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Know your materials: Polycarbonate/acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (PC-ABS)

The manufacturing industry is vast, and it goes without saying that the material possibilities within it are almost limitless. Between thermoplastics, thermosets, different kinds of filaments, and cutting-edge 3D printing resins like LOCTITE 3D IND405, you’ll usually be able to find a plastic that perfectly fits your use case. However, sometimes the only way to get more of the chemical and mechanical properties you want and fewer of the ones you don’t is to use a blend of compatible plastic polymers.

One of the most popular polymer blends on the market is PC-ABS, a mix of polycarbonate (PC) and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS). Here’s everything you need to know about PC-ABS plastic, from how it’s made to when to use it.

Why choose PC-ABS?

Polycarbonate/acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (PC-ABS) is an engineering thermoplastic created from a blend of PC and ABS. The unique balance of properties is dependent on the ratio of PC to ABS in the blend, the polycarbonate’s molecular weight, and any thermoplastic additives in the blend. The ratio of PC to ABS affects the heat-resistance of the final part significantly.

Engineers and product teams turn to PC-ABS when their use case requires the toughness and heat-resistance offered by PC along with the ductility and processability offered by ABS. PC-ABS is also a more cost-effective alternative to PC.

PC-ABS material properties and specifications

Due to its mechanical properties, PC-ABS plastic is one of the most widely used engineering thermoplastics in the world. This material has high strength, high stiffness, high heat resistance, and high impact resistance, even at low temperatures. PC-ABS retains its dimensional stability over time and its enhanced flow characteristics and processability make it easy to work with. Since PC-ABS is colorable and printable, designers have a lot of freedom when working with this material.

The mechanical specifications for PC-ABS include:

  • Tensile strength: 5,900 psi
  • Tensile modulus: 278,000 psi
  • Flexural strength: 9,800 psi
  • Flexural modulus: 280,000 psi
  • Heat deflection @ 66 psi: 110°C

Even though PC-ABS is extremely versatile, it does have drawbacks. For example, PC-ABS has poor weatherability and low fatigue endurance even though it’s strong. This material also has low chemical, UV, and oxidation resistance, but engineers can improve these properties by using reinforcing agents like fiber fillers or thermoplastic additives.

Popular applications for PC-ABS

Polycarbonate/acrylonitrile butadiene styrene is most commonly used in the automotive and electronics industries. PC-ABS plastic is used to make glove boxes, overhead and middle consoles, knee bolsters, blow-molded seatbacks, and more. PC-ABS is also found in many popular consumer electronics, including TV frames, laptop monitor enclosures, phone exteriors, and parts of a wide variety of other portable hand-held devices.

PC-ABS car
PC-ABS plastic is one of the most widely used engineering thermoplastics in the world and commonly found in automotive interiors.

Getting started with PC-ABS

PC-ABS brings together the best properties of polycarbonate and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene in a thermoplastic blend that’s highly processible with excellent mechanical properties. It’s tough, easy to manufacture with, and able to withstand numerous high-temperature applications.

Do you think polycarbonate/acrylonitrile butadiene styrene is the right material for your next project? A manufacturing expert like Fast Radius can help ensure you’re making the right decision. We have years of experience seeing our partners through the material selection process, and can help make the journey as painless as possible. Contact us today — let’s create something incredible.

Check out our resource center for in-depth material guides on nylon, polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), and many more.

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