Industrial Plastics and Custom Colors

A common question we receive is “can I get this in a different color?”. That is tough to answer in the world of industrial plastics! The short answer is many plastics are available in a variety of colors but price, availability, and minimum order quantity (MOQ) are often strongly affected by this choice. In general, industrial plastics are fairly bland, coming in white, black, or a shade of brown. Certain plastics can be colorful, such as nylons and polyurethane, but for the most part they come in black and white.

When Are Colors Feasible?

First of all it never hurts to ask, and we’ll always be straightforward. For the most part; however, we do not stock any plastics in custom colors. This can strongly affect the price if orders need to be brought in on special and in small quantities. Remember that we have to ship product all over North America to “land” it at one of our Regional Sales Offices (RSO). Often, this means you are paying much more for the same plastic just to have a non-standard color. How long you have to wait for delivery is context dependent on your order, but 4-6 weeks would be typical.

Polyurethane, nylon, and some profiles of UHMW are the easiest to get in non-standard colors.

When Are Colors Not Feasible?

The primary barrier to getting a product in non-standard color is when you have to stick to a certain grade of plastic or have a certain additive. For example, we get asked if the anti-static UHMW is available in colors: it is not, because the additive itself makes the plastic black. Also regarding UHMW, “clean” reprocessed UHMW in non-standard colors are much easier to get ahold of in rod or extrusion rather than virgin grade material and a colorant.

Specs given for a product might also confuse requirements. We recently saw a spec for a project that called for black virgin UHMW that was certified to ASTM D4020 but this is impossible as ASTM D4020 specifically excludes UHMW with any and all additives, including color. Natural UHMW is white so a black colored resin, or any additive, automatically cannot meet D4020.

In summary, if you want a non-standard color for your project you need to realize that while it is technically possible you will pay significantly for it in increased cost, delivery, and minimum order quantity.

If you have questions or a request for a non-standard colored plastic – please contact us today.

 

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Industrial Plastic: Strengths And Limitations

One of the key questions we ask customers is “what is the application?” This question isn’t asked in order to steal your idea but to ensure that the plastic you’re looking for is optimal, or even workable in that application! Industrial plastics are excellent mechanical materials overall; however, like anything they do have both strengths and limitations. This article will review the core line of industrial plastics we carry, give the strengths, the limitations, and common applications/places where the plastic is wrongfully specified.

UHMW Polyethylene

Strengths: Well balanced properties, economical, and readily available.

Weaknesses: Poor dimensional stability

Specification errors: high load bushings, unrealistic tolerances, not compensating for thermal expansion.

 

Nylon

Strengths: High load bearing strength, diverse formulations, suits a wide variety of applications.

Weaknesses: Absorbs water, poor impact and cold-temperature properties.

Specification errors: Impact parts, marine applications (without accounting for swell), using nylon bushings in high RPM applications.

 

Acetal

Strengths: High load bearing strength, replaces nylon in “wet” applications, machines to excellent tolerances.

Weaknesses: Impact, temperature (especially steam) resistance.

Specification errors: Using black (copolymer) acetal in food processing applications. It is not food-safe, unlike the blue and white.

 

Tuffkast

Strengths: Excellent impact, cold weather, bearing, and moisture-resistance properties.

Weaknesses: High cost, elevated temperatures.

Specification errors: Typically in applications that generate high internal heat, such as a hammer cushion for pile drivers. Tuffkast is also softer than nylon, which can lead to increased wear in certain applications.

 

Polycarbonate

Strengths: Extremely high impact strength.

Weaknesses: Very prone to scratching.

Specification errors: As glass/sight part without upgrading to a anti-scratch version of the plastic.

 

Acrylic

Strengths: Scratch resistant, economical, stronger than glass, fairly resistant to weathering.

Weaknesses: Difficult to fabricate, prone to cracking.

Specification errors: Using in “Do-it-yourself” projects without proper knowledge of fabrication procedures.

 

Polyurethane

Strengths: Impact resistance, rebound, good bearing strength (bearing grades only).

Weaknesses: Water saturation degrades the plastic (especially softer grades), vibration degrades the plastic’s composition.

Specification errors: Vibration or moisture applications.

 

Rubber

Strengths: Lots of choice between properties, cost, wide application variety.

Weaknesses: Polyurethane is superior in many applications, grades must be selected carefully.

Specification errors: Choosing an ineffective grade of rubber for an application to save on cost, assuming the lower grade will still function.

For more information about which plastic is best for your application, please contact us.

Product Spotlight: Redco Tuffkast

Nylon applications are very common and alongside UHMW-PE, cast nylon is probably the most well-known industrial plastic. The issue is with nylon, as most plastics, is that it’s ideal in some applications but performs poorly in others. No plastic is a complete panacea: they all have advantages and disadvantages. However, in most applications where nylon has problems, Tuffkast can solve them.

Where is nylon not ideal?

That’s the question you have to ask and there are three areas. Firstly, nylon does poorly in submerged or “wet” applications. Unlike most plastics, nylon readily absorbs water and will swell about 4% of its size in 24 hour saturation. This makes it a poor choice for marine applications unless tolerances are taken into account. Secondly, nylon is brittle especially in the cold. While nylon can take lots of pressure (4000 PSI) it is poor in taking impact. Nylon should not be used in impact applications. The final area of concern with nylon is what was just hinted at – cold. Nylon’s properties get worse in cold exposure, about -12 degrees Celsius is the lowest you can comfortably go.

How does Tuffkast solve these problems?

Tuffkast is a “copolymer” meaning it’s a mix of different plastics. While it is “nylon-like” is performs much better in areas nylon is deficient. It has significant benefits to impact resistance and in fact is an excellent impact and shock absorbing plastic. In addition, Tuffkast absorbs much less water (about half) as much as nylon does. In addition, it does not weaken in the cold like nylon does. Customers rightly wonder what the “catch” is with this material as it would seem to be easiest to just use Tuffkast in every nylon application but that isn’t so. The main difference is cost, depending on the grade Tuffkast can be 50-80% more expensive than nylon. The other potential drawback of Tuffkast is that it is softer than nylon, this can lead to increased wear or susceptibility to wear. An example would be use of Tuffkast as a wheel on a railed track. Tuffkast will deform more quickly due to imperfections in the rail and will wear more quickly in general.

If you have more questions about how Redco Tuffkast or nylon might be ideal in your application please contact us today.

 

Budgetary Expectations And Lifecycle Cost

One of the most important topics that comes up in a plastic application are issues of cost, budget, and expectations. Most commonly the request we get is to provide a better better performing plastic at less cost. In the vast majority of situations, frankly, this is unreasonable. Plastics, like any quality product, generally follow the old cliche “you get what you pay for” and a better performing, longer-lasting, plastic will almost always cost more money. There are rare exceptions, for example everything being equal, reprocessed (“repro”) UHMW will actually outperform the slightly more expensive natural grade in wear applications specifically. However, these are very rare exceptions to the rule.

It is important to know your budget up front. If there is no ability to fund a higher priced solution you may simply need to make due. However, if you have room in your budget then we have some room to work. Most commonly, a premium grade of the same material would be suggested. For example, switching from reprocessed UHMW to Redco Titanium or Tivar 88. This is generally the first step to take as the premium product provides all of the properties of the lower grade, just much improved. For example, slicker, better wear properties, and UV resistance or weathering.

At times, the application may require a jump to a new plastic. For example, if a nylon part is failing due to being brittle in cold temperatures or moisture swell, then a switch to Redco Tuffkast may be in order. Similarly, most plastics cannot hold tight tolerances; however, acetal is perhaps the best at doing so and bears a similar load to nylon. Were a nylon part to fall out or be unable to retain tolerances, acetal would be an excellent substitute in most applications.

However, the most important point of all is this: selection of the optimal material for an application will almost always result in a lower lifecycle cost and therefore cost-savings. Reduced maintenance costs, replacement, and downtime, will all save the customer money in the long run. It is this critical factor which is often overlooked in the decision to switch to a premium grade of plastic or a more expensive, but ideal, plastic for an application!

For assistance in choosing the best grade or plastic for your application please contact us.

3 Critical Issues You Need To Know About These Popular Plastics

Many industrial plastics can “overlap” in applications where sometimes the optimal choice is only marginally better than several others. Many plastics may work in an application, such as nylon and acetal for sheaves, but certain issues in the operational environment may mean you need to stay away from a certain plastic! Three of the most popular plastics we carry are UHMW polyethylene, cast nylon, and PTFE. But each of the following has a critical issue you need to know about that often discredits the material in certain applications.

UHMW – Impingement

UHMW is a great wear material at an affordable cost…Usually. The one place where it isn’t good at all is with impinging wear, that is wear from a mating partner (could be anything from grains, to rocks, to another sliding component). Impingement is when something hits that UHMW on an angle. With UHMW anything that is remotely abrasive needs to hit it on a 90 degree angle. If the angle is any sharper you risk very quick deterioration of the UHMW plastic. It simply does not hold up to impingement. Often polyurethane, which has excellent impingement resistance, is a substitute and one can be creative, for example only using polyurethane in the impact zone and use UHMW for the rest of the application.

Nylon – Cold Temperatures

Many people know that nylon is affected by moisture swell, what fewer people know is that it gets brittle in cold temperatures, about 10 Fahrenheit or -12 Celsius. This can come as a shock, as nylon is known as a high-load plastic able to handle 4,000 PSI in bearing applications. It is not intuitive to think that cold temperatures would greatly affect the nylon but it is true. Fortunately, replacements are available, specifically Redco Tuffkast is often best to replace nylon. Tuffkast solves not only cold weather issues with nylon but also absorbs much less moisture, so Tuffkast’s properties help in that case as well.

PTFE – Wear

It is often that customers request PTFE for a wear or lining application, even including heavy applications such as dump truck liners! We do try to warn them that PTFE has very poor wearing ability. It is a soft, almost waxy material, that while it is available in sheet form (and seems solid enough) it really cannot hold up to aggressive wear. Bronze filled PTFE is available which increases the wear capabilities; however, by that point there is often a less expensive, more available plastic, that can be suggested as a replacement. PTFE should be avoided in high wear applications wherever possible.

Hopefully you are surprised by at least one of those points, in the hopes that it will assist your material choice in your next application.

To discuss the optimal plastic for your application, get in touch with us today.

Nylon For Specialty Applications

Nylon is a family of plastics with several different additives that make them suitable for applications where natural-grade nylon isn’t optimal or won’t be successful. There are three grades of nylon specifically that should be highlighted for their properties in applications with unique demands.

Firstly Redco SL which offers a low coefficient of friction with excellent wear resistance. It was developed for applications where external lubrication is either very difficult or impossible. Redco SL performs better than other nylons and many plastic where the part is rarely accessed for maintenance.

Secondly, Redco glass-filled nylon serves very well for prototypes. The glass filling results in a very dimensionally stable part which can be held to tighter tolerances. This part also has the lowest “cold flow” of any nylon. If you’re looking for a “proof of concept” part than Redco glass filled nylon is an excellent choice.

Lastly, Redco blue is a grade of nylon for high-heat applications, able to withstand up to 250 degrees Fahrenheit ongoing in application. This alone isn’t especially unique, as several plastics such as PTFE handle temperatures just as high. However, Redco blue nylon is the best “bang for your buck” for a heat-tolerant plastic. The alternatives such as the aforementioned PTFE, PEEK, ULTEM, etc. are all much more expensive. If you’re having trouble finding a heat-tolerant plastic and you know your application is 250 degrees F or less, then Redco blue may be an excellent choice for your application.

To see if the Redco nylon products listed above or another plastic is optimal for your application, please contact us today. 

Product Spotlight: Redco Acetal

In the world of thermoplastics acetal (polyoxymethylene or POM) sometimes gets overlooked in applications as customers consider more well-known plastics such as UHMW, nylon, or PTFE. However, acetal offers excellent versatility, overall properties – all while being the most machinable thermoplastic. Unlike many other plastics, acetal is quite hard with a dense weight that reminds one more of a metal than a plastic.

Given this property, acetal can be used to replace precision machined acetal parts that were formally metal. Examples are gears, valves, and parts like the bolt in paintball markers. Acetal is often used as a nylon replacement in marine applications. This is because it can take similar load yet will not absorb water like the nylon will. But there is often no reason why you could not have specified acetal as a nylon replacement in the first place.

Where acetal really excels; however, is dimensional stability. It is one of, if not, the most dimensionally stable plastic. What this means is it can be machined to tighter tolerances than other plastics and will hold those tolerances better. In addition, it has excellent resistance to creep at normal operating temperature. If dimensional stability in an application is of top priority than acetal should be near the top of your list!

As with any plastic, acetal does have some concerns. They are attacked by strong acids and oxidizing agents so keep that in mind. Acetal comes in two common grades the homopolymer and copolymer, with the copolymer being better in hot air or water environments. Acetal is available in FDA approved grades, including metal and x-ray detectable grades. Acetal should not; however, be used with chlorine washdowns or cleaners. In that case PET should be selected as a substitute.

For answers to your questions about Redco Acetal please contact us.

acetal