When you think of construction, the first thing you may think of metal or wood. Metal for girders, earth movers, bulldozers, and equipment. Wood still dominates the housing market for siding, wall construction, and trim. Plastic may not be your first thought when the subject of construction comes up. Over the last decade, plastic has slowly trickled into the construction industry from protection equipment, tools, and now into building materials. Wondering why? Here’s how plastic is changing the construction industry:
Appearance & Finish
Typically with home construction or commercial buildings, the surface must be finished in a specific color or color scheme. That includes a secondary process of painting, could involve color stone or brick, but rarely is just left as a raw finish. Plastic has the ability to be colored in the process of manufacturing, so no secondary coloring or painting would be required. Add the values of a specific finish and ultraviolet protection and you have the ability to create a colored, textured, and protected material ready for construction.
Plastics offer many resistance properties that other materials can’t compete with. Buildings require fire protection that wood struggles to keep. Plastic can be made with fire resistant properties to prevent burning or melting. Wood and metal also need a secondary covering to prevent weathering, molding, or rusting in inclement weather or high humidity environments. Plastics don’t need a secondary layer as it is inherently resistant to degradation due to the environment. Lastly, plastic has chemical and electrical insulation properties that benefit electrical wiring and other materials.
Dimensional Stability & Recycling
Plastics offer dimensional stability in many environments that other materials would not compete well in. Extreme temperatures can warp metal and make other materials brittle, yet plastic can offer stability in these same extreme environments. The key will be to select the properties needed for the environment. If a thermoset plastic is chosen, be aware that it is not remoldable. Once it is formed, it can’t change form again. A thermoplastic can be reshaped and reused, which may be beneficial for recycling.
Sound and Thermal Insulation
Plastics offer sound and thermal insulation characteristics that make it a great option for interior and exterior wall construction. Plastics can dampen the cold chill of winter and block the heat of summer when used as a thermal barrier. It can also be used inside of walls to block and dampen sound from traveling room to room or entering / leaving a building.
Weight & Strength
Plastic can offer a lower weight and comparable strength to other materials by carefully selecting the proper fillers. Engineered resins can be half the weight of comparable metal parts, yet offer the same strength properties. Ductility and durability of plastic components may also be competitive, if not superior, to a metal part of equal design.
Plastics offer the opportunity to reduce or eliminate long-term maintenance. Wood and metal may require paints or coverings to prevent weathering and degradation. Plastics can be colored during manufacturing, which will not need a secondary coating to be added in the immediate or far off future to stay a consistent color. That will reduce material costs and the labor cost for upkeep.
The attachment method for metal is usually a rivet, a screw, or welding. Wood is often bolted or screwed together. Plastics don’t require anything exotic for attachment. If you can use it to attach metal together, you can use it on plastics. Plastic welding, screws, rivets, and inserts are all feasible. The same technology can be used in either case, which keeps the cost down when using plastics.
Plastics can offer characteristics to survive in almost any environment. The key to future changes will be limited to the imagination of the creator. Plastics are used on the space shuttle and satellites that orbit the globe. They are used in large construction equipment building cities. And they are used in your home to keep you safe, secure, and comfortable. New engineered resins are always being developed with better properties for more uses and environments. With the price of petroleum near record lows, and the limited availability of renewable materials, where will plastics find a new use in the future?
Determining if plastics will be your best choice for a new construction idea, and which resin would best suit your new product takes an expert level of design and manufacturing. SEA-LECT Plastics can aid with resin selection, turn-key assembly options, and program management to see the complete development cycle through with success. Give us a call at (425) 339-0288 or email us at email@example.com. We can offer you advice on the best technology to use, the best materials to meet your product demands, and how to navigate through each development stage. At SEA-LECT Plastics, we specialize in military product applications, outdoor adventure gear, musical instruments, supporting the medical and consumer product industries. Our goal is to make your project efficient and cost-effective to manufacture, assemble, and ship no matter how complicated your concept is.
Matthias Poischbeg was born and raised in Hamburg, Germany. Matt moved to Everett, Wash., after finishing his bachelor’s degree in business in 1995 to work for Sea-Dog Corporation, a manufacturer, and distributor of marine and rigging hardware established in 1923.
In 1999, Matt took over the reins at Sea-Lect Plastics Corporation, a sister company of Sea-Dog and a manufacturer of plastic injection molded products with an in-house tool & die shop. Matthias Poischbeg is also a contributor to Grit Daily.