The 11 Main Types Of Plastics And Their Modern Industrial Uses

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Plastics are typically synthetic materials made from petroleum-based chemicals. The most common types of plastics are polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, and PVC.  

While most people think of plastic as being something that is used to make packaging and products for our homes, the truth is that plastics are used in a wide variety of industries. 

Here we will take a look at 9 main types of plastics and their modern industrial uses.

Polyethylene (PE)

Polyethylene is a type of plastic that is widely used due to its strong yet lightweight nature. It has an impressive range of uses, including insulation for wires, shopping bags, food packaging, and roofing membranes. 

Main Types Of Plastics

Compared to other plastics such as polystyrene and polyvinyl chloride, PE is considered more durable and allows for better movement of oxygen to food and beverages while maintaining their freshness. Thanks to injection molding, PE can be formed into almost any shape to create a wide variety of products

You can find more info from CBM Plastics on different uses of injection molding. Additionally, PE products are recyclable therefore limiting the environmental impact of their use. All in all, Polyethylene is a very convenient material with many practical applications that continue to be explored.

Polypropylene (PP)

Polypropylene (PP) is a versatile and low-cost plastic that offers good chemical resistance and excellent electrical properties. Its light weight, strength, and high resistance to heat make it ideal for a variety of uses such as packaging, automotive parts, ropes, carpets, and even medical devices like catheters. 

PP's price point allows for it to be widely available and used in almost every manufacturing sector due to its favorable performance-to-price ratio. 

It has revolutionized the plastic industry with its numerous advantages, ranging from increased product durability to efficient production cycles. Ideally suited for use in extreme conditions, PP continues to be a popular go-to choice among manufacturers and consumers alike.

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)

Polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, is one of the most common plastics used in modern manufacturing today. It is known for being cost-effective and incredibly resilient, making it popularly used to produce items like food and beverage packaging since it can be easily washed out for reuse.

In recent years, larger companies have realized the potential of producing PET products made from recycled materials due to the plastic's high level of recyclability. By taking advantage of PET recycling programs, businesses are able to reduce their environmental impact whilst still using a product renowned for its strength and ubiquity.

Polystyrene (PS)

Polystyrene, or PS, is gaining traction as a popular choice in the materials industry. Not only is this lightweight and rigid plastic sustainable, but it has long-term strength and durability due to its resistance to temperature changes and moisture.

Polystyrene

Thanks to its versatile design, polystyrene can be used for everything from packaging and protecting sensitive items during shipment to creating parts for medical equipment, toys, and construction material. 

Beyond that, polystyrene is easily recyclable; individuals simply need access to a curbside recycling program or designated drop-off area where the material can be deposited correctly. Through this process, not only are significant resources conserved but polystyrene products take up far less space in landfills than those manufactured from non-biodegradable alternatives.

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is an incredibly versatile and widely used plastic material. PVC can be found in construction, vehicle components, apparel, footwear, electrical applications, and many other industries. Its primary benefit is its durability - PVC contains chlorine molecules which provide added strength and toughness even against harsh weather conditions. 

Another benefit of PVC is its low flammability, making it the preferred choice for electrical insulation. Its stability can also be further enhanced by adding extra chemical compounds such as heat stabilizers. 

Despite these advantages, however, PVC has come under close scrutiny due to the hazardous release of toxic chemicals while manufacturing or disposing of it. Nonetheless, with appropriate precautions, the qualities of PVC still make it a highly valued material with almost endless uses in everyday life.

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) 

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, or ABS, is a popular plastic choice for a variety of applications because of its desirable properties. It is a lightweight and durable material that is not easily impacted by weathering and temperature extremes, making it great for outdoor use for anything from nature trails to structural parts. 

It also has flame-retardant properties, which adds an extra layer of safety to its applications in automotive parts, electrical appliances, and other products. 

On top of these features, ABS is easy to color and can be manipulated into various shapes with relative ease. This makes it very versatile - suitable for both aesthetically pleasing products as well as functional objects that require a little more finesse when crafted.

Polylactic Acid (PLA)

Polylactic Acid (PLA) is a bioplastic derived from lactic acid, typically sourced from crops that can be used as a substitute for petroleum-based plastic, making it an attractive alternative in the quest to reduce waste and reduce our dependence on oil. 

PLA is strong and versatile – it can be used to make packaging film and containers, high-performance engineering plastics, replacement bone and cartilage parts, disposable utensils, and even clothing. 

Although it may not yet rival the performance of fossil fuel-powered plastics its potential is clear. PLA is biodegradable in certain environments when exposed to moisture or humidity over long periods of time; thus reducing landfill waste without compromising the quality of a product’s components or lifespan. 

Overall, PLA has great potential as an environmentally friendly option that with advances in research could have an even bigger role to play in our future economy.

Acrylic (PMMA)

Acrylic, also known as polymethyl methacrylate or PMMA, is an incredibly popular material commonly used around the world. Acrylic's main advantages are its light weight, strength, and versatility; making it an ideal choice for a variety of applications ranging from aircraft windows to prosthetic materials.

Other benefits include its clarity and resistance to chemicals, corrosion, and scratching; combined with the ability to be easily recycled into new products. All this makes acrylic a highly attractive material for numerous industries such as automotive, aerospace, medical, and construction. 

From being used as structural components in boats to forming large-scale sculptures, acrylic continues to be a go-to material due to its durability and cost-effectiveness.

Nylon

Nylon is one of the most versatile types of plastic around, used to make a variety of everyday items. It's a synthetic polymer material known for being strong and durable, yet also lightweight and pliable, making it an ideal choice for so many applications. One common use is fibers in clothing or other types of fabric; because it can be spun extremely finely, product designers can create incredibly thin, fine threads without sacrificing strength or resilience. 

Plus, nylon has a much lower environmental impact than oil-based plastics like polyester and vinyl. In fact, its production process is even considered to be carbon neutral! Overall, nylon offers a strong, sustainable alternative for countless types of products.

Acetal (Polyoxymethylene, POM)

Acetal, also known as Polyoxymethylene (POM) is a type of plastic that is highly useful for creating parts of all types. Because of its strong structure, acetal proves to be quite durable when used in the development of vehicles, aircrafts, and even consumer products.

Furthermore, acetal is known for its excellent abrasion resistance and energy absorption properties, making it one of the most commonly used types of plastics in the industry. Despite its high cost compared to other types of plastics, acetal's unique longevity and versatility continue to make it a popular option when looking for a strong and reliable material.

Polycarbonate (PC)

Polycarbonate (PC) is a type of plastic used in many types of products, as it is highly durable, resistant to UV light, and has excellent thermal stability. PC materials can be formed into various shapes while maintaining their strength and ductility making them ideal for numerous types of applications such as aircrafts, eyewear, and electrical components. However, they are not biodegradable and remain indefinitely in nature contributing to environmental pollution. 

To reduce the environmental impacts of PC plastics, manufacturers often use renewable sources such as starch or cellulose to create plant-based PC materials which are biodegradable. By utilizing these types of materials instead of their traditional counterparts, we can help protect and preserve our environment for generations to come. 

Final words: The 11 main types of plastics and their modern industrial uses

As you can see, plastics are versatile materials with a range of properties that make them ideal for many different applications. Different types of plastic offer different advantages, which is why they are used in such a wide variety of industries and products. 

Now that you know the 11 main types of plastic and their modern industrial uses, you can have a better understanding of how these materials play a role in our everyday lives.

From being used as structural components in boats to forming large-scale sculptures, plastics are here to stay as an integral part of our everyday lives. Hopefully, by furthering our understanding of plastics, we can help reduce their impacts on the environment and promote sustainable production methods.

About the author 

Peter Keszegh

Most people write this part in the third person but I won't. You're at the right place if you want to start or grow your online business. When I'm not busy scaling up my own or other people' businesses, you'll find me trying out new things and discovering new places. Connect with me on Facebook, just let me know how I can help.

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