Performance plastics Featured | Lecture : 7 minutes

    The weight of plastics: Combining performance and lightness

    The weight of plastics

    Plastics have a reputation for being lightweight materials, but is this always the case? Also, how do they compare to traditional materials when it comes to weight? In this article, we’ll examine the difference between the weight of various types of plastics and that of traditional materials (metals and glass). We’ll also suggest plastic options that are lighter and stronger than standard glass, along with some that are more durable than steel and aluminum.
    Finally, we’ll provide a brief overview of the benefits related to system component weight reduction.

    Comparing plastics with traditional materials

    Plastics versus glass

    Hard yet extremely brittle, glass can often be replaced by acrylic, better known under the trade name of Plexiglas®, or by polycarbonate, also known as LEXAN®, two thermoplastics with excellent optical properties and good transparency.

    Besides reducing system weight, these two plastics offer excellent impact resistance. Indeed, acrylic is 17 times more impact resistant than glass. As for polycarbonate, it’s even more prized for its impressive impact resistance, which is 250 times greater than glass.

    Density of transparent materials

    Materials Density (kg/m³)
    Standard glass 2,500
    Polycarbonate 1,200
    Acrylic 1,190

    To learn more about how to maintain and clean polycarbonate, see our article, Cleaning Polycarbonate.

    Plastics versus metals

    Some plastics can be used to replace metal parts or components. For example, while steel is known for its strength and excellent mechanical properties, it’s a very heavy material that doesn’t prevent corrosion.

    FRP (fiber reinforced plastic) is a composite material that has excellent mechanical properties while being 70% lighter than steel. It’s used to make walkways, ladders and structural components that never rust because of its excellent chemical resistance.

    Materials Density (kg/m³)
    Steel 7,500–8,100
    Stainless steel 8,010
    Aluminum 2,700
    FRP (gratings) 2,025


    To learn more about FRP, see our following articles:

    FRP: An Alternative to Steel for More Durable Structures
    FRP in the Food Sector
    4 Questions to Help You Choose the Right Structural Material

    Mechanical parts made of stainless steel can also be replaced by high-performance plastic equivalents. For example, by replacing a stainless piston with one made of acetal, you can easily increase its durability while reducing its weight by 5 times.

    Density of other plastics

    Materials Density (kg/m³)
    Polytetrafluoroethylene (Teflon®) 2,160
    PVDF 2,025
    PVDF 1,780
    PET-P (Ertalyte®) 1,410
    PEEK (Ketron® 1000) 1,310
    Polycarbonate 1,200
    Acrylic 1,190
    Nylons (NYLOIL®)  1,140
    ABS 1,080
    HDPE 960
    UHMW 953

    What are the advantages of lightweight plastics in a mechanical setting?

    - Optimized production speeds
    - Reduced accident risks during maintenance
    - Reduced maintenance costs
    - Reduced wear and friction
    -Improved system performance
    - Improved system performance
    - Reduced noise and vibrations

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