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Usefulness of thermoplastics
Thermoplastics typically have high molecular weights resulting from a high degree of polymerization. The long molecular chain, either linear or branched, has side chains or groups that are not attached to other polymer molecules. As a result, thermoplastics can be repeatedly softened (or hardened) by an increase (or decrease) in temperature. This type of phase change without a chemical reaction permits the recycling of thermoplastic scraps, such as the trimmed-off runners and sprues from injection molding. An analogy is the phase change of ice turning into water under heat, and then becoming a solid again when cooled. Although thermoplastics are recyclable, it is very likely that a small degree of chemical change (e.g., oxidation, thermal degradation) takes place during processing, and therefore the properties of recycled polymers may not be equivalent to those of the virgin polymer.

Market share distribution of thermoplastics
Thermoplastics account for more than 70 percent of all polymers produced. Thermoplastic materials are purchased as pellets or granules. They are melted by heat under pressure into a relatively viscous fluid and shaped into a desirable product or form by cooling. Thermoplastics generally offer higher impact strength, easier processing, and better adaptability to complex designs than do thermosets. Commodity resins Among thermoplastics, the commodity resins-for example, high-density polyethylene (HDPE), low-density polyethylene (LDPE), polypropylene (PP), polystyrene (PS), and polyvinyl chloride (PVC)-account for more than 90 percent of all thermoplastics. Engineering resins On the other hand, the engineering resins, such as acetal, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), nylon, and polycarbonate (PC), offer improved performance, including higher mechanical properties, better heat resistance, higher impact strength. Thus, they demand a higher price.

Structures and properties of thermoplastics
Table 1 lists a summary of the relevant structures and properties of amorphous polymers and crystalline polymers.
TABLE 1. Structures and properties of amorphous and crystalline polymers Amorphous Polymers Crystalline Polymers

Common Materials Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) Acrylics (e.g., PAN, PMMA) elop/material/classif y /a1000002.htm

Acetals Nylon

the amorphous polymers turn into glassy materials. acrylics can be molded in the same cavities as polycarbonates. The properties will be different for the substitution. moderate heat resistance. PBT.g. Amorphous materials retain this type of entangled and disordered molecular configuration regardless of their states. Amorphous polymers Molten polymer molecules in an unstressed state are randomly oriented and entangled with other molecules.scu. but the dimensions will usually be close enough to be within specified tolerances. good impact resistance. packed crystallites occurs in solid phase. Molecules toward the interior of the part are insulated from the mold wall by the frozen layer. That is. When the temperature is further reduced to below the glass transition temperature.dc. amorphous polymers start becoming rubbery. the molecules on the surface will be oriented and will shrink less. www. but densely and solid phases. in the same injection cavities. molecules in the interior will be less oriented and will shrink more. Similar linear shrinkages Families of amorphous plastics can often be substituted one for another.engr. These will have time enough to recoil as they cool more slowly. PET) Random molecular orientation in both molten Random molecular orientation in molten phase. and low shrinkage. The differential shrinkage in the thickness direction results in flow-induced residual stresses in molded plastics. General Properties Transparent Poor chemical resistance Low volumetric shrinkage in molding Generally low strength Generally high melt viscosity Lower heat content Translucent or opaque Excellent chemical resistance High volumetric shrinkage in molding Generally high strength Generally low melt viscosity Higher heat content (with heat of crystallization) Fairly distinct melting temperature. styrene can be substituted for ABS. Therefore. since their linear shrinkages are in the same range. Reaction to Heat Softens over a range of temperature (no apparent melting temperature).10/26/12 Thermoplastics Polycarbonate (PC) Polystyrene (PS) Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) Styrene acrylonitrile (SAN) Microstructure Polyethylene (PE) Polypropylene (PP) Thermoplastic Polyesters ( elop/material/classif y /a1000002. Those molecules that are quenched by contact with the cold mold wall will be frozen.. Response to temperature When the temperature of melt decreases. stretched out in the flow direction. Amorphous polymers possess a wide softening range (with no distinct melting temperature).htm 2/3 . Differential shrinkage in thickness direction The molecules tend to be uncoiled and stretched in the flow direction as the cavity is filled. as shown in Microstructure of various plastics and effect of heating and cooling during processing.

possessing both amorphous and crystalline phases. www.10/26/12 (Semi-)crystalline polymers Crystalline materials are polymer chains that do not have bulky pendant groups. The degree of crystallinity depends on both the chemical structure of the polymer and the processing conditions.htm . chain branches.scu. creep resistance. LCPs offer a number of processing and performance advantages including low melt viscosity. or crosslinks. chemical resistance. low mold shrinkage. good lubricity. Liquid crystal polymers Liquid crystal polymers (LCPs) exhibit ordered molecular arrangements in both the melt and solid states. High linear shrinkage The significantly higher linear shrinkage of the semi-crystalline polymers precludes them being molded in the same cavities that are used for amorphous plastics: most dimensions will be significantly different and will most likely miss tolerances enough not to be functional in the same application. any crystallizable polymers are typically semi-crystalline. as shown in Microstructure of various plastics and effect of heating and cooling during processing. and overall dimensional stability. good chemical and heat resistance. low moisture elop/material/classif y /a1000002. as shown in Microstructure of various plastics and effect of heating and cooling during processing. and high shrinkage. These materials are characterized by their stiff.dc. Since it is difficult to achieve 100 percent crystallization under normal processing conditions. (Semi-)crystalline polymers have a distinct melting point. Controlling the degree of crystallinity The crystallization process stops when the materials are cooled below the glass transition temperature. rod-like molecules that form the parallel arrays or domains. Fastcooling pvT for semi-crystalline materials discusses how a fast cooling rate. affects the material's transition to the crystalline phase. They may accommodate themselves in a well-ordered regular lattice (polymer crystallite) when the molten polymers are cooled below the melting temperature.engr. which occurs during molding. stiffness.