What Are the Differences Between Elastomers and Plastics?

Plastics and elastomers are common types of polymers, but their similarity ends there. Polymers are made up of chains of monomers, which are molecules that can be chemically bonded together. The structure, chemical composition and behavior of polymers determine whether products are classified as plastics or elastomers. 


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Elastomer vs. Plastic

Elastomer exhibits rubber-like flexibility, while plastic is rigid or semi-rigid. Elastomers are able to return to absorb impact or stretching and return to their original shape. Plastic is usually more suitable for molding and shaping into various forms through processes that include injection molding or extrusion. Plastic is also more durable and shows greater resistance to damage from chemicals.

Are Elastomers Considered to Be Plastics? 

The term elastomer is often used to describe any flexible, elastic material. Although many elastomers are related to plastic, the term also includes natural rubber, which is a natural biodegradable material. While some elastomers are related to plastic, there are exceptions. Natural rubber is an elastomer, but it is not plastic.

What Are Elastomers Used for?

The high elasticity of elastomers makes it ideal for applications requiring resilience and flexibility. These include sealing, shock absorption and vibration dampening. Practical examples of products made from elastomers include tires, seals, footwear, wetsuits, conveyor belts and O-rings. 


What Are Plastics Used for? 

Thermoset plastics and thermoplastics are the main types of plastics used. Although both are plastics, the subsets differ significantly in structure, behavior and application. 

  • Thermoset plastics: Thermoset plastics are rigid, strong materials that undergo permanent chemical change during the manufacturing process. They cannot be melted and reprocessed. Examples include pipes, medical implants and boat hulls.
  • Thermoplastics: This type of plastic can be melted and reused multiple times, which makes it recyclable and versatile enough to be used in a much wider variety of applications. Examples of thermoplastic applications include electrical cables, toys, bottles, automotive parts and sports equipment. 

Which Material Is Right for Your Project?

Although plastic and elastomer are polymers, each has specific properties. Choosing the right material the first time can keep your oilfield and agricultural equipment running smoothly for longer and save you money. Factors including temperature, chemical interactions and industry regulations are vital in deciding whether elastomer or plastic components are most suitable for each application. 

Global Elastomeric Products, Inc. Is Here to Help!


Global Elastomeric Products, Inc. Is Here to Help!

Our experienced team is available to answer any questions you have about elastomer or plastic parts for your projects. We can even provide custom-made products

Contact us to speak to one of our experts about choosing the right material for your application. 

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Global Elastomeric Products, Inc.

Main Phone: (661) 831-5380 
5551 District Blvd.
Bakersfield, CA 93313