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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.


Coffee, Baseball, And Polycarbonate

Today we’re highlighting a recent application by our Spokane branch. Recently we were contacted by Dutch Bros. Coffee who has a location at Avista Stadium: home of the Spokane Indians baseball team. Dutch was looking for a clear plastic to protect their storefront signs and graphics. General-purpose polycarbonate was chosen for its excellent impact strength which will prevent breakage from anything from vandalism to accidental bumps. In addition, the polycarbonate is much more forgiving with drilling than acrylic – and several screws were tapped into the sheet. The polycarbonate was 3/16″ thick for this application. The picture below shows the completed application.

For help with your polycarbonate needs please get in touch with us.

Greenhouse Season Calls For Twin-Wall Polycarbonate

After this unusually brutal winter in many parts of North America, people are finally starting to “pick up the pieces” and are getting hopeful with the first signs of spring. With that, many gardening enthusiasts start to think of the work that needs to be done outdoors. For some, that may mean greenhouse maintenance or a new greenhouse altogether and if so, twin-wall polycarbonate should be strongly considered for the wall and roofing material.

Twin-wall polycarbonate is a corrugated economy grade of polycarbonate specifically designed for use in greenhouses and awnings. Unlike standard “smooth” polycarbonate, twin-wall comes standard UV stable on one side, meant to be installed facing outwards. Traditional polycarbonate sheets do not come UV-stable in their general-purpose form, commonly stocked by plastic companies. In addition, the twin-wall sheet is actually made up of plastic cells which help trap heat: critical for a greenhouse! The product is most commonly available in clear (which you would want for a greenhouse) but can be brought in on special order in bronze (more popular for outdoor awnings).

One important misconception about twin or multi-wall polycarbonate is that “thicker = better”. In general, that’s not true. The reason being is that users sometimes do not take into account that while the thicker material does trap more heat, it also lets in subsequently less light. So while you might have a warmer greenhouse you will also have one where the plants may take longer to grow and crop yields might be disappointing. Customers tend to find that large-scale industrial greenhouses use thicker multi-wall polycarbonate and assume this transfers directly to their application but that is an oversimplification: industrial greenhouse operations often have the benefit of artificial lighting to compensate for loss of light transference through the plastic. Something that most small home greenhouses do not have. For more information on this you might be interested in this blog post: Multi-Wall Polycarbonate: Beware Tradeoffs

We have found that 4′ x 10′ x 6mm clear twin-wall sheets offer the best balance of properties for home greenhouse applications. We have had satisfied customers from the wet coasts to the frigid northern prairies of Canada – so we believe for the home consumer thicker multi-wall may not be cost-effective for what you actually need.

For a quotation on twin-wall polycarbonate please contact us today.

Please let us know how many sheets you need, what size, and where you’re located for the quickest response.

Flying High With Plastics

We stumbled on a really neat article recently about a new patent by Windspeed, an aerospace company. The patent is for a bubble-type viewing area on the top of an airliner, where a couple of seats would move up into the bubble giving the passengers an unobstructed 360 degree view. To see pictures and a video on CNN click here (clicking will not take away from this article). This bubble will almost certainly be plastic and plastics have a long history in aerospace applications dating back to the 1930’s and 40’s.

One of the first acrylic applications was World War II aircraft canopies. Acrylic had been developed around 1930 and was found to be easily processed and shaped. It was about 8x stronger than glass and had natural UV-resistance to weathering (unlike many other plastics) and so was suitable for aircraft where strength and being lightweight was key. As much of a revelation as acrylic was, it still had some deficiencies – namely its impact strength was less than desired, and certainly not bullet-resistant, and it also scratched easier than conventional glass. Fortunately, there was another plastic available which could correct some of these deficiencies: polycarbonate. Polycarbonate had extraordinary impact-resistance and yes, could be made bullet -resistant (modern “bullet proof” glass is polycarbonate). Polycarbonate; however, had deficiencies of its own: it was prone to scratching and worst of all, would yellow and crack with sun exposure affecting visibility and even structural integrity.

Canopy manufacturers appear to have solved this problem with an innovative solution. Canopies are now often laminates, in that they have an outer acrylic shell (which can handle UV-exposure) with a polyurethane film (for absorbing UV-light) and polycarbonate underneath. This provides the “best of both worlds” as the polycarbonate core can provide its strength without the threat of scratching or weathering which would otherwise disfigure the canopy. Given the application would require strength and optical clarity, it’s very likely the new dome manufactured for Windspeed’s bubble will be a similar laminate.

For a quotation on your acrylic or polycarbonate needs, please contact us.


Greenhouses and Awnings: Twin-Wall Polycarbonate

Spring has sprung across North America (finally) and people have started to turn their attention to outdoor projects. We commonly get asked about plastic sheeting for greenhouses and awnings, which ends up being the same product: twin-wall polycarbonate. This cost-effective, low-maintenance product excels in both commercial and consumer applications. In many ways, twin-wall polycarbonate has the potential to bring together the everyday consumer and industrial plastic.

Twin-wall polycarbonate differs from its smooth, glass-like sibling in a few key properties. Firstly, the twin-wall is made out of long “cells” that stretch down the entire length of the plastic. In essence, twin-wall is two parallel lengths of polycarbonate that are supported by these many walls. The product is also much cheaper than regular polycarbonate sheet and perhaps most importantly to the application itself, twin-wall polycarbonate is UV-stabilized while regular polycarbonate is not. That is an extremely important point, as regular polycarbonate will quickly discolor and crack within a few years of sun exposure. Twin-wall is not immune from weathering, but it usually takes 8-10 years before you start to see any effects with replacement common around 12-15 years.

While most smooth polycarbonate comes in 4′ x 8′ sheets standard and the thickness of the sheets also in imperial measurement, the twin-wall actually comes in 4′ x 10’s though other sizes are available. Twin-wall’s thickness is also measured in the metric system (millimeters) and this includes in the U.S. Twin-wall is easy to work with using household tools such as power drills or table saws. It does not require special hardware such as special screws to affix, 3/16″ screws from any hardware store are the most commonly used by our customers.

The thickness of the plastic is an important point to discuss. Many customers in North America request twin-wall that is thicker than required (8mm+). We stock 6mm only, and have had no complaints even from customers in Northern Canada. What people need to realize is that going with thicker twin-wall does not mean a “better” product for them. The heat insulation value (R-value) does increase; however, the light transmittance value falls. This is especially important in greenhouse applications as it means your plants get less sun energy the thicker you go!

For questions or a quote on twin-wall polycarbonate or help with our other products please contact us today.


Industrial Plastic: Keeping You Safe

Plastics have an increasingly popular reputation as being a quality material for solving a variety of maintenance issues, while helping companies become more profitable. But industrial plastics do more than decreasing downtime and improving efficiency: they help keep you and your employees safe and in a variety of industries. Here are some specific examples of plastic helping to keep crews safe:

Anti-Slip Materials:

Many high-quality plastic solutions exist to reduce or eliminate slip hazards. BRAXX UHMW polyethylene is a sheet material that comes “studded” with a raised surface of sand or clean coal slag material and is available in blue or safety yellow. Sheets completely surfaced with LUNS clean coal slag are also available. The sheets can be cut to fit a variety of applications such as stair or ramp treads, boat launches, decking, or station surfacing in transit applications. Fiberglass reinforced plastic (FRP) stair treads are also an easy and economical way of providing an anti-slip surface to slippery stair surfaces, particularly wood or concrete.

FRP grating is also an excellent anti-slip solution in that it comes “standard” with a meniscus anti-slip surface. However, the panels are also commonly available with grit surfacing and can even be ordered specially with integrated grit.

Industries served: Sawmills, Construction, Large-Scale Manufacturing, Military, Transport, Food Processing, Amusement/Recreation

Safety Glass:

What is commonly called “safety glass” is often impact-resistant polycarbonate plastic. Polycarbonate takes an incredible amount of impact and can be procured in bullet-resistant grades. The plastic is available in scratch-resistant and UV-stable options for outdoor applications and also can be procured tinted in various colors, if required.

Industries served: Sawmills, mining, corrections, military, fabrication

Flame-Resistant Materials:

“Flame-retardant, anti-static” (FRAS) materials are critically important in underground mining applications. However, there are many flame-retardant plastic solutions available. These include phenolic grating and various industrial laminates.

Industries served: Mining, Oil & Gas, Utilities, Power Generation

Non-Conductive Materials:

Many plastics, especially the virgin grades, are excellent electrical insulators. Industrial laminates (phenolics) such as FR-4 in particular have proven their value for many years. Other plastics, such as FRP grating, are electrically non-conductive and often specified into applications for this advantage alone.

Industries served: Utilities, Power Generation, and anywhere electrical hazards are an issue

Stabilizing Equipment:

Redco outrigger pads offer numerous advantages over wooden or metal outrigger pads. They do not rot, rust or support mold growth. They do not easily stick in soft soils, are lightweight and also easy to clean.

Industries served: Mining, Oil & Gas, Utilities, Construction, Crane Service, Concrete Pumping, Tree Service

For more information on how plastics can solve safety issues in your workplace contact us today!



Impact-Resistant Mirrors For Mining

In few other industries is equipment subjected to so much abuse as the mining industry. Materials with weak properties just don’t cut it! One piece of equipment that gets overlooked (until it fails) are mirrors for trucks in the mining industry. Years ago we were approached to assist in finding a solution for a mine as their truck mirrors were cracking and breaking due to impact and vibration. It ended up being a fairly straightforward product – mirrored polycarbonate. The polycarbonate comes in 4′ x 8′ sheets, given your measurements (length, width and corner radius) we can fabricate a mirror. To replace a broken mirror you simply take the broken piece out of the gasket set up and slide in our mirror. Polycarbonate is incredibly impact resistant and works very well in this application. We’ve supplied them as far away as Ukraine. In fact, they’re so popular that our Vancouver branch keeps a small stock of certain sizes as inquiries continue to flow in.

If you have any questions about this product or would like a quote please contact us.

Having this problem...

Having this problem…










...Switch to this!

…Switch to this!