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Is Your Material Tougher than Thermoplastic?

Whether it’s luggage or shopping cart impact, physical stress caused by operator or passenger mishandling, or the wear and tear of constant load bearing, it can be a rough world out there for the components of your product or application. Want to know which thermoplastic material can handle the abuse? Take a look at the following considerations and mechanical properties of today’s common thermoforming plastic materials.

How do thermoplastic mechanical properties factor into the material selection process?

The plastic materials used in thermoforming undergo extensive testing to determine their performance capabilities. See Thermoforming Material Selection (Material Testing and Datasheets Decoded) for more information on industry testing standards, their definitions, and practical uses for each test in regards to material selection. Material manufacturers generally provide the results of these industry tests in data sheets online.

When determining if a plastic material has the mechanical strength performance and toughness for the structural needs of your product or application, there is no one test that gives a definitive answer. Instead to determine the general impact strength and damage resistance of a plastic material, take a combined look at the results of these common material tests:

  • Stiffness (Flexural Modulus) – Provides design criteria to determine the necessary thickness required for a given load and a measure of stiffness
  • Tensile strength – Tells how much a material stretches before failure; force necessary to pull the specimen apart
  • Hardness – Material resistance to abrasion, chipping, and cracking
  • Notched Izod impact strength – Pendulum style impact test on a notched sample that’s good for comparison of similar materials

The relationship between strength and weight is also important in industries where the reduction of weight is desirable so the following should also be considered:

  • Density – how much a given volume of the material weighs
  • Specific gravityindication of material density. Like density, it provides a quick reference to the relative weights of different objects that have the same volume

Mechanical property advantages of thermoformed parts with thermoplastic materials:

Lightweight – In most cases, thermoplastic offers material options that are substantially lighter than comparable optional materials

Resistance to impact damage – Due to the flexible nature of thermoplastic it is less likely to dent like metal or crack like FRP

Strength to weight ratio – (also known as specific strength) Short fiber reinforced thermoplastics can often have equal to or greater strength characteristics than metals like aluminum and steel at a fraction of the weight

Corrosion resistance – Thermoplastics do not oxidize or rust like aluminum and steel therefore providing an environmentally stable material

Recyclability – Fiberglass is not recyclable while thermoplastics are

Reduced maintenance and replacement costs – Thermoplastic as a whole is more durable than materials such as metal or fiberglass, requiring less maintenance with a longer service life

Available thermoplastic options regarding impact resistance and toughness

As discussed in previous posts on material selection, when it comes to plastic material options, there are many choices and each has different thermal and mechanical performance properties. The information below will give you a general understanding of the mechanical properties of the common plastic material options available.

Note: The options listed are generic plastic material formulations. Many plastic material companies have specific plastic material products formulated and designed to meet the demands of a wide range of industry requirements. For information on the thermal performance of these specialty thremoplastic products, visit our material supplier datasheet page.

Thermoforming Material Impact Resistance and Mechanical Property Comparison Chart (Sorted by Tensile Strength)

Thermoplastic Material Tensile Strength (psi) Flexural Modulus (psi) Hardness IZOD Notched Impact (ft-lbs/in) Specific Gravity
Continuous Glass Thermoplastics (C-glass) 60/40 36,900 1,500,000 ~1.48
Continuous Glass Thermoplastics (C-glass) 70/30 35,100 1,395,000 15.7 ~1.48
PPS 17,000 1,000,000 M95, R125, Shore D 85 5.2 1.35
PEEK 14,000 590,000 M105, R126, Shore D 85 1.6 1.32
Nylon 12,400 410,000 M85, R121, Shore D 80 1.2 1.14
PSU 10,200 390,000 M75, R125, Shore D 80 1.3 1.24
PPSU 10,100 350,000 M80, R120, Shore D 80 13 1.4
Acetal 10,000 420,000 M89, R121, Shore D 83 1.5 1.42
Acrylic 10,000 480,000 M95, R90 0.4 1.19
Polycarbonate 9,500 375,000 M70, R118, Shore D 80 16 1.2
NORYL (PPO, PPE, & Polystyrene blend) 9,200 370,000   3.5 1.08
PBT 8,690 330,000 M72 1.5 1.3
TPO (22% strand glass fiber filled) 8,500 600,000 5.2 1.03
ECTFE (film 5-20 mil thick) 8,300 261,000 Shore D 73 R93 No break 1.68
PVC 8,000 400,000 Shore D 80 2.5 1.4
PETG 7,700 310,000 R115 1.7 1.27
PVDF 3,500 – 7,200 170,000 – 1,200,000 M75, R100, Shore D 77 2.5 1.78
TPE 1,000 – 7,000 5,000 – 800,000 Up to 85 Shore D 2.5 -No break 0.95
CAB 7,000 230,000 R105 4.4 1.2
ETFE (film 5-20 mil thick) 6,100 145,000 Shore D 67 R85 No break 1.7
ABS 6,000 320,000 R102 7.7 1.04
PCTFE (film) 5,710 243,000 Shore D 90 3.5 2.11
Polypropylene 5,400 225,000 Shore D 75, R92 1.9 0.91
TPO 4,400 170,000 Shore D 74 6 0.9
FEP (Teflon film) 4,350 95,000 Shore D 55 No break 2.12
HDPE 4,000 200,000 Shore D 69 No break 0.96

View the full list of plastic abbreviations and acronyms.

Productive Plastics is a top contract manufacturer for heavy gauge thermoforming, including vacuum forming and pressure forming. Contact us or request our complimentary thermoforming design guide for more information.

Please contact Productive Plastics for more information on the thermoforming process
Please download our complimentary thermoforming design guide for more information on the thermoforming process

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