Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, or ABS, is an industrial thermoplastic polymer that combines three different monomers. As a result, ABS has a broader mechanical property profile, making it suitable for a wider variety of applications.
Each monomer gives ABS new properties or enhances existing ones. While standard ABS offers good resistance to impact and mechanical stress, some grades provide even higher impact and flame resistance for more demanding applications.
One plastic, three monomers
Acrylonitrile: Allows ABS to withstand certain chemicals and corrosive agents, particularly low concentration acids and bases. This monomer also contributes to the thermal stability of ABS, which is superior to that of PVC. It continues to perform well in environments where temperatures can reach 80 °C (176 °F).
Butadiene: Gives ABS superior impact resistance and strength.
Styrene: Allows ABS to be more rigid than plastics such as PVC while providing a smoother, more aesthetically pleasing finish.
Advantages of ABS
ABS is widely used because it can easily be processed into finished products of all kinds. Durable and lightweight, ABS offers interesting advantages and possesses a combination of properties that make it a superior material when compared to other polymers. These include:
Its impact resistance
ABS has good impact resistance, especially when used at room temperature. For more demanding applications, grades containing additives that provide high-impact resistance are more appropriate.
The acrylonitrile contained in ABS provides chemical resistance to weak acids and bases. ABS can therefore come into prolonged contact with chemicals without losing its initial properties.
ABS is a polymer that can easily be welded and thermoformed. It's often used for injection moulding, thermoforming and 3D printing.
- Plumbing pipes and accessories
- Parts and components for the food industry
- Machined parts
- Car components
- Safety parts
When used outdoors, ABS is affected by prolonged exposure to UV rays, which can cause discolouration and degrade its original mechanical properties. In such cases, HDPE may be a better choice. In fact, it's the main type of plastic used in the production of playground equipment.
For more information on HDPE, see our article, The advantages and applications of HDPE.
While ABS possesses a good thermal range, its heat resistance is fairly limited. It's typically used in environments where temperatures range from -20 °C to 80 °C (-4 °F to 176 °F).
In high thermal-stress environments, it may be more appropriate to consider plastics with greater thermal resistance.
To learn more, check out our article, 5 Heat-Resistant Plastics.