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Understanding Thermoset Composites

Thermoset plastics provide a useful material for a variety of applications thanks to their resistance to heat, ability to insulate and their durability and light weight. Understanding how these plastics are made and the forms theyre available in will help engineers and manufacturers make an informed decision whether it is the right material for their project. Thermoset plastics are polymer materials that permanently cure, in a way making them like a plastic version of cement. These plastics are typically cured by means of heat, pressure, chemical reaction or irradiation. Once the plastic cures, it becomes very durable and much more resistant to heat than other plastics. This form of plastic was pioneered in the early 2


by !r. "eo #aekeland, a #elgian native who later immigrated to $merica. Thus, the original thermosetting plastic was known as #akelite. %t found many uses in the nascent electronics industry of the mid&2

century and spawned development of many more thermoset laminate

grades used in the industrial revolution. %n general, these thermoset laminates have been generically recogni'ed by combined names characteri'ed by the resin used and the reinforcing material. i.e. (anvas)*henolic+ Over the years, these thermoset laminates have been defined by standards developed by ,-.$ /,ational -lectrical .anufacturers $ssociation0 and by .ilitary 1tandard .%"&%&22345 to assure 6uality. Glass/Epoxy 7 They are resistant to heat and corrosion and also provide e8cellent insulation from electricity. 9lass)-po8y laminates are also known for having a long shelf life, with anecdotal stories of them being stored for years working well when used. These thermoset laminates are identified by the aforementioned standards as :;2, 9< , 9<<, and :;=. Glass/Melamine 7 $ hard form of thermoset plastic, 9lass).elamine laminates are used in electrical apparatus where resistance to arc tracking and resistance to corrosion are needed& refrigeration and)or switch assemblies. These grades are identified by 9= and 9>.

Glass/Silicone& The most temperature resistant grade of thermoset laminates is used in many applications in welding e6uipment and arc furnaces where both heat resistance and electrical insulation is re6uired. %t is identified by 93. Canvas/Phenolic& These grades combine various weaves of cotton fabric with phenolic resin / also "inen)phenolic0. They are characteri'ed by toughness, impact and wear properties and find use in many industrial applications including wear bearings, shims, and gaskets along with some electrical applications as well. These grades are identified by (, (-, ", and "-. Paper/Phenolics& These grades combine papers /kraft or high alpha content0 with phenolic resin binders to form laminates with good structural integrity, machinability and cost advantages over the glass fabric grades. They are referred to as ?? and ??? /sometimes also as ? 0. The higher number of ?s means better resistance to absorption of water. Glass/Polyester& These grades are combinations of random mat fiberglass and polyester resins. They offer good structural properties along with electrical insulation at cost advantages in switchgear applications. They are generally referred to as 9*O2 @ 9*OA. Thermoset laminates, or composites, may also be combined with other components to develop special properties that allow fle8ibility in design of items by engineers. :or many devices where strong resistance to heat or electricity are necessary, thermoset composites can be e8tremely helpful, allowing designers a fle8ible, durable, lightweight option for replacing metals and other high weight components. Bhen working on project design, engineers and other designers should in6uire with thermoset manufacturers concerning whether this versatile plastic can help meet their needs. :or more information visitC httpC))