Difference Between Thermoplastic and Thermosetting Plastics

thermoplastic vs thermoset

You are having a car or watching television or gifting a toy to your child or even flying an aircraft, Plastic is everywhere. We can’t even think of our life without plastic. In plastic part design often we come across this confusion about Thermoplastic vs Thermosetting plastic. So in this article, we will explain about Difference between thermoplastic and thermosetting plastics.

What is Plastic

Plastic or in the chemical term we call it as “Polymer” is formed when multiple monomers bonds together using a chemical reaction. Molecules are bonded together to form plastics. Usually, monomers are made of carbon and hydrogen but it may also contain oxygen, nitrogen and other gases.

Although there are natural polymers the recent industry trend is that businesses create their own commercial polymers as per their need. This helps them to get the required mechanical and chemical properties in the said plastic.

Commercial plastics use additives, colour, fibres and other chemicals to get enhanced properties which are suitable for different applications. In this article, we will find out the differences between Thermoplastics and thermosetting plastics.

Also Read: Why plastics are replacing metals

Difference Between Thermoplastic and Thermosetting Plastics

This is the confusion among many engineers when they get into the plastic part design or plastic mould design. Although both sounds similar but both have a major difference in the way they respond when the heat is applied.

What is Thermoplastic

Thermoplastics are polymers which when heated gets melted and form the desired shape. It can be re-melted and it can get different shape. So thermoplastic can be used and formed multiple times without hampering the chemical or mechanical properties up to some extent.

Thermoplastics are recyclable as can be used multiple times. The melting point is comparatively low. This kind of plastic offers more ductility and can absorb impact load very well. They are very sensitive to heat and not used where extreme heat is encountered.

Difference Between Thermoplastic and Thermosetting Plastics

Most of the plastic that we see in our day to day life is Thermoplastic. In facts 80% of polymers found in the market are Thermoplastics. Though it’s costlier than thermosetting due to its recycled nature and properties to mould into anything makes it an ideal choice for industries.

Though thermoplastics can be melted and moulded multiple times with each cycle it loses its properties. So there is a limit on how many times you can remould thermoplastics. When we use re-melted plastics in the mold we call it as regrind plastic. It’s an industry standard to use 10% regrind plastic and 90% virgin plastic in major applications.

Advantages Of Thermoplastics

  • Can be remoulded multiple times
  • Can take any shape
  • Additives, colour, fibres can be added easily
  • Regrind possible.
  • Reshaping capabilities available.
  • Offers good impact resistance
  • Usually chemical resistant
  • Superior finish is possible.
  • Can be moulded with other polymers
  • Wide range of commercial applications.

Disadvantages of Thermoplastics

  • Not suitable for the high-temperature zone.
  • Not strong enough to withstand enough load
  • Regrind possible only for a few times.
  • Gets melt easily under heat
  • Costlier than thermosetting

Example of major commercial Thermoplastics

  • ABS- Acreno butadiene styrene
  • HIPS- High impact polystyrene
  • PC- Polycarbonate
  • PE-Polieyhelene
  • PP-Polypropylene
  • PVC- Polyvinyl chloride
  • PS- Polystyrene
  • Nylon

Also read : Two plate mold vs Three plate mold

What is Thermosetting plastics

Thermoset plastics gets melted when the heat is applied and get the desired shape. But it can not be remelted due to the cross-linking polymerisation. Thermoset plastics once moulded are unaffected by any solvent or heat.

Thermoset plastics are usually brittle in nature and can not absorb impact loading, however, static loading capacity is great. So thermosets are usually used where static loading are of importance.

Difference Between Thermoplastic and Thermosetting Plastics

Since Thermoset plastics can withstand heat, often those are used where extreme heat might get encountered like home appliances, electronic products etc. This type of plastic is also used in sealant applications as they don’t deform over time or temperature.

It’s a recent trend to use Thermoset plastic over metal as a load-carrying capacity of thermosets can be compared with metals. Though this type of transition is not very popular industries are moving away from metals to save on material cost and manufacturing cost.

Advantages of thermosets plastics

  • Can withstand enormous heat
  • Does not deform or melt when the heat is applied
  • Excellent strength and load-carrying capacity.
  • An excellent option to replace metals.
  • Cost-effective plastic

Disadvantages of Thermoset plastics

  • Can not absorb impact loading
  • More of a brittle in nature than ductile
  • Greater finishes not possible.
  • Can not be remoulded.
  • Can not be recycled.

Example of commercial Thermoset plastics

  • Melamine
  • Bakelite
  • Epoxy resins
  • Phenolic resins
  • Polyesters

Also read : Types Of injection Mold

Difference Between Thermoplastics and Thermosetting plastics: Comparison

Sl #ThermoplasticsThermosetting
1They are liner polymersThey are crosslinked polymers
2Can be reused multiple timesCan not be reused
3Low melting pointHigh melting point
4Low strengthHigh strength
5High impact resistanceLow impact resistance
6Not fireproofUsually fireproof up to some extent.
7No chemical reaction during mouldingUndergo chemical reaction during moulding
8Ductile in natureBrittle in nature
9Affected by solventNot affected by solvent
10More varieties of plastics availableLess varieties of plastics available

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Thermoplastic Plastic

Thermoplastics are types of polymer which can be remoulded multiple times and very prone get melted when the heat is applied. No chemical reaction during moulding

What is Thermosetting Plastic

Thermosetting plastics are types of polymer which can not be remoulded if it gets moulded once. Offer high temperature resistant and very strong to carry the load. Undergo a chemical reaction during moulding.

Which type of plastic is widely used?

Thermoplastics are widely used in commercial applications. Roughly 80% of plastics parts are thermoplastics.

Conclusion

Both thermoplastics and thermosets are widely used in commercial application and both have their pros and cons. The primary difference between Thermoplastics and thermosetting plastics is how they respond to heat due to the chemical structure.

If there is one major difference that distinguished both plastics is that Thermoplastic can be reused but Thermoset plastic can not be.

I hope you had a fair amount of idea about the difference between Thermoplastics and thermosetting plastics If you still have questions or doubts then do write in the comment section and we can take it forward from there.

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1 thought on “Difference Between Thermoplastic and Thermosetting Plastics”

  1. My dad and I need pipe hangers for our ranch’s irrigation system. I remember reading about thermoplastic pipe hangers online, so I’ve been researching the benefits of thermoplastics. I’m glad I came across your article because now I know that this type of plastic is more environmentally-friendly because it can be remolded and reused a couple of times. I’ll tell my dad about this so he can decide on whether we’ll buy one or not. Thanks!

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