Having come across the chart of apples below, it suddenly donned on me how challenging it must be to the professional apple grower when someone speaks merely of an apple – like every one is just the same as another.
Similarly, for the discerning connoisseur with a trained palette for polymers, a shudder goes down their spine upon hearing, “hey, man, I need a piece of plastic.”
In plastics, we deal with a handful of everyday, bread & butter varieties – acrylic, polycarbonate, Nylon, UHMW, and acetal. But, on our shelves are a score of genetically different varieties and then, when you take into account the additives and hybrids, there’s literally hundreds of possibilities to choose from. Alphabetically, how about… abs, acetal/Delrin, acrylic, coroplast, LDPE, HDPE, Noryl, Nylon, PEEK, PES, PET, PETG, polycarbonate, polypropylene, phenolic, PVC, PVDF, Rulon, styrene, Teflon, UHMW, Ultem, and Vespel. And there’s lots in between. As discussed in previous articles, just ’cause it’s clear doesn’t mean that it’s the same as other clear plastic.
You choose plastics based on the application and that generally falls into what mechanical properties are needed for it to hold up under the circumstances – temperature, chemicals, weather, do you need to see through it, impact, load, stress from pulling, or conductivity concerns.
Only a trained expert in the business can really help narrow your focus down to the one you need. And, don’t be surprised if there is a price tag beyond that of a plastic cup or saucer attached to it. Some plastics are a few cents a foot while others can be a hundred dollars or more! I recently delivered about 20 pieces the size of ceramic floor tiles worth about $50,000.
Plastics are an engineered products meant to reduce wear and tear and/or attract the eye better than wood, metal, or glass so don’t think of a plastics distributor like a Walmart or Home Depot – if you’re getting cheap plastic then you should question its source. Ask for a manufacturer’s certificate of compliance to determine exactly what you’re getting. If you need a plastic guard for a machine and someone hands you a piece of acrylic or clear PVC (which are both clear) then someone’s going to get a hurtin’ when what ever breaks it also breaks the bones of an operator – that application needs polycarbonate or, as a minimum, impact-modified acrylic.
All it takes is a couple of carefully thought out questions to make sure you’ve got what you need and what you need is going to do the job over the long term.
Warehoused Plastic Sales is one of Canada’s largest distributors of plastic sheet, rod, & tube. When you’re looking for plastic, be sure to call us first!