The primary difference between the two is that Thermoset is a material that strengthens when heated, but cannot be remolded or heated after the initial forming, while thermoplastics can be reheated, remolded, and cooled as necessary without causing any chemical changes. As a result of these physical and chemical properties, thermoplastic materials have low melting points while thermoset products can withstand higher temperature without loss of its structural integrity.
In this article, the uses and applications of each of these types of thermosetting polymers will be presented, including a summary of the relative advantages and limitations of each.
What are Thermoset Plastics?
Plastics are one of the most common materials used to manufacture goods today, from the keyboard you’re typing on to the International Space Station – plastics are here to stay. So how can plastics which can make something simple as a pen create something so complex that it can withstand rigorous physical and chemical elements such as excess heat and corrosion? The answer is thermoset plastics or thermosetting. Thermosets are unique and quite different from traditional plastic materials such as thermoplastics, so what’s the difference between thermoplastic and thermosetting? Unlike traditional thermoplastic parts that melt and disfigure when exposed to excess heat, thermoset components as implied by their name become set in their physical and chemical properties after an initial heat treatment and therefore are no longer affected by additional heat exposure. The process is very similar to hard boiling an egg. Once the egg is boiled, additional reheating does not cause disfiguration – similar to the curing process associated with a thermoset part. After initial heat forming, thermoset material’s ability to exhibit resistance to heat, corrosion, and mechanical creep make them perfectly suitable for use in components that require tight tolerances and excellent strength-to-weight characteristics, while being exposed to elevated temperatures.