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Plastics are a great solution to problems of wear, noise and abrasion in many industries and outperform traditional materials in countless applications. However, at times, plastics will fail due to several possible reasons. The good news is by understanding where failure happens, you can minimize or avoid the chances of failure in your application. To assist you, our customer, we wanted to summarize and expand on this article by the directory ThomasNet.Phenolic_2

Failure can happen in one of four sections of the part process: selection, design, manufacturing or service. As your distributor, working with you we can minimize the chances of failure in three of those parts of the process – we only do not have control of the manufacturing. Therefore we will focus on those other three areas.


This is probably where most of the avoidable errors happen. Commonly, this is because the right material is not chosen due to the desire for a cheaper (and lower performing) plastic than the application requires or simple lack of knowledge about various properties of a plastic that an end-user really needs to know. For example, the common UV-stabilizing additive carbon black also can make the plastic electrically conductive. If a customer does not know that and we do not know of electrical concerns the plastic may fail in the application – and even be dangerous. As we stress to our customers, the benefits of choosing the correct plastic for an application, regardless of price, do pay off in a longer lifecycle, increased safety and reduced downtime.


As your distributor, when we assist with a design some of this responsibility does fall on us. However, to minimize failure in design we need as much information as possible. Specific figures for tolerances, measurements and other requirements. Unfortunately, critical information is sometimes withheld by our customers as they are fearful of revealing too much information on a unique part or application. Please know that Redwood Plastics holds itself to the highest degree of ethics on confidentiality with your part so please, do not hold back on the application or any information we require to design accurately.

If the design is done by an end-user, the best way we can minimize failure is by having you provide an accurate drawing with all dimensions and tolerances listed.


In the field failures can often occur from mistakes committed before field use; however, failures can also occur if the end-user has not provided accurate parameters for the part when installed. There could also be a chain of errors that lead to failure in the field. For example, a bearing material for an extreme application where external lubrication is difficult was selected anyways without lubricating additive (to reduce costs) in the selection process and then bearing loads were underestimated in design. In this case failure is possible, if not probable.

In concluding, we as your distributor are here to bring our knowledge and experience to assist you in the correct plastic for your application. However, to do our job effectively we require accurate information on the application and a willingness to select and proceed with the design based on the optimum material for the job. There are many reasons that can lead to failure of a plastic part – but working together – these can be reduced if not eliminated.

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