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Recently the organization Redwood Plastics is part of, the International Association of Plastics Distributors IAPD ( came out with the 12th edition of the “Introduction To Plastics” training manual. The book is a rich source of plastic information with the goal to be a resource in helping us match an application to our customer’s needs. One of the new additions are seven questions to ask when selecting a performance plastic and the answers will help narrow down what you need. We wanted to post these questions to you here to get you thinking about what we need to know, to help you!

1.) Do you need to see through it (does the material need to be transparent)?

There are not many see through plastics available, so if the answer is “yes” this narrows down selection substantially.

2.) What is the operating temperature?

A very critical piece of information customers rarely offer up in their initial inquiry, operating temperature is key. Not just how hot the environment is, but how cold (cryogenic) it is as well. There are plastics that handle very low, and very high, temperatures but we need to know the environment we have to work with.

3.) Does it have to be chemical or corrosion resistant?

Not knowing can cause unforeseen problems. For example, certain vehicles use black ABS plastic in external applications on the outside of the car. Because the material is relatively cheap and the black is UV-stable. However, ABS is attacked by petroleum products like oil and gasoline! Unfortunately many car owners have likely had to learn the damage a splash of gasoline has caused the ABS trim on his/her car.

4.) What are the tensile/load requirements?

Again, this is an issue that keeps popping up with us at Redwood. For example, we get customers that request UHMW round bar stock for bushing applications. When we ask about the load it’s usually typical of a bushing application (2500-4000PSI) however, the customer is often surprised to learn UHMW can bear only perhaps 700PSI max in a bearing. If we didn’t inquire, we would have many disappointed customers!

5.) What specific characteristics are desired?

Meaning what do you need out of the plastic in addition to its basic properties: UV-resistance? Color? Lubrication? Electrical insulator? Etc.

6.) What are the special needs?

What we mean here are certifications. For example, if we sell fiberglass ladder systems to a water treatment plant we need to know if NSF 61 certification for potable water is required. It’s best to let us know which certifications are required right off the bat as that may preclude our ability to quote.

7.) What is the motivator or driving interest (for choosing plastic in general)?

This could be increased lifespan, noise or weight reduction, corrosion resistance or several other reasons. Facts are that while plastics may be less expensive than metals in certain applications, often the upfront cost per-piece is more expensive. So exploring an application simply hoping “plastic is cheap” will often lead to disappointment. This is especially true with performance plastics as Redwood Plastics deals in. The good news is that if you have a need for various properties or lifespan that metal or other traditional materials cannot supply, then plastics are an effective solution in countless applications!

For assistance with your application contact us today.