Difference Between Thermoplastic and Thermosetting Plastic - FOW Mould

Difference Between Thermoplastic and Thermosetting Plastic

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From plastic bags, toy molds, plastic bottles to automobile parts, durable manufactured plastic goods; all of these things that we see around ourselves are either made up of thermoplastics or thermosetting plastics. One of the most significant differences between thermoplastic materials and thermosetting plastic materials is that thermoplastics have the property to be remodeled while thermosetting plastics stay in their solid-state after they are hardened.

These two are two different polymers that serve different purposes. They have different molecular bonds and react differently to heat. In this article, we will talk about the features of these two polymers, their advantages and disadvantages and discuss the differentiating features between them.

What Are Thermoplastics?

Colorful Thermoplastics
Source: Revpart

Thermoplastic is a polymer that can be melted and then recast. In simple terms, it is a kind of plastic which is made of polymer resins. They tend to become very soft when heated and become quite hard when cooled down. A plastic toy mold made out of it is highly durable. 

Thermoplastics can be recycled very easily. They don’t show any changes in their chemical properties when they are heated or cooled several times. However, when they are heated, their physical property changes; they take the form of a homogenized liquid that can be resized and reshaped. 

Thermoplastics can be heated, reshaped, resized, and cooled several times. Polyethene, polypropylene, polyvinyl chloride, polycarbonate, and polyethylene terephthalate are some of the most common types of thermoplastics.

Features of Thermoplastics

Thermoplastic Resin
Source: Lomont

Thermoplastics have a simple molecular structure that consists of chemically independent macromolecules. When heated, these thermoplastics are melted, shaped, and then resized or reshaped. They solidify when they are cooled down and can be used to make lego injection molding. Since thermoplastics can be melted and solidified multiple times, they can be easily recycled. Here are some of the characteristics of thermoplastics:

Advantages of Thermoplastics

Disadvantages of Thermoplastics

Application of Thermoplastics

Source: Ferro

Owing to its multiple advantages, thermoplastics have gained a lot of popularity in recent times. We may not realize this, but we are all surrounded by thermoplastic materials. All of these materials are examples of thermoplastic materials from packaging film, plastic bottles, action figure molds to PVC tubes. 

Thermoplastics are widely used in commercial as well as industrial applications. One of the most common mechanical applications is POM. These days PEEK (polyether ether ketone) plastics are also used widely because of their high performance. 

Polycarbonate is a type of thermoplastic and is used to make several items such as:

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene or ABS is used to make:

Polyethene is one of the most common types of thermoplastics which is used for making several items, including:

What are Thermoset Plastics?

Source: Thoughtco

Thermoset plastics, also known as thermoset composites, strengthen when heated; however, they cannot be reheated or remodeled after molding. Once the thermoset plastics are molded to make materials such as an action figure mold, they offer protection against corrosion, high operating temperatures, and chemical resistance. 

Since thermoset plastic provides such protection, it can be used in several challenging as well as aggressive environments. Phenolic Molding Compound and Bulk molding compound or BMC are some of the examples of thermoset molding materials.

Properties of Thermosetting Plastics

Thermoset Plastic
Source: Opus

One of the essential characteristics of thermosetting plastics is their cross-linked molecular structure.This feature comes handy during toy mold making. It is because of cross-linked structures that the products made from thermosetting materials have large macromolecules. 

Such a structure is also responsible for providing breakage resistance and high strength. Here are some of the features of thermosetting plastics:

Advantages of Thermosetting Plastics

Disadvantages of Thermosetting Plastics

Applications of Thermosetting Plastics

Source: Modor

Thermosetting plastics have high chemical resistance, heat resistance, and structure, so they are used widely. Thermosetting plastics are an attractive alternative to metal because of their properties. Geometrically complex shapes that cannot be produced using metals can be easily made with thermosets. 

Because of their outstanding properties, thermosetting plastics are widely used in several industries, including electrical, manufacturing, durable manufactured goods industries, and even the aerospace industry. Some of the most common applications of thermosetting plastics are heat shields,  furniture molding, cell tower tops, insulators, circuit breakers, auto molds, feeding troughs, disc brake pistons, etc. 

There are several benefits of using thermosetting plastics because they are strong, lightweight as well as flexible. Here are some types of thermosetting plastics along with their uses:

Difference Between Thermoplastics and Thermosetting Plastics

Source: Research Gate

Thermoplastics and thermosetting plastics are two different kinds of polymers. They are different in terms of their behavior when they are subjected to heat. Thermoplastic materials, therefore, have lower melting points, whereas thermosetting plastic materials can be used to make toy prototype maker, and can bear high temperatures. 


Thermoplastic plastics

Thermosetting plastics

1) These polymers are generally formed by the process of addition polymerisation.

1) These polymers are generally formed by the process of condensation polymerisation.

2) They are long chain polymers that are slightly branched or linear. 

2) They are heavily branched or cross linked in nature.  

3) It softens upon eating and hardens upon cooling. 

3) It does not soften upon heating.

4) Molecules held together by Van der Waal forces of attraction.

4) Molecules are held together by hydrogen bonds. 

5) They are soft, less brittle and quite weak by nature.

5) By nature, they are hard, comparatively more bitter and hard. 

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Both thermoplastics and thermosetting plastics have advantages and disadvantages of their own. Today, we are surrounded by both thermoplastics as well as thermosetting plastic materials. These materials are used for manufacturing a product depending on the usage of the product and the purpose it will serve. 

Materials such as molded plastic chair, plastic handles of saucepan require high heat resistance. Thus, it is made of thermosetting plastics. Despite the significant differences, both are widely used in today’s world because of their unique properties. You can choose to work with any one of these materials that suits your requirements and fits your budget.

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