Common vernacular has most people lumping all plastics together into a singular entity. Comparing metals, glass, and plastic is a familiar juxtaposition when discussing the pros and cons of various materials. The reality is that plastics vary widely in terms of function, form, and in details such as surface energy. The characteristics of different plastic products can make or break a plastic production project. Understanding how different plastics interact with bonding materials or agents is a vital part of the plastic manufacturing experience. Industrial Custom Products can help you navigate the different types of plastics to ensure you get the results you expect for your plastic production project.
An essential but lesser-known characteristic of plastics is the surface energy. The surface energy of polymers refers to the chemical makeup of a material that influences its level of molecular attraction. This characteristic is measured in dynes per centimeter and can be found ubiquitously through plastic material descriptions. What exactly does low surface energy and high surface energy indicate?
Low Surface Energy Plastics
Considering that surface energy refers to molecular attraction, it follows that low surface energy materials feature a low level or weak potential attraction. Lower surface energy plastics such as polyolefin and polyethylene are well suited to non-stick and other low-adhesive options as it is difficult to bond them. Their utility is better centered around materials that don’t need to be bonded or combined with adhesive, but this isn’t a hard rule. Thanks to advances in adhesives technology such as pressure sensitive adhesives, it’s possible to bond low surface energy materials, but it can be trickier than the high surface energy alternatives.
High Surface Energy Plastics
Generally speaking, you may hear the terms “high surface energy” in reference to harder materials such as glass and metals, but it can refer to certain plastics as well. For instance, ABS plastics and polycarbonates satisfy these characteristics. These plastics tend to allow easy bonding and long-term “stick” to adhesives. This is thanks to the high molecular attraction inherent in the chemical structure. Basically, these plastics want to bond with other materials. This provides quite a bit of utility for projects that require a wide spreading adhesive that has a lot of staying power.
The surface energy of polymers is essential in understanding how different types of plastics interact with bonding agents, but being an expert in surface energy isn’t a requirement if you have a team of plastic production professionals on your side. If you’re trying to select a material that best suits your project needs, our experts can help.
For more information on our varied material options and how to employ the surface energy of polymers to maximize your production results, contact Industrial Custom Products today at (612) 781-2255 or visit our website here for more information.