What is ABS Plastic? (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene)
ABS plastic is an impact-resistant thermoplastic and amorphous polymer (means it does not shows the characteristics of crystalline solids). It is opaque in nature. ABS is made up of three monomers called Acrylonitrile, Butadiene, Styrene.
Acrylonitrile: It is produced from propylene and ammonia. The element is responsible for the polymer’s high chemical resistance and heat stability.
Butadiene: It is released from ethylene production and steam crackers. The element is responsible for the ABS polymer’s toughness and impact strength.
Styrene: It is released when a modification is made in ethylbenzene. It contributes to the rigidity & processability of ABS plastic.
The thermoplastic became commercially available back in the 1950s when the previous version was modified by adding the third monomer (Butadiene).
The addition of butadiene made it easy for processing and increased its toughness significantly.
How is ABS Material Made?
The most commonly used method to produce ABS is called emulsion (mixing multiple products that usually would not combine into a single product) or a continuous mass technique. ABS’s natural color is an opaque ivory color and is willingly colored using different pigments depending on the application.
Although ABS is known for its rigidness, strength, and chemical resistance, it is heavily affected by polar solvents.
ABS provides great processability compared to other thermoplastics. It doesn’t need fancy settings and can be smoothly processed in standard machinery.
Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene can be processed in injection molding, blow molding, extrusion molding, and especially in 3D molding because of low melting temperature. The continuous mass technique I mentioned earlier is a patented process that is rarely used or in special applications. The emulsion method is widely used and is considered the best.
Key Properties of ABS –
The polymer is an ideal choice for systemic applications. Let’s go through with some of its most important properties:
- Great impact resistance even at low temperatures
- Decent insulating properties
- High rigidness and strength
- Good mechanical strength with constant stability
- Good weldability
- Excellent surface brightness
- Good abrasion resistance
- Structurally sturdy
Below are the typical properties of ABS:
|Density||g mL-1||1.03 – 1.14|
|Coefficient of Thermal Expansion||cm / (cm °C)||2.0 – 10.3|
|Thermal Conductivity x 10-5||W / mK||0.17 – 0.23|
|Heat Deflection Temperature, 0.5 MPa||°C||88 – 107|
|Heat Deflection Temperature, 1.8 MPa||°C||71 – 103|
|Rockwell Hardness, R Scale||–||R102 – R104|
|Flexural Modulus||MPa||1550 – 2580|
|Flexural Strength, Yield||MPa||50 – 162|
|Tensile Strength, Yield at 23 C||MPa||28 – 120|
|Tensile Strength, Break at 23 C||MPa||–|
|Izod Notched||J / m||72|
|Dielectric Strength||V/mm x 104||1.4 – 3.1|
|Dielectric Constant @ 1 MHz||–||3.1 – 3.4|
|Dissipation Factor @ 1 MHz||n/a, x 10-4||80 – 90|
|Mold Shrinkage||%||0.002 – 0.007|
|Processing Temperature||°C||205 – 275|
|Continuous Service Temperature||°C||–|
|Water Absorption, 24 hr. Immersion||%||0.26 – 1.70|
Chemical Properties of ABS Plastic –
- ABS plastic shows good resistance towards alkalis and diluted acids.
- Decent resistance to aliphatic hydrocarbons
- Meager resistance towards alcohols, hydrocarbons, halogenated Hydrocarbons
Why is ABS used so often?
ABS material, thanks to its supreme properties, are utilized in many products. The most commonly seen products are keyboard keys used in computers and laptops, toys, lego blocks, face guards, various components in automobiles, etc.
Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene has a supreme resistance towards corrosive chemicals and physical attacks, making it easy to machine. A low melting temperature makes it compatible with the injection molding 3D printing process.
The material doesn’t make a big hole in your pocket at it costs about $1.50 to 2.50 per pound.
It’s not advisable to use ABS in high heat scenarios because of the low melting point.
Key Benefits & Limitations of ABS Plastic –
|Low melting helps in easy usability for injection molding 3D printing.||
Meagre solvent and fatigue resistance
|High tensile strength, corrosion resistance, and virtually smack proof.||
Poor weathering resistance
|Excellent resistance to dilute acid and alkalis||
Ordinary grades burn easily and won’t extinguish on their own.
|Numerous applications with relatively low price||
Stress cracks are evident in the presence of some greases
|biocompatible and recyclable material.||
Poor resistance for solvents like ketones, esters, and aromatic
|Non-toxic and harmless||
Poor UV resistance without protection
As we compare both benefits and limitations, the positives without any doubt outnumber the negatives. Certain disadvantages might become a small hurdle within the production, but the overall quality and smoothness wouldn’t be affected significantly.
ABS Processing Conditions –
Injection molding and extrusion molding are the two most common methods for ABS processing.
There are situations where determining drying is needed or not is tricky. In case a vented cylinder is used, drying becomes a must.
In scenarios where drying is needed, 4 hours at 80°C is generally sufficient.
Signs of moisture are evident with stripes, streaks, or bubbles. If any of those factors are seen, pre-drying the mold is advisable.
Mold temperature – 40-70°C
Melt Temperature – 210-270°C
Injection Speed – Moderate to high
Material Injection Pressure: 50 – 100 MPa
Pre-Drying: 3 hours at 70-80°C
Extrusion temperature: 200 to 240°C
Screw Design: L/D ratio of 25-30 is advisable
The Toxicity and Recycling of ABS –
ABS plastic is a biocompatible and recyclable material with a recycling number #9. In addition, it is relatively harmless and no sign of carcinogens in thermoplastic. To date, there hasn’t been a single incident recorded related to harm caused by ABS, meaning it’s safe for use.
Recycled ABS material is often blended with virgin material to produce parts without hurting the production quality.
However, ABS is considered not safe for medical implants.
Applications of ABS –
ABS material comes with a variety of applications in many industries supporting our day-to-day lifestyle.
- Electrical and Electronics Appliances
ABS plastic is one of the most suitable engineering plastic for automotive applications. Lightweight and great mechanical properties make it viable for manufacturing different automobile parts.
Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene parts keep the overall weight of an automobile in check. As the automobile industry is rapidly developing and transitioning to lightweight vehicles, ABS plastic will always be in demand.
Most importantly, the thermoplastics’ excellent impact resistance absorbs and redistributes the energy during an impact.
Here are few products made up of ABS –
- Steering wheel covers
- Dashboard components
- Door liners handle
- Instrument panels
- Pillar trim
- Seat belt components
#2 Electrical and Electronic Applications:
ABS plastic is often chosen for indoor electrical and electrical appliances that wouldn’t come in contact with the sun. Electrical enclosures and computer keyboards are a few of the main applications.
ABS material is used extensively in appliances like vacuum cleaners, food processors, shavers, refrigerator liners, appliance control panels, toasters, irons, etc.
The Future of ABS Plastic –
According to a study conducted by Forbes business insights, the ABS market in 2019 was USD 25.135 Billion and was projected to reach USD 42.809 Billion by 2027.
However, as the study was conducted before, the pandemic hit us hard and annihilated the global economy.
The demand will be timid for ABS material and the entire plastics processing industry for some time. But as of writing this post, vaccines have been rolled out in many countries that have mostly opened and embracing a wide range of economic reforms to spur growth.
Asia-Pacific is the market leader in ABS processing and will continue to dominate for a long time. However, the governments of different Asian countries like China, India, Vietnam, and Bangladesh are embracing manufacturing-based reforms to grow to manufacture and involve plastic manufacturing.
The demand for EVs and lightweight automobiles to reduce carbon emissions and become more consumer-friendly will help ABS and other thermoplastics to gain significant market share in the future.
1. Is ABS plastic good quality?
Ans. ABS is a fantastic choice for the manufacturer as it is inexpensive and comes with a good set of properties such as impact and corrosion resistance. It is also harmless to humans as it doesn’t contain any carcinogens.
2. Is abs better than PVC?
Ans. it completely depends on the applications, both of them have their pros and cons. PVC is more flexible and but ABS is stronger and shock-resistant. ABS is better at handling severely cold temperatures but warp or unusually bend to direct sunlight.
3. Is ABS plastic safe for drinking water?
Ans. If ABS fumes are inhaled, they can harm your health; even the individual parts can also harm your health. However, while using ABS products for storing water and food, it is unlikely to break down or leach anything into food, water, and soil.
4. How can you tell if plastic is ABS?
Ans. Some common features to look after when distinguishing ABS plastics are – Blue edges around the yellow flame when burned, pungent smell, a powerful acrid smell, aslo a stinging smell irritating to your nose.
5. What is the difference between polycarbonate and ABS plastic?
Ans. Both ABS and polycarbonate are very commonly used thermoplastic and are known for their variety of applications. But, as the difference goes, polycarbonate is more flexible than ABS and has better impact resistance and tensile strength. As a result, even in identical applications, PC products are more quality-driven than ABS.
Final Thoughts –
Finally, I would like to say that using ABS plastic can help you meet your production goals, both in quality and quantity.
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