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Everything You Need to Know About ABS Plastic

  • Author:Edith
  • Source:www.xy-global.com
  • Release on:2018-05-29
What is ABS Plastic?

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) is an opaque thermoplastic and amorphous polymer. “Thermoplastic” (as opposed to “thermoset”) has to do with the way the material responds to heat. Thermoplastics become liquid (i.e. have a “glass transition”) at a certain temperature (221 degrees Fahrenheit in the case of ABS plastic). They can be heated to their melting point, cooled, and re-heated again without significant degradation. Instead of burning, thermoplastics like ABS liquefy which allows them to be easily injection molded and then subsequently recycled. By contrast, thermoset plastics can only be heated once (typically during the injection molding process). The first heating causes thermoset materials to set (similar to a 2-part epoxy), resulting in a chemical change that cannot be reversed. If you tried to heat a thermoset plastic to a high temperature a second time it would simply burn. This characteristic makes thermoset materials poor candidates for recycling. ABS is also an amorphous material meaning that it does not exhibit the ordered characteristics of crystalline solids.

How is ABS made?

ABS is most commonly polymerized through the process of emulsion (the mixture of multiple products that don’t typically combine into a single product). A well known example of an emulsified product is milk. ABS is also created, albeit less commonly, by a patented process known as continuous mass polymerization. Globally, the most common methodology to create ABS is the emulsion process.

It is important to note that because ABS is a thermoplastic material, it can be easily recycled as mentioned above. This means that a common way of producing ABS plastic is from other ABS plastic (i.e. making ABS from ABS). Read more about recyclable plastics such as polypropylene here.

What is ABS used for?

There are countless applications for ABS. Among the most widely identifiable are keys on a computer keyboard, power-tool housing, the plastic face-guard on wall sockets (oftentimes a PC/ABS blend), and LEGO toys.

What are the properties of ABS?

ABS is very structurally sturdy, which is why it is used in things like camera housings, protective housings, and packaging. If you need an inexpensive, strong, stiff plastic that holds up well to external impacts, ABS is a good choice.



Technical Name

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS)

Chemical Formula

(C8H8)x· (C4H6)y·(C3H3N)z)

Glass Transition

105 °C (221 °F) *

Typical Injection Molding Temperature

204 - 238 °C (400 - 460 °F) *

Heat Deflection Temperature (HDT)

98 °C (208 °F) at 0.46 MPa (66 PSI) **


60 °C (140 °F) ***

Tensile Strength

46 MPa (6600 PSI) ***

Flexural Strength

74 MPa (10800 PSI) ***

Specific Gravity


Shrink Rate

0.5-0.7 % (.005-.007 in/in) ***

*At standard state (at 25 °C (77 °F), 100 kPa), ** Source data, *** Source data

Click here to learn more about other types of Plastics