1) Introduction to Plastics
What are plastics?
Plastics are a large category of synthetic or semi-synthetic materials. They are organic materials that are used in a wide range of applications. Organic materials are substances that are carbon-based and also contain hydrogen. Even though plastics are made up of natural products such as cellulose, coal, natural gas, salt and crude oil, they are actually synthetic or semi-synthetic substances that mean they are manmade. Plastics are extremely popular and common and are almost used in every single field or domain of industry, thanks to their unique properties. It is true that there are a variety of types of plastics however they all share some common characteristics such as:
- Plastics generally have a high resistance to chemicals and environmental factors such as corrosion.
- Plastics have a low conductivity of heat and electricity.
- Plastics are not known for being strong materials; however, compared to their weight they actually are.
- Plastics have a good resistance to shock.
- Plastics usually cost less than other materials.
- One of the most beneficial properties of plastics is that they are easily manufactured.
- Plastics are resistant to water.
- Some plastics are transparent.
As stated before there are various types of plastics such as:
- Polyethylene Terephthalate: also known as PET, this type of plastics is known for absorbing odors from food and drinks.
- High-Density Polyethylene: also known as HDPE is a type of plastics that are used in the food industry due to the fact that it is safe and not transmitting chemicals to food and drinks.
- Polypropylene: also known as PP is used for creating pots and bottle caps due to its strength and resistance to higher temperatures.
2) Introduction to ABS Plastics
what are ABS Plastics?
ABS, also known as Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, is a polymer that is composed of three different monomers. These components are acrylonitrile, butadiene, and styrene. The overall property of ABS plastic depends on the constituent proportion of the monomers. Each monomer is responsible for certain properties.
- Acrylonitrile provides chemical and thermal stability.
- Butadiene is responsible for increasing the toughness and impact strength
- Styrene is the component that gives the plastic a nice and glossy finish.
Even though you can make a variety of ABS plastics by simply playing the proportions of the monomers; however, ABS plastics have common properties such as:
How are ABS Plastics made?
An ABS plastic is manufactured using an emulsion process which involves the three components which are Acrylonitrile Butadiene and Styrene. When these monomers are put together, acrylonitrile develops a polar attraction with other molecules, thus making the polymer tough. Also, in the presence of butadiene, physical strength is added to the plastic thanks to a process commonly known as rubber toughening (Butadiene is actually rubber and not plastic). This process and method are commonly used for manufacturing ABS plastics; however, the proportion of the monomers can vary. By adding more Acrylonitrile for example the plastic will be stronger and tougher.
Main Applications for ABS plastics
ABS Plastics are extremely common and are used in various fields and domains such as:
- Auto industry: large numbers of automobile parts are made out of either ABS Plastics or ABS alloys such as the Passat for example. The company Volkswagen uses around 11 KG of ABS plastics per vehicle. Not only that, other car manufacturers use ABS plastics to make decorative parts due to the glossy and shiny looks of the ABS plastics.
- Household appliances: ABS plastics are used in everyday products such as kitchen utensils, printers, cleaners, computers, faxes, the shell of telephones, Musical instruments and many more.
ABS plastics are used in a wide range of applications thanks to the many benefits and advantages they have.
3) Advantages and disadvantages if ABS Plastics
Advantages of ABS Plastics
- ABS is thermoplastic; that means it can be heated and cooled more than once, thus making ABS products recyclable.
- ABS plastics have a high impact resistance.
- ABS plastics have a high chemical resistance making them safe to use.
- ABS products are considered to be great electrical insulants.
- ABS plastics are easy to paint and glue.
- ABS plastics are great at absorbing shock.
- ABS plastics usually don’t cost much making them affordable for small companies.
- ABS products are great at resisting heat and scratches.
- ABS plastics have excellent ductility.
- Since ABS plastic is easily manufactured, glued and painted it can be used in 3D printing and prototyping.
Limitations of ABS Plastics
Even though ABS plastic has lots of advantages and benefits that make it unique from the rest of the plastic materials; however, this does not mean that they are perfect. ABS plastics do actually have challenges and limitations such as:
- Despite their high heat resistance, when exposed to an extremely high temperature such as an open fire, ABS may burst into intense flames.
- ABS plastics are organic materials; therefore, when they are combusted, they will produce carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide which are considered to be toxic products.
- ABS material can be damaged when exposed to sunlight for a long time.
- Even though ABS may be considered to be a safe material, its use is actually limited when it comes to the food industry.
Similar to any other material, whether that be a type of plastic, ceramic based or metal, every single material has its own share of benefits and limitations. However, in this case, it is clearly obvious that ABS plastics’ advantages far exceed their challenges and that is why it is commonly used in different products. Furthermore, in order to fully benefit from the pros that ABS can offer, it is important to use it in applications where it would not be vulnerable and exposed to for example extreme temperatures or other factors that would negatively affect the material.