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Video Series: Thermosets vs. Thermoplastics | Polymeric Materials

Polymers are macromolecules, which are very long molecules, made up of repeating units called monomers. Depending on how these large molecules react when processed, they can be considered thermoplastics or thermosets. This video will discuss the differences in material properties and processing methods for these two categories of polymeric materials.

Thermosets are polymers that experience both physical and chemical changes during a non-reversible curing process. They get their strength, excellent creep resistance, compression set resistance, chemical resistance, and other properties from cross-linking. Thermosets can tolerate higher filler loading than thermoplastics, due to the low viscosity of their monomers, which allows for long-fiber-length reinforcements. This is an important advantage, because longer fibers can support more of the load that is placed on a part, thus increasing the part’s modulus, strength, and impact resistance.

Thermoplastics are polymers that experience only a physical change when processed. They will soften when heated and become rigid when cooled in a reversible process. This means that they can be recycled via thermomechanical means. Thermoplastics are generally more ductile, but more susceptible to creep than thermosets because they do not cross-link. They have relatively low processing costs and are easy to decorate with in-mold-labels or paints. When choosing a material for a specific application, these properties should be considered, to ensure that the part will survive the environment and external forces that it is exposed to.

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Amanda Nicholson

Amanda Nicholson received her B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Akron.  She is a Senior Project Engineer, CAE/Simulation; a part of TMG’s Manufacturing and Product Development Group.  Moldflow is her tool of choice to help customers turn their design vision into a manufacturable product.  Industry training in injection molding processing, hands-on experience with hundreds of molding trials, and her Moldex3D Analyst Certification help her perform accurate simulations for the development of a tool or optimization of processing conditions.  Through instructing courses on injection molding processing, material selection and plastic part design, she has learned how to work with people with a wide variety of backgrounds.  She can explain complicated concepts in a simple way and plans to share her insights through videos published on The Madison Group’s YouTube channel.  Because of her strong interest in sustainability, Amanda serves as a board member on the Society of Plastics Engineers Recycling Division.