Plastic vs. Plastics…

While consulting, a technician asked me this question yesterday…

I’m confused, are we making parts out of ‘plastic’ or ‘plastics’. Which is correct? What is the difference?

My Response
The word ‘Plastic’ refers to something which is flexible or malleable. Although most synthetic polymers are flexible, there are a many materials which also have these properties including lead, butter, clay, and beeswax.
The word ‘Plastics’ refers to polymeric materials… these can be synthetic or natural, thermoset or thermoplastic, and semi-crystalline or amorphous.
Additional Thoughts
In the industry, the two terms are used almost interchangeably. Much of the industry literature has completely ignored the difference between the two since few people actually know the difference between the two term. I have used the word plastic in place of plastics because it reads better in many cases. For example, ‘The best plastic for the application is ABS‘ reads better than The best plastics for the application is ABS’.

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