Sometimes, when you can’t get desired properties from a chemical compound, the best thing you can do is combine the compounds. That has been done with polycarbonate (PC) and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene(ABS).
Surprisingly, few people are using it, and it has spread widely worldwide. According to the report of Statista, the demand for PC-ABS in 2011 was 3.6 million tons. However, this demand has increased to 4.51 million tons by the last year, 2022.
If you are associated with manufacturing products, you must use or plan to use polycarbonate material. There are many polymer blends, but PC+ABS is among the most popular.
Commonly this material is considered a healthy alternative to glass. In applications where a glass-like material is required with extra strength, use polycarbonate material, for example, in lighting applications.
The vastness of this material is too much; the more you know about it, the lesser it will be. We have written this guide to give you a comprehensive explanation of polycarbonate material properties and applications. Get ready to dive into details further.
What is PC-ABS?
PC-ABS combines two different polymers to produce better properties in the resultant polycarbonate material. This composite material is made from two polymers: polycarbonate (PC) and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS). They are thermoplastics with different pros and cons, allowing the manufacturers to use a new type of material.
The functional characteristics of the polycarbonate material have made it widely spread in the engineering industry. The resultant material’s properties depend on the ratio of the two polymers in making the polycarbonate material.
Some manufacturers also use thermoplastic additives while making the compound to enhance the properties and get the desired resultant product.
What Are the Properties of PC-ABS?
Understanding the properties of PC+ABS is essential when using it. From being lightweight to heat resistant, polycarbonate material can provide limitless properties. These properties are useful for manufacturing products in different industries, like the power industry.
A lightweight material helps with its easy use in manufacturing different products, and that’s what polycarbonate material is. The mass per unit volume or density of a material explains its lightness. Considering the same criteria, the density of polycarbonate material is commonly 1.15 grams per cm3.
However, this density can change depending on the ratio of the two polymers used in the material. Depending on what density you are looking for will help you choose the perfect ratio of each polymer. The lower the density, the lighter your polycarbonate material will be.
We cannot label PC ABS as the lightest plastic ever. Yet considering it the most lightweight polymer would be the right thing. Surprisingly, this material is still very resistant and powerful despite its low density.
2: Transmittance/Optical Nature
Light passing through any material can be regarded as its transmittance. It also includes the amount of light that is incident to the material. You can also understand whether a material is light-transmitting or not. Knowing the optical nature of a material helps with its effective use in different applications.
Different materials have different transmittance levels. For example, glass is the most transmitted material, and light can fully pass through it.
The PC in polycarbonate material has amazingly clear optical properties. In contrast, the ABS doesn’t allow the light to pass through it fully and is usually opaque.
Thus the overall result of the polycarbonate material is slightly opaque. This limits PC+ABS material from being used in different optical applications, although polycarbonate is used for them.
The glossiness of ABS is more dominant in the polycarbonate material, giving it a mirror-like surface. Reflecting light effectively, polycarbonate material is used in applications where an opaque material is required. A PC-ABS sheet can be painted or colored easily because of its optical properties.
3: Heat Resistance
The material must be heat resistant if it is to be used in multiple applications. If the shape and properties of the material change after a particular temperature, we say it is heat resistant till that temperature. The higher the temperature, the better the material is for manufacturing.
The PC in polycarbonate material offers higher heat resistance to it. However, ABS alone didn’t possess considerable heat resistance, and that’s the first benefit of combining these two polymers.
ABS is a beautiful material for various functions, yet its lower heat resistance prevents manufacturers from molding it into select products. However, the combination of polycarbonate material helps use the glossy material in manufacturing products after passing it through high heat.
Like some heat-resistant plastics, PC-ABS’ better heat resistance contributes to its workability and processability.
4: Chemical Resistance
Depending on their composition, some materials can handle acids, volatile compounds, and other chemical reactions more easily than others. Polycarbonate compound is not resistant to oxidation processes and solvents, which sometimes limits their use.
PC ABS can be chemically resistant by being impregnated with additives and glass fibers. However, it does not provide a high resistance but helps with some applications.
5: Toughness and High Impact Strength
When you melt plastic, it transforms into liquid plastic instead of breaking down. This is an example of the toughness of a material that absorbs energy and d-forms but does not break. Materials that break at slightly high temperatures are not considered tough materials.
While impact strength is defined as the material’s resistance from breaking down with a sudden force. Knowing these two material properties helps you understand how easy a material is to break.
Toughness and impact strength is the most counted property of the PC-ABS. Even at low temperatures, when metals start breaking by losing their toughness, polycarbonate material remains unbreakable.
PC provides the required resistance, while ABS gives strength. These two properties combine, bending the polycarbonate material at high temperatures without breaking them.
Electronic appliances and automobiles need such materials to be used in manufacturing. That’s why PC ABS is extensively used in these applications.
6: UV Radiation Protected
You might have experienced d-formation or change in the color of some materials when placed under the sun. The UV radiations from the sun are powerful enough to affect the surface of some materials and ultimately damage them.
ABS gives superior UV resistance; however, PC is considerably resistant to sunlight, providing some UV protection to the polycarbonate material. The more PC is used in making the material, the better resistance the resultant material will get.
PC-ABS Mechanical Properties: What Are They?
The mechanical properties of PC-ABS help you understand how much force this material can withstand. The amount of stress and strain that polycarbonate material can handle explains how much better mechanical properties it has.
1: Tensile Strength
We discussed relatable things before while talking about the toughness of polycarbonate material. It does not break at high temperatures, and it deforms. However, a point comes when the stress level increases too much on the material, and it starts moving from elasticity to plasticity.
The measure of this stress level can be explained as the tensile strength of PC ABS. While using polycarbonate material in structural applications, tensile strength is paramount.
Considering the tensile strength of PC + ABS, it is 5900 psi/41 MPa. This overall tensile strength is lower than the individual tensile strength of PC but higher than the ABS’s tensile strength.
2: Tensile Modulus
The tensile strength ratio to the strain during the plasticity process is known as the tensile modulus. Depending on the scientist’s name who first discussed it, the tensile modulus is also known as Young’s modulus or modulus of elasticity.
In other words, the tensile modulus value explains if the material can retain its original shape when a certain amount of stress is applied.
To know how much PC-ABS can shorten when compressed or extend under tension, it’s important to calculate tensile modulus. The amazing tensile modulus of polycarbonate material gives it dimensional stability and creep resistance. Considering the tensile modulus of PC and ABS separately, they are not much, yet their combination increases the value.
3: Tensile Elongation
The elasticity of polycarbonate material is its tensile elongation. It’s also considered as the elongation almost before the point when the material breaks. So it tells the amount of stretching PC ABS can bear.
Tensile elongation is a point between elasticity and plasticity. It is important to know how a particular material has its elasticity to plasticity and tensile elongation.
A material having elongated values explains that the material is malleable and gummy. You can stretch it at long distances without breaking it. Compared, a material with small tensile elongation is highly brittle and can easily crack when stretched.
PC ABS has a 6% value of tensile elongation, which is pretty good, and it is between being ductile and brittle.
4: Flexural Strength
The three-point flexure test can calculate the flexural strength of a material. The maximum stress point at which polycarbonate material starts bending plastically defines its flexural strength. A material may have to pass through so much bending when used in structural applications.
During this bending, the material has to withstand extensive force opposite to its operating access. The polycarbonate material has good flexural strength making it workable for structural applications.
Polycarbonate material has almost 9800 psi/68 MPa flexural strength; that’s a good value.
5: Flexural Modulus
Every material has a different bending elasticity, similar to tensile modulus. This bending elasticity is known as the flexural modulus of a material, and you can consider it as a unit for understanding how stiff a material is.
The flexural modulus defines the deflection of polycarbonate material when under pressure and stress during structural applications. Flexural modulus is not important for every material.
However, those who do not break or crack easily when stress is applied need a flexural modulus measurement. The reason is that these materials have more bending capacity than breakable materials.
6: IZOD Impact Strength
IZOD impact strength is used to measure polycarbonate material’s toughness and impact strength.
The procedure of the test includes:
- Placing the specimen of polycarbonate material on an instrument with a pendulum hanging.
- The pendulum is attached with a specific weight to help it swing down easily.
- When the pendulum is thrown from a particular height, it swings down and hits the specimen with a particular force.
- The energy of the pendulum after striking the specimen is lowered. The loss of energy is measured together with the loss of characteristics of the PC ABS.
According to this test, the toughness and impact strength of the polycarbonate material is high.
What Are the Common Applications of PC-ABS?
Providing the best properties, polycarbonate material has vast applications in the engineering industries. The functional prototyping is mostly done using the PC ABS, and it’s because it can bear higher temperatures without breaking, and that’s the most required feature for prototyping.
Automotive and electronic industries have the most uses of this polycarbonate material.
Some of those uses include:
- Knee bolsters
- Glove boxes
- Blow molded seatbacks
- Laptop monitor enclosure
- Phone cases
- Computer housings
The addition of fiberglass and other additives to the polycarbonate material makes its use in multiple other industries possible. Industries like 3D printing are also considering the use of PC-ABS. The properties, strength, and constituents of polycarbonate material combine to provide high-end results in 3D printing. It ultimately gives parts the utmost strength and functionality.
What Are the Benefits of Using PC-ABS?
PC ABS is continuously being added to more and more industries because of the various benefits it offers.
Here are some intriguing benefits of PC ABS:
- Provides high-end performance in every industry with additional features.
- Its high impact strength makes it a fit for multiple applications in the automotive industry.
- A great choice for making two-colored plastic products because of its excellent weldability with plexiglass.
- Mixing different ratios of both polymers in this material, there’s a possibility of more than one grade. It helps to use the material at places where high heat and strong impact are involved.
- Despite all the strength it has, PC ABS still provides great transparency.
PC-ABS Material Specifications
As a manufacturer, you must already be convinced by the polycarbonate material’s mechanical properties. Because of the high features it offers, it is one of the most used thermoplastics in various industries in the world.
PC-ABS is durable, heat resistant, impact resistant, highly stiff, and strong. One of the best creep resistance and flow characteristics makes polycarbonate material the best material for various applications.
For a better perspective of the mechanical properties of the PC-ABS, here are its mechanical specifications.
- A heat deflection of 66 psi at 110-degree centigrade
- A total flexural modulus of 280,000 psi
- A tensile modulus of 278,000 psi
- Flexural strength of 9,800 psi
- Tensile strength of 5,900 psi
- Low chemical resistance
- Less UV resistance
- Can not deal with oxidation processes
- Poor weather ability
How is PC-ABS Made?
Depending on the desired features and specifications of polycarbonate material required by the manufacturer, a certain ratio of PC and ABS is combined. For example, if the requirement is for a material with a more glossy structure, then the quantity of ABS would be increased.
The emulsion is the process used for polymerizing the PC and ABS. The polycarbonate material can be recycled using certain procedures. So some of the PC-ABS is made from old polycarbonate material by recycling it.
Making this polycarbonate material requires the study of the mechanical and other properties of both of its components. Only then can you determine the ratio of each thermoplastic for making polycarbonate material.
What is the Difference Between PC-ABS and ABS?
PC-ABS is a collective material blended from PC and ABS. However, ABS is a mixture of three materials: acrylonitrile, butadiene, and styrene. Most of the weaknesses or drawbacks of ABS have already been reduced with the impact of PCs in this material.
Of course, the ABS has specifications, but when added to the PC, it gives better results and more specifications.
Do you know? PC-ABS is relatively more in strength as compared to ABS. So we clearly understand that the polycarbonate material is better than the ABS, possessing better qualities.
When It Comes to Plastic Injection Molding, is PC-ABS Used?
PC-ABS is formed with two good quality polymers, producing the best material. So yes, it can be used in Plastic injection molding as it has a reliable shrink rate, heat tolerance, and enhanced dimensional stability. Most other plastics are usually more breakable, while polycarbonate material can bear higher stress without bringing too much change in its characteristics.
Even using the PC and ABS alone in plastic injection molding processes does not give high-demand results. Apart from its amazing properties, there is one complication in injection molding using PC ABS. The material needs to be dry with humidity below 0.04%. It’s important as, in other cases, their molding process might fail to be successful.
PC-ABS Injection Molding – How Does It Work?
Whether it’s ABS injection molding or PC+ABS injection molding, there’s a need to follow certain conditions.
For processing polycarbonate material in injection molding, the following conditions are necessary:
- There should not be moisture content above 0.04 percent. It leads to the drying of the PC-ABS before the injection molding process. If the amount of moisture is high, then the final product of injection molding would be malleable and have different qualities. Ideally, drawing the material at 90-degree centigrade to 110-degree centigrade for 2 to 4 hours is best.
- Melting temperature should be 230 degrees centigrade to 300 degrees centigrade.
- The material injection pressure depends on the manufactured part and can be altered as per demand.
- The injection speech should be as high as possible to maintain the good quality of the product.
- Mold temperature is recommended between 50 degrees centigrade to 100 degrees centigrade.
Is PC-ABS Environmentally Friendly?
No. From whatever aspect you try to learn if polycarbonate material is environmentally friendly or not, you will get a negative response. The ABS plastic in the polycarbonate material contains multiple plastic items that cannot be recycled naturally. As this material is highly used in multiple industries, a question arises ‘Where will all its leftovers go?’. Is it possible to recycle this material naturally to reduce the environmental effect?
Sadly the answer is no. All the leftovers of polycarbonate material will be dumped in the soil, increasing environmental pollution.
However, as polycarbonate material is a thermoplastic, recycling it in the industry is possible.
Further, the polycarbonate material is heated at high temperatures. This releases chemical compounds and gasses that are unsafe for our environment, aincreasingthe air pollution already in very bad condition on our earth.
Kemal Plastic Injection Molding Services
You may be wondering if PC ABS is used in plastic injection molding. It is greatly used with advanced dimensional stability, temperature tolerance, and shrink rate. The advanced characteristics it offers to injection molding have made this material much used in different industries for molding.
Kemal provides injection molding services to international customers. We have two plus manufacturers and 6,500,000+ parts already manufactured. We have specialized teams to help you with your products and product parts. Using high-quality polycarbonate material, we manufacture your desired parts. You save plenty of time by manufacturing each part separately, consuming lots of time and money.
Whether you belong to aerospace, medical, food and beverages, automotive robotics, or any other industry, we are always there for you. 30 + trusted brands like Space X, Ford, Honeywell, and Medtronic love to work with us.
Be one of our valuable clients and enjoy worth-it services.