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How Can Plastic Enhance Mechanical Engineering?

Engineering (or high-performing) plastics provide a wide range of advantages in manufacturing, and they frequently outperform ceramics or metals in many applications. Additionally, when it comes to implementing unconventional technical applications, engineered plastic components frequently offer the only choice, making them a vanguard for innovation in every industry.

Piedmont Plastics offers a comprehensive range of engineering plastics and thermoplastic polymers that outperform more popular conventional plastics like polystyrene, PVC, and polyethylene in terms of mechanical and thermal qualities.

Engineering plastics are often chosen when mechanical strength or thermal resistance needs are higher than those of the widely used commercial plastics, such as polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), or polyvinyl chloride (PVC). High-quality plastics can be permanent fixtures at temperatures between 100°C and 150°C. Material blends and modifications allow for product characteristics to be optimized to suit different needs.

Among the many advantages of engineering plastics are superior chemical and wear resistance, excellent machinability, and reliable dimensional stability.

Why Plastic Is Important In Engineering Field

High-performance plastics have physical characteristics that allow them to function for an extended period in structural applications, across an extensive temperature range, under mechanical stress, and in challenging chemical and physical conditions. Plastics may provide advantages over metals for a particular application, including transparency, self-lubrication, affordability during fabrication, and ease of decoration.

Plastic’s flexibility, electrical nonconductivity, and insulation properties are considered significant advantages. With the addition of fillers, reinforcement, and chemical additives, an engineering plastic’s properties can change to suit a variety of purposes, such as stressed mechanical components, low friction parts, heat- and chemical-resistant parts, electrical parts, housings, applications requiring excellent light transmission, and more.

Engineering Uses of High-Performance Plastics

The top uses of engineering plastics fall into several distinct groups and can substitute more expensive traditional materials.

Heat and Chemical Resistant Components

Chemical processing equipment, under-the-hood auto parts, and aeronautical components are typical examples of uses for engineering plastics. These plastics are used in applications that must endure high temperatures, corrosive conditions, and shock and vibration. Fluorocarbons, chlorinated polyether, and glass-reinforced epoxy are popular for their stability and can replace costly metals like stainless steel and titanium.

High-Stress Conditions

Strong engineering plastics can be used for many industrial cams, gears, and couplings. High impact and tensile strength, outstanding stability and fatigue resistance, and long-term performance at high temperatures are required for these applications. These uses require good environmental resilience and the ability to be easily manufactured. Acetals, nylons, fabric-filled phenolics, and polycarbonates are commonly used for these purposes and can replace brass, iron, and steel.

Low Friction Needs

Low-friction components cover wear surfaces, slides, bearings, guides, and other applications where low friction, dimensional stability, and abrasion resistance are needed. Fluorocarbons, nylons, acetals, and ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) are often applied for low-friction purposes and can serve in place of bearing metals, bronze, iron, and graphite.

Housings, Ducts, and Containers

While engineering plastics should be firm and environmentally resistant, they should also be simply formed and inexpensive to produce. ABS, polypropylene, glass-polyester, cellulose acetate butyrate, and others make sturdy, reliable substitutions for housings, ducts, or containers previously made of steel, aluminum, or die-cast metals.

Electrical Components

Engineering plastics are used for connectors, relays, and other electronic parts. Electrical resistance, dimensional stability, tensile strength, and impact resistance are essential to keeping components safe and functional. Common engineering thermoplastics for electrical parts include alkyds, amino plastics, epoxies, polycarbonate, and polyphenylene oxide. These can replace glass and ceramic, providing increased durability and function.

Additional Uses

Engineering plastics appear in many applications one might not initially consider, such as construction, baggage, safety helmets, seating, kitchen utensils, rope, strapping, rollers, furniture, dentures, and prosthetics.

High-Performance Plastics for Material Handling

The expansion of engineering thermoplastics in the material handling and packaging sectors reflects how well-suited these materials are for meeting current needs, adding value, and lowering costs.

In many cases, high-performance plastics can reduce or eliminate the need for external lubricants and lengthen the life of moving surfaces. The increased strength and design flexibility mean components can be more durable and lightweight and help consolidate parts manufacturing. Superior strength, impact resistance, and dimensional stability allow long life without fatigue.

In the end, using high-performance plastics lead to lower costs, more efficient design, and less expensive transport. While there may be some intense arguments to maintain traditional materials, high-performance engineering plastics are becoming the first choice of many manufacturers.

Learn More About Engineering Plastics

If you have more questions about how plastics can help with your heavy-duty component manufacturing needs, give us a call. The materials teams at Piedmont Plastics have extensive knowledge of what plastics work best for specific applications.

Contact us today for more information.