Recycling In Pultrusion – Thermoplastics vs Thermoset Plastics

Pultruded profiles made from thermoplastics have a big eco-advantage over their thermoset counterparts. They are made from a polymer that can be broken down and reformed multiple times without losing its structural integrity.

Thermoplastic Pultrusion – the eco option for manufacture

Fibre reinforced plastics are becoming the material of choice in a variety of industries such as civil engineering, aviation, construction and green energy, as well as for everyday items. This is thanks to its high tensile strength from the reinforcing fibres – carbon fibre and fibreglass for example – combined with compressive strength provided by the plastic matrix that surrounds it.

Pultruded profiles made from thermoset plastics, which can’t be broken down and reformed, can still be broken up and its fibres reclaimed for reuse. However, thermoplastics go a step further by enabling the entire product to be reformed – this is what makes this type of fibre-reinforced plastic the material of choice for eco-conscious manufacture – as long as the application is right!

Thermoplastics vs Thermoset Plastics

So what’s the difference? A suitable analogy is bricks and mortar vs concrete.

Thermoplastics are made of a polymer chain that can be broken down and built back up again without losing structural integrity. This would be the equivalent of dismantling a brick wall and rebuilding it – the bricks are still structurally viable for reuse and able to produce a wall just as strong as the previous one.

Thermoset plastics on the other hand are made from a polymer chain that can’t be broken down without compromising the strength of the material. The equivalent in our example is smashing up a concrete slab wall and trying to rebuild it.

The difference between the two is in fact in the names. Thermoplastics can be re-melted, and reformed, whereas thermoset plastics are permanently set once heated. Understandably this gives the two products very different properties suited to very different applications!

Thermoplastics

Thermoplastics are more expensive to manufacture than thermoset plastics, and they are not as resilient to heat. However, the main advantages for choosing the recyclable option are:

  • Can be reshaped
  • Greater resistance to chemicals
  • More choices of more aesthetically pleasing finishes
  • More impact resistant.

Thermoset Plastics

Thermosets on the other hand, have the other advantages:

  • Greater flexibility in design
  • High heat resistance
  • Cost effective
  • Dimensionally stable

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