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Polycarbonate vs ABS Injection Molding – A Comparative Guide

steven chengLast Seen: Jan 3, 2024 @ 3:55am 3JanUTC
steven cheng

4th December 2023 | 17 Views
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Polycarbonate vs ABS: Injection Molding Characteristics & Applications


As two of the most prevalent engineering thermoplastic resins, polycarbonate (PC) and ABS each offer distinct mechanical, thermal and molding traits suited for various applications and manufacturing considerations. Understanding key distinctions and how PC and ABS perform in the injection molding process enables designing optimal parts and tools for either material.

This overview compares polycarbonate versus ABS injection molding across material backgrounds, properties profiles, processing requirements, tool design factors and common uses. We also cover hybrid formulations that blend these popular resins to meet specialized performance targets.

Heading 2: Polycarbonate (PC) Background and Material Properties

Polycarbonate is an amorphous engineering thermoplastic noted for an exceptional balance of impact resistance, ductility and strength at both ambient and elevated temperatures. With benefits like wide operating temperatures, dimensional stability and optical clarity, polycarbonate injection molding serves diverse markets from electronics to automobile lenses and riot shields.

Key material attributes include:

  • High tensile & flexural strength
  • Heat and impact resistance
  • Transparency and UV/chemical resistance in pure forms
  • Wide operating temps from -20°C to 120°C
  • Flame retardant grades available

Polycarbonate does carry higher raw material cost than basic resins, owing to complex manufacturing drawn from petrochemical and bio-based feedstocks. Pricing directly correlates to oil/gas markets as a result. This cost premium makes optimizing PC mold tooling and injection molding all the more important.

ABS Injection Molding Material Profile

ABS, short for acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, is another widely molded amorphous thermoplastic polymer known for its strength, surface quality and versatility across applications. Dominating segments like automotive body panels and consumer appliances, ABS combines useful characteristics of its component monomers in an affordable, easily processed material.

Valued material attributes of ABS shaped through injection molding include:

  • Good dimensional stability and chemical resistance
  • High rigidity, tensile and impact strength
  • Variety of aesthetically pleasing finishes
  • Cost effectiveness over engineering resins
  • Wide range of custom formulations

ABS does carry lower heat resistance than PC – its bulk polymer degrades above 80°C versus polycarbonate’s 120°C threshold. Such constraints influence tooling and process considerations during molding.

Heading 2: Comparing Injection Molding Process Factors

Molding preparation and machinery configuration does vary when handling polycarbonate versus ABS resins. Key processing differences to consider:

Melt Temperatures Polycarbonate flows optimally around 280 – 320°C melt ranges to both fill molds efficiently and minimize material degradation. ABS melts at lower 220 – 260°C profiles, using less heating energy.

Mold Temperatures PC’s higher melt temperature drives use of higher mold surface temps, generally 90 – 120°C. ABS molds run cooler in the 45 – 60°C range. Proper tool temps prevent unsightly surface defects.

Fill Rates
The fast injection speeds enabled by polycarbonate’s low melt viscosity allow mold cavity fill rates over 200 mm/s. Slower fill rates around 100 mm/s suit ABS’s higher viscosity profile.

Clamp Pressure ABS molding requires substantially less mold clamp force than polycarbonate, owing to lower injection pressures. Expect 2,000 – 3,000 kN for PC versus just 650 – 1,200 kN ABS ranges.Creating with Clarity: Polycarbonate Molding Solutions: Explore Here

Tooling Design Factors for Polycarbonate and ABS Molds

Several tooling considerations relate to these PC and ABS material differences during injection molding:

Vent Depth Polycarbonate’s lower viscosity and faster fill rates require deeper mold venting to facilitate air evacuation. ABS vents can be comparatively shallow.

Draft Angles ABS allows more flexibility in draft angles for demolding – polycarbonate’s higher surface friction demands more release angle. 3-5° works well.

Surface Polish
To prevent friction and avoid damaging molds, polycarbonate mandates highly polished mold cavity surfaces – 15-25 μin Ra or lower range finish.

Steel Types
Hardened tool steel (48 HRC) provides required longevity for abrasive PC polymers under higher molding temperatures and shear rates. Pre-hardened or softer ABS molds suffice.

Weighing PC vs ABS Material Selection

In deciding on polycarbonate or ABS injection molding, consider part environment and function against economics:

Strength & Impact Resistance
For aggressive impact strength even in sub-zero conditions, polycarbonate rules. Heat-aged PC retains good ductility also. But ABS reasonably satisfies many applications.

Flame Retardance PC’s high oxygen index suits strict flammability standards in electronics and building materials. Compliant ABS exists but performs inferior.

ABS offers a wider range of decorative effects and hot gloss finishes. But ultra clarity from polycarbonate serves optical display purposes.

Cost Factors Up to 4-5x material price differences between PC and ABS makes the latter compelling for high volume programs where technical requirements allow. But polycarbonate realizes far more value in demanding applications. ABS Molded Perfection: Unveiling ABS Injection Molding: Discover More

 Blend Formulations Expand Possibilities

Rather than limiting to conventional polycarbonates or ABS, custom formulations that blend both in varied ratios provide the best of both worlds. Common combinations include:

PC/ABS Alloys
Impact modified blends that improve baseline ABS toughness and heat range while minimizing overall cost. 30% PC balances economics and performance.

ABS/PC Blends Increase temperature resistance and tensile strength compared to ABS while retaining moldability. Useful where high PC content raises concerns.

In summary PC and ABS both continue evolving to supply quality, functional solutions across countless injection molding applications. Leveraging their inherent strengths while minimizing shortcomings via custom alloys gives product designers maximum design freedom. Work closely with your injection molder and material partner to validate selections via prototyping trials.

steven chengLast Seen: Jan 3, 2024 @ 3:55am 3JanUTC

steven cheng



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