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Styrene Plastic Explained

Styrene Plastic Explained

High Impact Polystyrene (HIPS) is an easily machined and fabricated impact-resistant, versatile, and economical plastic. It’s a popular material for low-strength structural applications due to its excellent dimensional stability. Because it bonds well with paint and glue, HIPS is a superb choice for creating pre-production prototypes.

Typically, polystyrene is a homopolymer that can be, at times, a brittle material. When combined with polybutadiene for increased strength and versatility, high-impact polystyrene becomes a copolymer that offers more durability and can be used for numerous applications.

Among the various forms HIPS can come in are polystyrene plastic (sometimes just called styrene), polystyrene foam (aka styrofoam), and polystyrene film.

High Impact Polystyrene Characteristics

Styrene exhibits the following characteristics, which make it a good choice for many different types of projects:

  • Easily moldable
  • Maintains strength in high-impact applications
  • Good dimensional stability
  • Can be painted
  • Good gloss
  • Recyclable with good property retention
  • FDA compliant grades
  • Low volatility

Because polystyrene plastic is considered a thermoplastic polymer, it can be quickly melted and reformed for easy recycling.

How Polystyrene Is Structured

Polystyrene forms when styrene monomers join together into a polymer. This process alters the carbon bonds to make them stronger, making it more difficult to convert the polymer into its original parts. The resultant long-chain hydrocarbon is written as C8H8.

In polystyrene, hydrogen bonds to carbon in an alternating pattern via Van der Waals attractions (the weak attraction of atoms and molecules of opposite charges). This “weak force.” accounts for many of polystyrene’s characteristics, such as flexibility.

Common Uses of High Impact Styrene Plastic

Since the commercial manufacture of polystyrene began in 1939, high-impact styrene plastic has been used in a wide variety of applications.

HIPS is a popular material for use in a tradeshow, point-of-purchase, and retail displays. Because of its low cost, lightweight, strength, and flexibility, it is easily transported, set up, or stored as needed. Its high-quality finish gives it a fresh, clean appearance, and the material itself can be easily cut into custom shapes.

Polystyrene sheets are especially useful for many graphic arts applications. Advantages include flatness, lack of size limitations, die-cut capabilities, thermal stability, and low moisture absorption. These characteristics make it ideal for screen, lithographic, digital, offset, and flexographic printing. In addition, high-impact polystyrene is perfectly suitable to run in high-speed digital printing equipment.

Because HIPS can come in various thicknesses and is both durable and waterproof; you will often also see this material is used for indoor and outdoor signage. It's smooth, flat surface can be printed on both sides, while matte or gloss laminates can be added to protect the surface from UV rays or potential wear and tear.

How Flexible Is Styrene Plastic?

Polystyrene plastic is often the best choice for creating numerous prototypes and models with its exceptional dimensional stability and strength. In addition, its versatility makes it perfect for such everyday products as:

  • Auto body panels
  • Bicycle and other sports helmets
  • Bottles
  • Children’s toys
  • Computer equipment
  • Dishes and trays
  • Disposable razors
  • Food packaging
  • Garden stakes
  • Home appliances
  • Phones
  • Product packaging
  • Shipping supplies

Polystyrene Plastic Sheets

Styrene plastic sheets are non-toxic and odorless, making them perfectly safe and suitable for various applications. They’re also easy and relatively inexpensive to fabricate and assemble.

They can be bent, bonded, cut, drilled, fabricated, molded, painted, or recycled to make almost any kind of manufacturing prototype or product. Because any sheet can be customized by length, thickness, and width to suit your particular set of needs, you can dependably use it in place of more costly materials without sacrificing strength or durability.

Is Styrene Harmful?

You can rest easy.

Styrene plastic is entirely safe in the small quantities consumers might encounter in food or air. While prolonged exposure to styrene in close, poorly ventilated areas can make some people feel nauseous or experience eye irritation; fresh air will quickly resolve these issues.

Where To Buy Styrene Plastic?

Styrene plastic from Piedmont Plastics makes the best sense for manufacturing situations where durability, flexibility, lightweight, and cost are concerned. These are the same characteristics that make polystyrene one of the most versatile materials on the market today.

Piedmont Plastics stocks high-impact polystyrene in a wide range of sizes and thicknesses. Our cut-to-size service is readily available for your unique applications, and our online pricing and ordering system makes it convenient to acquire precisely what you need for the best price possible.

Contact us to find out more about our styrene plastic options, or shop our online inventory today!