When choosing the best plastic for your needs, it is important to consider environmental factors that could potentially limit the life of your plastic product or part. For outdoor applications, UV radiation is one of the primary causes of plastic degradation in outdoor equipment. Luckily, there are a number of plastic materials available on the market that are UV resistant.
One of the most common plastics used in outdoor applications is acrylic. In addition to being UV resistant, consumers value acrylic highly for its optical clarity and scratch resistance. It is transparent, and color can be easily added throughout the material; therefore, it is a popular option for outdoor signage, retail displays, light fixtures, decorative panels, reflectors, and colored lenses. The material is somewhat rigid and brittle, so it is not ideal for applications in which high pressure or heavy impacts are common.
A more durable UV resistant alternative, polycarbonate is highly impact resistant. It exhibits comparable clarity and transparency to acrylic, but is tougher and more tolerant of temperature extremes. These qualities make polycarbonate perfect for heavy-duty products, like safety goggles and shields, helmets, safety windows, and containers. This material is more expensive than acrylic, but is perfect for applications that place the material under more pressure than acrylic would be able to handle.
High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) is an ethylene-based polymer plastic which is created by exposing petroleum to extreme heat and pressure. It’s among the most commonly used plastics worldwide, and in addition to UV resistance, has a variety of useful traits. As a thermoplastic, it easily melts and molds into required shapes. The ease with which it is formed and the fact that it is inexpensive to produce make it extremely popular for molded products such as containers, bottles, outdoor furniture, plastic toys, and pipes. HDPE is tough and difficult to tear, but although it is more impact resistant than acrylic, it is not ideal for high-impact or high pressure applications.
Polyetherimide (PEI) is a UV resistant plastic that is particularly useful in industrial, mechanical, and chemical applications. It is an exceptionally strong material that exhibits superior heat resistance, tensile strength, and chemical stability when exposed to acids. It allows for manufacture as a transparent or translucent material; polyetherimide sees much use in automotive, industrial, electrical, and medical applications. PEI excels in heavy industrial or mechanical applications which experience repetitive pressure and extreme temperatures. Manufacturers use it in electrical components and covers, heat shields, temperature sensors, automobile parts, and aerospace engine components.
Polyphenylene Sulfide (PPS) is an extremely useful UV resistant plastic that is exceptionally flame- and heat-resistant. It exhibits excellent chemical resistance and producers highly value it for its overall chemical stability. It is a crystalline polymer based plastic, which makes it strong and durable, but also limits it to darker colors. By itself, PPS can be brittle, but it blends easily with fibers and other fillers to enhance its toughness. PPS finds many uses in automotive parts, aerospace components, industrial pumps, electrical components, and medical equipment.
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