Since the 1930s, savvy manufacturers and designers have been driving a technical explosion in plastics, and today there are over 30 product families and literally thousands of individual grades, from the familiar to the exotic. Much of this growth has come with the large-scale switch from metal to plastics, and with good reason.

  • Almost unlimited design freedom

  • Welcoming, user-friendly colors and surfaces

  • Inherent rust and corrosion resistance

  • Parts consolidation

  • Electrical and thermal insulation at no extra cost

  • Light weight

  • Functional additives such as biocides, odorants, and lubricants are easily “built in”

  • Electrical and thermal conductivity can be precisely tailored to the application

  • Many products can be manufactured in a single step

  • Easy, low-cost assembly and fabrication

But switching from metal to plastic should be done with care. With all its advantages, plastic may not be the best choice.

  • Metal is stiffer at equivalent thickness

  • Metal is naturally conductive, both electrically and thermally

  • Metal provides inherent radio and magnetic shielding

  • Metal provides low-cost resistance to high temperatures

What this all means is that switching from metal to plastic should start with an in-depth analysis of what the product is designed to do. Simply replacing a metal part with an identical plastic part fails to take advantage of plastic’s enormous versatility. Think in terms of possibilities. Ask the right questions. Measure the costs and benefits. Chances are, you’ll make the switch.