 Plastic Chemical Formula Petroleum Based Shrink Rate Thermoplastic or Thermoset Melting Point Glass Transition Mold Temperature Mold Pressure Tensile Strength Flexural Strength Unique Characteristics
ABS Plastic (C8H8)x· (C4H6)y·(C3H3N)z Yes 0.5-0.7% (.005-.007 in/in) Thermoplastic 204-238°C (400-460°F)  105°C (221°F) 63-85°C (145-185°F) 69-103 MPa (10,000-15,000 PSI)   46 MPa (6,600 PSI) 74 MPa (10,800 PSI) Readily available, cheap, durable
Acetal (POM)  (CH2O)n Yes  2.1-2.9% (.021-.029 in/in)  Thermoplastic  182-218°C (360-425°F)    79-107°C (175-225°F) 69-103 MPa (10,000-15,000 PSI)  63 MPa (9,100 PSI)  90 MPa (13,000 PSI) Low friction surface, high impact resistance
Acrylic (PMMA) (C5H8O2)n Yes  0.2-1% (0.002-0.01 in/in)  Thermoplastic  130°C (266°F)    79-107°C (175-225°F) 69-103 MPa (10,000-15,000 PSI)   65 MPa (9400 PSI)  90 MPa (13000 PSI) Low friction surface, high impact resistance
Polycarbonate (PC)  C15H16O2   Yes  0.6-0.9% (.006-.009 in/in)  Thermoplastic   288-316°C (550-600°F)    82-121°C (180-250°F) 69-103 MPa (10,000-15,000 PSI)  59 MPa (8,500 PSI)  93 MPa (13,500 PSI) Extremely high impact resistance, Translucent
Polyethylene (PE)  (C2H4)n  Yes LDPE: 2.4-3.1% (.024-.031 in/in)
HDPE: 1.7-2.9% (0.017-0.029 in/in)
 Thermoplastic  LDPE: 110°C (230°F)
HDPE: 130°C (266°F)
  21-66°C (70-150°F) 69-103 MPa (10,000-15,000 PSI) LDPE: 7 MPa (1,000 PSI)
HDPE: 20 MPa (2,900 PSI)
LDPE: 6 MPa (800 PSI)
HDPE: 21 MPa (3,000 PSI)
 Diverse applications across a range of different types (LDPE, HDPE, UHMW etc)
Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)   (C10H8O4)n  Yes 0.1-0.3% (0.001-0.003 in/in)  Thermoplastic  500°C (260°F)   74-91°C (165-195°F) 69-103 MPa (10,000-15,000 PSI) 152MPa (22000 PSI) *w/ 30% glass fiber 221MPa (32000 PSI) "polyester" fabric, safe for consumables packaging, and shatterproof 
Polylactic Acid (PLA)  

(C3H4O2)n

 No - Biomass (typically derived from Sugarcane or Corn Starch)  PLLA: 0.37-0.41% (0.0037-0.0041 in/in)   Thermoplastic  PLLA: 157-170°C (315-338 °F)   PLLA:  178-240°C (353-464°F)    PLLA: 61-66 MPa (8,840-9,500 PSI)  PLLA:  48-110 MPa (6,950-16,000 PSI)   Biodegradeable (typically decomposes in 6-24 months)
Polypropylene (PP)  (C3H6)n  Yes 1.5-2% (.015-.020 in/in)   Thermoplastic   191-232°C (375-450°F)    82-121°C (32-66°F)   69-103 MPa (10,000-15,000 PSI) 32 MPa (4,700 PSI)  41 MPa (6,000 PSI) Extremely flexible and ductile (#1 choice for living hinges)
Polystyrene (PS) (C8H8)n  Yes   0.3-0.7% (.003-.007 in/in)  Both (Depends on Type) 210-249°C (410-480°F)     38-66°C (100-150°F) 69-103 MPa (10,000-15,000 PSI)  53 MPa (7,700 PSI)  83 MPa (12,000 PSI)  Unique application as a foam ("styrofoam") 
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)  (C2H3Cl)n  Yes    Thermoplastic  100-260°C (212-500°F)       Flexible: 6.9-25 MPa (1,000-3625 PSI)
Rigid: 34-62 MPa (4930-9000 PSI)
  cheap, very hard and impact resistant