The history of metals is thought to have begun with the use of copper about 11,000 years ago. Gold, silver, iron, lead, and even some brass began to be used before the first known appearance of bronze in the 5th millennium BCE
Artifacts made of smelted iron have been found dating from about 3000 BC in Egypt and Mesopotamia. In those times, iron was a ceremonial metal; it was far too expensive to be used in everyday life. Metals are commonly very stiff, tough and strong. However, they are also generally quite heavy. Also, the cost to heat metal to production temperatures is extremely high, over 5 times that of Performance Plastic materials. When metals corrode they get smaller, and many can decompose to yield rust.
In comparison, plastics only were first made in the early 1900’s. The world’s first known fully synthetic plastic was bakelite (now days considered Phenolic), and was invented in New York in 1907 by Leo Baekeland who coined the term ‘plastics’. Since this date, thousands of chemists and material scientists have synthesized dozens of plastic base materials. Plastic materials are currently available in over 80 types, and each of these are molded or processed at slightly different temperatures. The wide range of performance plastic materials will allow you to choose the perfect material for your next application.
Some of The Advantages of New Performance Plastic Materials
New Higher Temperature Performance Plastic Materials
New Performance Plastic materials like Victrex 450g PEEK and Sabic Ultem 1000 have much higher use temperatures over previous performance plastic materials. The Ultem 1000 unfilled has a continual use temperature above 400 degrees F, while the newer Victrex 450g PEEK materials work well at 480 degrees F on a continuous basis. In addition to the higher temperatures, they are still food grade materials.
Most plastic materials can typically be molded in a temperature range of 400 to 600 degree F. While steel starts to melt at 2,500 degrees F. This is five times the temperature, meaning it takes 5 times the energy to convert steel instead of plastic. Lower temperatures equates to lower costs of production.
New Lower Weight Materials
The average plastic weighs just 20% of the average metal product. Many plastics have exceptional weight to strength ratios, meaning that for the weight of the product they are very strong. This low weight means much less raw materials and less impact on the environment if using plastics over metals. This results in lower cost to manufacture parts from plastics over metal.
For instance, new UV grades of HDPE or High Density Polyethylene are very light, with a density of just .96, so light it floats in water. And yet, this new UV grade of HDPE is a workhorse in the plastic market, and is used to replace wood and metals in outdoor furniture.
New Detectable Materials For Food Contact Approved
Most Performance Plastic materials were engineered to be food contact compliant, and in most cases FDA approved for food contact. With the increase in food recalls, finding the proper materials to ensure that our foods are safe is imperative. Materials like Acetal Copolymer, Acetal Homopolymer, Nylon, Ultem 1000 and Victrex 450g PEEK are all FDA approved for direct food contact.
Which Performance Plastic Will Work The Best
Here are some new performance plastic material grades that include additives to make these materials detectable during food processing. These newly released detectable products include Tecaform AH UD (copolymer acetal base), Tecapeek UD Blue (PEEK based) and Hydex 4101 UD Blue PBT – Polyester base). Each of these new performance plastic materials comes in Blue color to be detected by color sensors during food processing. The “UD” portion allows these materials to be detected by X-Ray and Metal Detection scanners in food processing production lines. Using these new detectable performance plastic materials in food processing plants can help to eliminate food contamination issues and massive food recalls.
Recent Rising Costs Of Transportation
Changes in transportation rules and regulations since 2018 have made shipping raw materials significantly more expensive. Weight, size restrictions and surcharges for longer packages have more than doubled in the last year.
This has made one of the most expensive components of materials reaching the marketplace is transportation costs, and over the last several years the costs of moving materials across the country has skyrocketed. Metals are heavy, and this weight makes many items very expensive to transport.
Each step in the production of a finished good generally involves shipping to the next step. Raw material converted into base material, then base material converted into usable shape. Later this shape is turned into a component or part. Each time there is a conversion, there normally is shipping to the next processor. Metal weight can limit the amount of metal that can be moved at one time, where plastics can ship up to five times more product per truckload.
With performance plastics, often the conversion in small factories that can be located near final assembly of components limits the amount of shipping of plastic parts. Also, due to the light weight of plastics, trucks can hold up to five times the amount of plastic over metals for shipping. Many plastic parts are made very close to where they will be consumed, cutting logistics fees. This five times the weight also translates to five times higher cost to ship metals. This reduction of transportation costs moves more profit to the bottom line.
New Performance Plastic Materials Eliminate Need For Lubrication
Often, on large metal parts or assemblies, grease ports are added to make lubricating the metal parts easy. Metal on metal parts will wear out very quickly, and therefore require regular service and lubrication.
Newly released performance plastic materials have made lubrication obsolete. One such material is a new compounded Nylon material, called Nylatech PVM has FDA approved oil additives. This new Cast Nylon material runs well for extended periods without external lubrication. This material runs quieter and smoother than previously used metal parts due to a much lower coefficient of friction, and requires no regular maintenance.
Another new grade of Performance Plastic material that is rated as ‘self-lubricating’, and have excellent wear resistance is Lub-X UHMW, which now makes curves in bottling plants move smoother, quieter and require no lubrication. These long wearing and high strength materials outperform most other substrate for low cost, high performance, low weight and self lubrication.
Each of these plastic advantages yield cost savings and long product life. Along with these new areas of advantage, Performance Plastics are 100% recyclable, and can be reprocessed into high strength parts again and again. The plastic recycling industry is still in its infancy, and as it becomes more adept at recycling and reusing valuable plastic materials, our planet and our pocket books will benefit.
Is HDPE Sheet and Acetal Homopolymer Sheet the same?
Here is another popular question asked by our clients. Is HDPE the same as Acetal Copolymer / Delrin Acetal Homopolymer?
No, they are two totally different materials. Although the natural color of both is a milky white to opaque white, and they do look a bit similar, they are not. (HDPE is milky white to almost translucent depending on thickness, and the Acetal materials are a more opaque white to slightly milky – once again depending on thickness . See picture below of .500″ thick samples of HDPE and Acetal sheets)
HDPE and Acetal – Some Differences
The HDPE sheet and rod is a softer material, and is commonly known for its FDA certification and used in numerous food applications, such as: one gallon milk jugs, cutting boards, colored water glasses/cups, and many, many more. While it can be machined, because it is a bit softer and lighter, the tolerances it can be machined to are not very tight. It is not bondable, so it makes a great non-stick surface for sticky foods and adhesives.
The Acetal Copolymer and the premium Delrin® Acetal Homopolymer also have FDA certification, and are used heavily in the food processing industry. This material is a more mechanical material and is used in bearing and wear applications, cams, feeder screws, etc. This material is can be machined to tight tolerances, and will wear for long periods without lubrication. Due to its exceptional wear properties, it is not bondable, thus requiring mechanical fastening or threads to assemble. It has a very low water absorption, and you will find it in your toilet tank as the white moving parts in the filler mechanism. It is an extremely popular material for machinists, as it works much like soft brass.
While HDPE Sheet and Acetal Sheet look similar, they perform quite a bit differently.
While both materials are FDA approved, are machinable and can be used to make rigid wear resistant parts, they are two different resins and have drastically different physical properties. Another major difference is in the weight of these items, HDPE sheet and rod material weighs about 35% less than the Acetal sheet and rod material. Please check the data sheets for more information to assist in proper material selection.Acetal Data Sheet and HDPE Sheet Data
Acetal is commonly known as: Delrin Homopolymer Acetal, Tecaform AH,Ensital, Unital, Pomalux, Ultraform and many more.
HDPE is also known as: Ultraethylux,Densetec, Polystone G, Fortiflex, Versadur, Hostalen, and many more.
Acetal Copolymer and ABS (Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Stryene) have some similar properties but are really very different materials. They similarities are: high impact strength, ease of machining with standard cutting tools and good mechanical properties. They are also both FDA compliant and are both good substitutes for brass. They also have great water absorption resistance and good electrical properties. Both materials are good for some of the same applications but certainly not all. Listed below are some of the major differences.
ABS Sheet and Rod Information
ABS comes as Natural (straw) and Black color in Plate, Slab, Sheets and Rods, and thin sheet (.040″ – .250″) it is available as White or Black with a textured surface one side. It can be cut from 48″ X 96″ sheets into strip, panels or pieces.
ABS is formable. ABS is a great thermo-formable material while Acetal is not. Acetal is used more for machined parts such as gears and screws. ABS is great for molding and shaping parts from vacuum to heat forming. Excellent for model building and prototype projects.
ABS is easily bondable (similar to PVC). ABS can be bonded or welded to itself. Because Acetal is self lubricating, it is not possible for anything to stick to it unless etching is done – therefor it is not bondable.
ABS is a great material for painting and silk screening. While Acetal can not be painted or silk screened unless it has undergone Corona Treating (a flame surface treatment), but if treated will nice paint or screened surface.
ABS has better chemical resistance than Acetals. Both are attacked by acids like sulfuric, but ABS has a wider range of resistance to chemicals like aqueous acids, alkaline and alcohol. Acetal will degrade when exposed to such chemicals as chlorine and alkalines.
Specialty grades of ABS are available, including: Glass Filled, Static Dissapating, and Fire Retardant Grades (like Royalite – R59)
Acetal Copolymer and Homopolymer Sheet and Rod Information
Acetal is the better machining plastic, considered the best machining plastic material. Because of its durability and wear resistance, Acetal is an excellent choice for producing a wide variety of parts that require high wear resistance over a wide period of time. When machining to tight and specific tolerances, Acetal is ideal.
Acetal has low co-efficient of friction. Due to its self lubricating properties, it is a great material for sliding and wear applications. This material provides years of maintenance free bushings and bearings.
Acetal sheet is produced from .062″ – over 6″ thick and sheet sizes of up to 48″ X 120″ as standard. The standard color for Acetal and Delrin is Natural (a deep milky white) and Black. Some colors are available as Medical Grade, and can be obtained in limited sizes. These sheet are available cut to: slabs, blocks, plates, slabs and blocks.
Acetal (Polyoxymethylene) can be both a homopolymer and a copolymer. The homopolymer acetal has a repeating chain of one atom while the Acetal copolymer has two atoms forming a repeating chain. Dupont™ Delrin® is a popular acetal homopolymer brand name and the most commonly used acetal homopolymer.
Acetal – Delrin Properties Table
Typical Value Unfilled Homo-Polymer
Typical Value Unfilled Co-Polymer
Tensile Strength Yield
9,600 – 11,000
9,000 – 10,200
Izod Impact – Notched
Hardness – Rockwell
Deflection Temp @ 264psi
Deflection Temp @ 66 psi
Water Absorption @ 24 hrs
Co. Thermal Expansion
ABS and Acetal – Similar, but very different materials
Both of these materials possess excellent qualities and have a wide range of different uses. Acetal is great for machining, while ABS is great for forming and bonding. They both can be used for machined parts and are great choices for food contact and electrical applications. These two materials are both strong and durable plastics, but one might be better than the other for a specific job. When picking the right plastic, it is important to compare plastics and their specific properties to make sure the material won’t fail and that your job will be successful.
Contact us for additional information, call us at 866-832-9315 or contact us here. Consider Industrial Plastic Supply for all your plastic needs, we want to be your go-to plastic supplier.
**Note: Delrin® is a registered Trademark of Dupont
Are Acetal Copolymer and Homopolymer Acetal the same?
This is one of our most common questions, and it is a bit involved of an answer.
There are two main versions of Acetal Resin
Homopolymer Acetal and Copolymer Acetal
The most popular name for a Homopolymer Acetal is the Dupont Delrin, which is a premium Homopolymer Acetal.
The second Acetal is a Copolymer acetal, and there are many suppliers of this resin.
Acetal is the generic, and not all Acetal is Delrin® Hompolymer, nor is it Acetal Copolymer. A distinction is required to determine which is best for your application. There are several manufacturers that produce Acetal Copolymer resin, including: Celanese®, BASF®, Ticona®, SABIC® and many more.
Acetal Copolymer compared to Delrin® Homopolymer Acetal
Delrin® is a premium homopolymer Acetal produced by Dupont. Many of the physical properties of the homopolymer exceed that of the copolymer Acetal. Dupont™ Delrin® is a popular acetal homopolymer brand name and the most commonly used acetal homopolymer.
The generic term ‘Acetal’ covers both the homopolymer from Dupont and the copolymer grades of resin. Both materials meet the ASTM-D-4181, ASTM-D-6100 or ASTM-D-6778 specification (an old call out is L-P-392). Homopolymer Acetal is POM111, and Copolymer Acetal is POM211.
Both are very tough and machinable, and have some similar properties.
An additional difference is the inherit problem of center-line porosity in some of the homopolymer grades. This is caused by out gassing during manufacturing, and can be found at the center or on the surface of all homo-polymer extrusions. This porosity can cause some problems with machining or moisture permeation through the material. The copolymer resin has little to no porosity issue.
Some of the other differences are in the physical properties of the resin. Review the chart for some of the most popular properties people ask for when looking at Acetal Copolymer or Homopolymer Acetal.
See Homopolymer and Copolymer Acetal properties chart below.
Tensile Modulus of Elasticity
Flexural Modulus of Elasticity
Heat Deflection Temp @ 264 psi – degrees F
Melting Point – degrees F
Coef. of Linear Thermal Expansion
6.8 x 10-5
5.4 x 10-5
Water Absorption @ Saturation
Material is available as both Acetal Copolymer or Acetal Homopolymer in Rod, Block, Sheet and Slabs.
Acetal is one of the most widely available plastics, especially on the West Coast (for some reason the East Coast seems to like the Nylon – Polyamide material more). Most commonly available in Natural (White) or Black, but can be produced in a wide range of colors with minimum orders. This enables material matching your product color or for easy identification of parts.
While these properties are similar, depending on your application, one material may be better suited than the other. Review our Delrin® Homopolymer and Acetal Copolymer page for additional information on the product availability and data sheets. We get calls for the premium Delrin® Homopolymer product, but some people may call it Delron, Delran, Delrun, Derlin and many other names, but it is still premium Delrin® Homopolymer Acetal to us.