Thermoset vs Thermoplastic Polymers

by | Mar 21, 2017 | Guides


Having to select thermoset vs thermoplastic is something you may not consider, since the two names sound so similar. However, these polymers have different properties and have different reactions during the curing process. The debate of thermoset vs thermoplastic is based on the requirements and application needs requested by a customer. So what is it exactly that drives a company to choose between a thermoset or a thermoplastic? Outlined below are the differences between the two polymers to help you identify how to best improve your designs.

What is Thermoset Plastic?

Thermoset plastics are synthetic materials that undergo a chemical change when treated. This chemical change creates a hardened three-dimensional network. Remolding or reheating a thermoset cannot occur after the initial chemical change.

When to Use Thermoset Plastics

Electrical insulators and durable molded components contain thermoset plastics. These synthetic materials are silicone, RTV silicone, epoxy, and so on. Wire insulation, cable insulation, and molded parts, with high-performance requirements are some examples of where you can find thermosets.

What is ThermoPlastic?

Thermoplastics melt to liquid when heated and can be molded into the desired state of the designer. After heating, thermoplastics cool down and instantly freeze until they are re-heated and re-shaped. Cooling and heating can occur several times in a thermoplastic without any mechanical or chemical change to their properties.

When to Use ThermoPlastics

Some examples of a thermoplastic polymer are PVC, polypropylene, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene. Thermoplastics are the more cost-efficient selection for designs. They simplify the manufacturing and production process. Thermoplastics tend to be a go-to selection for wire insulation, cable insulation, and molded components, unless the application requires higher performance. It is important to note that there are high performance thermoplastics with special characteristics. In that case, the thermoplastics compete with thermosets but in general these materials have a high price tag.