Types of Plastics

Petroleum Resins

Petroleum resins are used in printing inks, adhesives, surface coatings, and rubber compounding. It is obtained as the byproduct from distilled petroleum streams.


Phenolic plastics are thermosetting resins used in potting compounds, casting resins, and laminating resins. They can also be used for electrical purposes and are a popular binder for holding together plies of wood for plywood.


Polyamide-imide is used in the automotive, aerospace, and heavy equipment industries.


Polyarylates are used in appliance, automotive, and electrical applications such as outdoor lighting because they are resistant to heat.


Polybutylene is a thermoplastic that is resistant to creep, chemicals, and cracking, while being very flexible. It is typically used in packaging film and pipe.


Polycarbonate is a thermoplastic that was first developed in 1957. It was originally created as a means of competing against die-cast metals. Polycarbonates are tough, strong, and rigid, yet ductile. They can be maintained over a wide range of loading rates and temperatures and are excellent electrical insulators. They are transparent and, therefore, are often used in the creation of water bottles. They are also used for electrical purposes, glazing, and appliances. In addition, they can be processed in numerous ways, including extrusion, injection molding, rotational molding, and blow molding.


Polyethylene came to the forefront during World War II, when it was used for underwater cable coating. It was then used as an insulating material for other military purposes, such as radar cable. After the war was over, it was put to commercial use and has become one of the most popular forms of plastic. In fact, it was the first plastic in the United States to sell more than billion pounds a year. It remains the most popular plastic in the country, being found in drums, containers, pipe, toys, housewares, shopping bags, trash bags, garment bags, packaging films, gasoline tanks, and coatings.


Polymides are a thermoset plastic that first appeared in the 1960s. They are typically used in laminates, enamels, gears, adhesives, bushings, covers, valve seats, piston rings, and solutions such as laminating varnish.

Polyphenylene Oxide, Modified

Polyphenylene Oxide is an engineered thermoplastic used in business machine parts, automotive parts, appliances, and electronics.

Polyphenylene Sulfide

Polyphenylene sulfide is heat and chemical resistant. It also has a good retention of mechanical properties at high temperatures and are very stiff. Therefore, they are often used in automotive and electronic parts.


Polypropylene is a highly used thermoplastic that was first developed in Europe and brought to the United States in 1957. It is fairly rigid, has a low density, excellent chemical resistance, electrical properties, and has a heat distortion temperature of 150 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition, it is very simple to process. It is most often used in automotive parts, packaging, carpeting, and appliances.


Polystyrene was first created in 1845, but was not put into commercial production until 1925. Now, polystyrene is one of the most used thermoplastics, with the foamed version being used in protective packaging, foam containers and cups, and building insulation. It is also used in toys, automotive parts, housewares, wall tiles, appliance parts, television and radio housings, floats, furniture, and luggage.


Polyurethanes have been around since 1954 and are very versatile. In fact, they are available in rubbers, adhesives, sealants, coatings, and flexible or rigid foams. Most are considered to be thermosets, though some are thermoplastics. The foam version is created by reacting polyols and isocyanates, which are then introduced to a blowing agent. The foams can be made to be rigid, flexible, or tough, depending on the purpose.

The foam polyurethanes have excellent thermal insulating properties and, therefore, are used in building insulation. In addition, they have good dimensional stability and compressive strength, making them ideal for use in trucks, refrigerators, and boats for floatation purposes. They can also be very cushiony with energy-absorbing properties and durability. Therefore, they are also used as carpet underlay, in furniture, in automobile seating, in bedding, in packaging, and as safety padding.

Polyurethanes also have protective qualities, making them great for use as coatings for metals, wood, rubber, concrete, leather, paper, and plastic. Their toughness and resistance to abrasion also make them ideal for gaskets and seals, printing rolls, drive and conveyor belts, cable insulation, and solid tires.

Polyvinyl Acetate (PVAc) and Other Vinyls

Polyvinyl acetate, which is a thermoplastic, is used to create solid vinyl acetate. It is typically used in paints, adhesives, coatings, and packaging.

Polyvinyl Chloride

Polyvinyl Chloride, commonly referred to as PVC or vinyl, was first invented in Germany around 1910. It didn't become a useful product in the United States, however, until the late 1920s. It became particularly useful during World War II when it was used as a substitute for rubber, which was in short supply. Polyvinyl Chloride is resistant to abrasion and is both weather and chemical resistant. Today, it is commonly found in upholstery, wall coverings, flooring, siding, pipe, and even apparel. In fact, vinyl is perhaps the best known of all plastics.

Types of Plastics
Plastics starting with the letter:
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