Understanding Thermoset and Thermoplastics

Adhesives, Sealants & Silicone used in Wind PowerWe all react to heat differently, which is a simple description of the distinction between thermoset and thermoplastics—they behave differently when heat is applied to it.

The chemical properties of thermoset become permanently strengthened when exposed to heat. Once thermoset plastics are altered by exposure to heat, they cannot be remolded. Thermoplastics, on the other hand, can be reheated and remolded without changing their chemical makeup. This simple but major difference makes thermoset and thermoplastics suitable for varying applications with unique requirements.

Thermoset plastics: set in their ways

Thermoset materials are ideal for applications that must withstand high-impact environments with rigorous demand. Since they are set in their physical and chemical properties after initial exposure to heat, they offer exceptional durability, structural integrity, and can outperform metal materials in many settings.

Thermoset plastic composites are created by combining a thermoset polymer with fibers such as carbon or glass. They are additionally attractive for a wide range of composite applications because of their strength-to-weight advantages, resistance to corrosion and other elements, and low cost of production.

For these reasons, manufacturers in the defense/ballistics, industrial/corrosion, transportation, and wind energy/power industries source thermoset composite materials from Composites One for applications such as construction equipment, electrical parts, cell tower tops, and motor components.  

Thermoplastics: the heat is on

Unlike thermosets, when heat and other elements are applied to thermoplastics, it does not cause chemical changes, even as the physicality of the plastic changes to a liquid form. Thermoplastics are an ideal choice for flexible, low-stress applications that need to withstand high temperatures without losing their chemical integrity.

Thermoplastics require high processing temperatures, and their use is becoming more viable due to automated processes such as Automated Tape Laying (ATL) and Automated Fiber Placement (AFP). With these processes, intense heat and pressure can be applied locally with a laser and robot, eliminating the need for a press or oven.

Thermoplastics are familiar to most people through their use in daily items such as water bottles, packaging, toys, electronics, and plenty of other popular consumer products. Thermoplastic composites are formed with the addition of fiber reinforcement, which enhances the properties and allows for an even broader range of applications.

Manufacturers in the construction, consumer recreation, and transportation industries rely on Composites One for their thermoplastic composite materials.

Read more about fiber-reinforced plastics from Composites One.