What are Engineering Plastics?
Engineering plastics are known to have better mechanical and/or thermal properties than more widely used commodity plastics. They are more suited for demanding use and in several cases, their advancements have led to displacing more traditional engineering materials like metal and wood. Engineered plastics are very malleable and therefore can be fashioned into complex shapes.
Whereas plastics may seem more cost-effective due to their adaptable properties, they are growing to be more costly. This is why engineering plastics generally come in small amounts and are generated for smaller projects such as parts for cars rather than high-volume needs.
Industries Using Engineering Plastics
Engineering Plastics have properties that allow for their use in many industries and can be used widely and mass-produced. Here are some of the industries that rely on plastic…
Although it is obvious that utilising lighter materials will result in more fuel-efficient and low-emission aircraft, there are other advantages to the use of engineering plastics in aerospace. Plastics can serve longer lives of engineered parts of aircraft due to corrosion and substituting some heavier materials for plastics can result in better results for this industry. The space industry relies on engineering plastics too. This material is used because it has great strength under extreme vibration, extremely low outgassing in a vacuum and resilience in high radiation levels.
Lightweight and fuel-efficient, engineering plastics are used in the automotive industry for the many properties that keep vehicles safe, comfortable, and appealing for passengers. As well as being cost-effective, as many parts of a car are made from plastic. The dashboard, carburetors, fenders, handles, engine covers, interior walls, seating, cable insulators, to name a few. Parts of these cars can be recycled, but, most of what makes up the plastics used in transportation can’t be recycled and are harmful to the planet. A lot of material in old cars goes to waste at their disposal rather than being recycled.
Electrical and Electronic
Plastic is vital for safety when using electricity. Circuit boards, connectors and housings are a few examples of where engineering plastics can be used within electrical sectors. Plug sockets, for example, protect us from live wires and don’t conduct electricity, therefore people encountering a socket aren’t at risk of a shock. Plastic is used in appliances like drills, lawnmowers, and vacuum cleaners. There is more freedom in design when plastic is used. Electricity has become essential for all households and businesses in the modern world, so with this, protection against it is also essential and plastic helps us with this.
Machinery relies on engineering plastics for parts of vehicles like gears, bearings and seals. Mechanical engineering traditionally uses steel and metal to achieve strength. For mechanical industries that use chemicals or water in their environments, plastics will suffer less than metals as they don’t rust, they’re easier to clean and engineered plastics can withstand high temperatures.
Engineering plastics are used in constructing and fitting many systems. They’re used in plumbing and roofing, they’re also used in installing windows and flooring, and insulation. The benefits of using plastic in construction are endless. Plastic helps in heating homes, and protecting buildings and is seen in so much of their interiors too! They have natural finishes and don’t always need coats of paint like wood often needs, meaning they’re low maintenance.
Medicine and Healthcare
In the modern healthcare world, plastics have become essential and have in some cases proven a breakthrough in healthcare performance. Medical polymers help to prevent the spread of infections as they are used amongst non-disposable products. For example, syringes, surgical instruments, prescription bottles, connectors and medical practice tools like Petri dishes, casing for test kits etc. These plastic types must also be reliable for sterilisation and therefore certain types are used to withstand this. Plastic is used in implants and prosthetics too. Engineering plastics have revolutionised the quality of life for the disabled community. Prosthetic limbs (that are used within the sporting world as well as in everyday use) can enhance people’s lives.
You will see plastic everywhere you go! Engineering plastics are used in the production of appliances around your house, in furniture, in electrical products, in toys and in cosmetics. Plastics tend to be more affordable for consumer goods and therefore an alternative for other materials like wood in furniture, for example. Plastics are found in many electrical appliances we use as consumers. Washing machines, for example, plastic provide hygiene and design that benefits us in many ways.
Summarising the Benefits of Engineering Plastics
Certain plastics that are engineered can be recycled and therefore, particularly useful. There are multiple processes that can break down plastics to be reused again and again. Very few plastics are biodegradable, however. They are durable and stronger than traditional plastics, making them ideal for wear and tear. They can withstand heat and are resistant to certain chemicals. They are reliable when making up parts of mechanical systems as they don’t erode or rust, as well as being lightweight and versatile.