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What Are Thermoplastics?

Those of you researching the best plastic extruders on the market will no doubt have come across the term thermoplastics. But what exactly are these and what can they be used for? Read our quick and handy guide on the subject right here.

All types of plastics are divided into either thermoset plastics or thermoplastics. Essentially, the main difference between the two is that thermoplastics can be heated and then shaped many times over.

Examples of thermoplastics include polyamide (or nylon), polymethyl methacrylate (acrylic), polypropylene, polystyrene and both low and high density polythene. These can be used for a wide variety of applications, from tubing, plastic bottles and household equipment to packaging, toys, medical equipment, signs, bearings, gear wheels, clothing and curtain rail fittings.

Thermoplastic materials are those made from polymers that are linked by intermolecular interactions to form either branched or linear structures. If the thermoplastic has lots of polymers with amorphous structures (similar to a bundled-up ball of thread), it will boast excellent elasticity. If it has lots of polymers with a crystalline structure (more ordered and compact), it will be very strong but have little elasticity.

Meanwhile, examples of thermoset plastics include epoxy resin (used for casting and adhesives), melamine formaldehyde (used for laminates, tableware or electrical insulation), polyester resin (used for casting and encapsulation), and urea formaldehyde (used for adhesives, handles and electrical fittings).

Of course, there are other natural sources of plastics as well, such as trees, plants, insects and animals. Synthetic plastics, meanwhile, are those that have been chemically manufactured from coal, crude oil or natural gas.

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