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Understanding Thermoset Plastics

Thermoset plastics are used in a variety of markets and applications.   Generally, there is one common variable for these applications – heat.   Many Engineers and Designers look to implement thermoset materials into their product designs due to thermosets’ high heat deflection and heat resistance.  As a heat resistant plastic, thermoset materials provide excellent dimensional and chemical stability when exposed to high heat.

Similar to thermoplastics, thermosets may be compression, compression-injection, and injection molded.  The difference is that thermoset, or thermosetting plastics, strengthen when heated, yet cannot be successfully remolded or reheated post-mold.  After initial heat-forming, the properties of thermoset plastics become “set”, and components are resistant to heat, corrosion, and creep.  In contrast to thermoset plastics, engineered thermoplastics will soften or disfigure when re-heated, jeopardizing the dimensional and chemical stability of a component.

While a thermoplastic monomer has only two reactive ends for linear chain growth, a thermoset monomer must have three or more reactive ends, with its molecular chains crosslinking in three dimensions.  Post-mold, thermosets have virtually all molecules interconnected with strong, permanent, physical bonds, which are not heat reversible.

Theoretically, the entire molded thermoset part can be a giant, single molecule.  In a sense, curing a thermoset is like cooking an egg.  Once it is cooked, reheating does not cause melting or disfiguration, so it cannot be remolded.

Benefits of Thermoset Plastics

  • Corrosion and Steam Resistant
  • Excellent Chemical and Dimensional Stability
  • Excellent Thermal Properties
  • Heat Resistant
  • High Dielectric Strength
  • High Strength-to-Weight Ratio
  • Low Creep/Shrink
  • Superior Thermal Insulation

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