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ABS vs Polyurethane - Which one do you choose?

Typically, Injection molded ABS is a commonly referred to material that is often found in a variety of applications. However, have you recently stop to think if there's anything comparable that can offer improved physical properties and lower tooling costs? In this post, we will compare the differences between ABS plastics versus reaction injection molding (RIM) parts and when it's best to choose one over the other.

Reaction Injection Molded part

What is Injection Molded ABS & how does it differ from RIM polyurethane?

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) is an engineered thermoplastic formed by three synthetic materials, while polyurethanes are typically identified as a thermoset. Unlike ABS plastics, thermoset polyurethanes do not melt when heated, instead, are formed through a two-part liquid system. While both materials may have similar mechanical properties, thermoset polyurethanes offer designers a more robust material set with an endless range of customizable formulations and several manufacturing capabilities to choose from. For additional information on thermoplastics versus thermosets, click here.

Reaction Injection Molded wood surface finishDepending on the material, parts complexity and volume will often dictate the appropriate manufacturing process that best suits your design needs. Typically, thermosets are either cast or reaction injection molded (RIM), while, thermoplastics are most often injection molded. Despite having a similar name and process to injection molding, RIM offers designers more design freedom, including thick and thin wall selections for lighter parts. To learn more about RIM and how it can improve your application's performance, click here.

RIM polyurethane vs Injection Molded ABS

Unlike ABS plastics, RIM can produce stronger, lightweight parts with unique surface finishes and intricate geometries. For this reason, RIM is often preferred for structural housings and various sized equipment. ABS plastics, on the other hand, are commonly utilized in a variety of consumer goods, such as plastic toys and electronics. Below is a chart to further breakdown the differences between RIM and ABS plastics: 

   RIM Polyurethane        Injection Molded ABS    
  • Flexibility to produce rigid, elastomeric & foam products
  • Can withstand being heated & cooled multiple times
  • Longer material wear in corrosive environments
  • Low melting point; not suitable for high-temp applications
  • Can include sub-components in various materials  
  • Poor UV and solvent resistance
  • Lower tooling costs
  • Higher tooling costs 
  • Offers a more economical set-up for small & large runs
  • Offers a higher production out-put rate

So, which one do you choose?

RIM polyurethanes and Injection molded ABS both have their own advantages and disadvantages that can make or break your applications performance and budget. When evaluating different materials, it is important to consider the design requirements, volume and tooling in order to produce efficient products and components. To learn more if RIM is right for you, contact our polyurethane Tech Experts, here - we'd be happy to help! 

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