Monthly Archives: October 2013

What Are High Performance Plastics

Lately it seems like everyone I come across that uses plastics in their business is talking about the ‘performance of plastics’ and how plastics compare to each other.  But, what are high performance plastics and what are the basic criteria for material selection? Do you really need high performance plastics in your application? The criteria for selecting plastic materials typically comes down to a combination of performance variables that best meet the needs of your application, or how the material will be used.  Once those needs are met there is most likely a range of materials to choose from and often the least expensive material can be the starting point for writing a specification.

What Are High Performance Plastics?

In looking at our trusty Plastics Triangle we can see the top two tiers are called out as High Performance Materials

Plastics-Triangle-High-PerformanceFrom the triangle we can also see these plastics all work under very high temperatures. If we look at factors such as wear resistance or the ability to take a lot of pressure, the crystalline side offers the absolute toughest materials for a job. At the very top the toughest materials of all don’t fall under either Amorphous or Crystalline categories, but rather a category all their own.

Why not Just Choose the Highest Performance?

If you purchase plastic materials you already know the answer to that question – PRICE! It can be very true that you get what you pay for and higher performance can mean more costly material. However, this is a careful balancing act, because a material that costs a bit Clip---downtime-graphicmore up front can be more economical in the long run. Buying a material that is right for a particular job can mean replacing parts less often, less maintenance, less downtime and more up time, and that improved efficiency can mean dollars in your pocket.

Why Are High Performance Materials Being Chosen More Often?

Clip---Limiting-PV-Compressive-StrengthManufacturing and industrial applications are increasing speeds, loads are increasing, and we are working in more extreme environments. Therefore the demands on materials increase too.  Materials that operate at relatively slow speeds (less than 50 feet / minute) with light loads (less than 5 psi) may work well with UHMW or Nylon.  But when the demands increase, we need to look to materials like Vespel SP-21 which can handle 350,000 PV unlubricated!
You may have also heard of ULTEM®, Radel®, Torlon®, or Techtron® PPS which are also  capable materials that fit into the high performance category.

How do you Select a High Performance Material?

Let’s start first by asking a question –

“Is your application a

bearing and / or wear application?”

The group of materials that perform best in bearing and wear applications are found in the Crystalline Family of Engineering Plastics.  When looking at these materials you will likely want to know two things:

1) What is the continuous running temperature of the application
2) What is the PV (pressure or force x velocity).

Knowing these two things can go a long way in figuring our which plastic material will give you all the performance you need for the best possible value.

I encourage you to find a good partner to work with you as you compare and contrast the different materials out there so that you can find the best material for your application.  That is ultimately the best way to find the best performance / value for your money.


Paul Hanson

Sales and Marketing Manager
DuPont Vespel®
ThyssenKrupp Materials NA
AIN Plastics Division

How Sales Reps Help You Find the Right Plastic Material

Have you set down with a plastics sales person only to find your sales rep hits

you with question after question about your application? Why is that?

More Questions? I just want some plastic!

More Questions? I just want some plastic!

Good sales people will ask probing questions about what you need, but in our busy days this may sometimes seem annoying or even invasive to a customer.  If you’ve ever wondered “why is this sales person all up in my business, I just need some plastic,” rest assured there is often a valid reason for all those questions, not just nosiness on the part of your sales rep.

Some terms are standard to a market or industry; others may be subjective or open to interpretation.  Just like a game of catch phrase two people may describe the same thing but in a different way.  In this series of blog posts I’m going to address some frequent questions and terms; not as a vocabulary lesson but rather a basic overview as a communication tool to help when talking to a plastics sales representative.


The plastics triangle gives an overview of the basic types of plastics. For more about plastic types click here.

Plastics may often look and feel alike, but, in reality, there are nearly as many different varieties and formulations of plastics as there are uses of them.  A benefit of purchasing from a distributor is that they stock hundreds of types of plastics from numerous manufactures in their facilities so one of the things a sales rep can do is to help customers pin point which plastic it is they really need.


Question and Answer is the simplest form of two-way communication.

One of the best ways to identify the material a user needs is by asking questions, in particular regarding the application.  Often this will narrow down the possibilities tremendously.  The material request that probably makes anyone in the polymer/plastics business cringe most is- “You know it’s plastic, just the regular kind.”  By inquiring as to the intended use of the item (application) a competent sales person can at least direct the customer to a category of materials from which to choose.

Questions that help select the right plastic material…
What is the intended use of this plastic material?

Is the application Static or Dynamic?
Is the application Structural or Wear?
These are all snazzy terms used to define if an item is going to be stationary/immobile or if it will be moving.  The answer to this question will likely lead toward one of two classifications of thermoplastics; Amorphous or Crystalline. Looking at structural vs. wear means looking at the stress or friction a part might be under when its in use.

Friction is the resistance that one surface encounters when moving along another surface. A part that does not move, may still come into contact with one that does (mating parts or rollers are good examples). The friction may cause wear and it can also be a source of increased heat.

A particular set of properties might be more or less crucial to a given application, we do not engineer said applications but rather give you the best tools and guidance to do so!

Lin Poulin
Telemarketing Manager
ThyssenKrupp Materials NA
AIN Plastics Division


Citations for this blog post:

American Chemistry Council.  Professor Plastic: How Many Type of Plastics are There?  Post 2012/01/ Quadrant Engineering Plastic Products. Design and Fabrication Reference Guide
Ensinger. Ensinger essentials, Technical know-how for plastic applications
International Association of Plastic Distributors. IAPD, Introduction to Plastics, a Training Manual