What Is ABS Plastic?

Plastic building blocks, isolated on white

Since coming into widespread usage in the early to middle years of the last century, plastics have become important materials in almost every industry. Of the plastics that are widely available on the market today, perhaps none is more widely used than acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, better known as ABS.

Properties of ABS Plastic

The reason that abs plastic enclosure fabricating has come into the wide use that it has is the fact that it has a relatively rare combination of physical properties. Despite being an amorphous polymer, it is both strong and relatively durable, a marked advantage over other plastics that are either excessively brittle or too weak for most applications. Differences in the exact production method can, however, alter these properties somewhat.

Another important property of ABS from a manufacturing perspective is its color, which in its raw form is white. Because of this entirely neutral coloration, ABS can easily be dyed to any color that is desired during the manufacturing process. This enhances the already substantial versatility of ABS, as it can easily be given permanent coloration rather than having to be painted to be a specific color.

How is ABS Made?

Being a polymer, ABS is made from a series of smaller molecules known as monomers. These monomers, which give ABS its unique properties, are usually combined in what is known as an emulsion process. In emulsion, monomers are placed in a solution with other chemicals and allowed to combine with each other, eventually resulting in a polymer. Emulsion manufacturing is not unique to ABS, and is in fact used to make several other common polymers. ABS can also be produced by another, less well-known process called continuous mass polymerization, in which the combination of monomers takes place in several stages.

Uses of ABS

Probably the most amazing thing about ABS plastic is the fact that it is used in so many different ways throughout so many different industries. In fact, you probably encounter ABS many times throughout the course of any given day without even realizing it. This durable plastic is used for everything from children’s toys to the plastic wheels on modern walk-behind lawnmowers. It is even used by kiosk manufacturers. In any application that requires impact resistance and durability at a reasonable cost, ABS can usually be found.

How are Products Manufactured From ABS?

The manufacturing of plastic products was one of the greatest emerging industries of the 20th century, producing many innovative methods for creating useful items out of raw plastic. When it comes to manufacturing products from ABS, the most common method is known as injection molding. In an injection molding process, pellets of a plastic such as ABS are melted and then injected into a mold under high pressure. When the plastic cools, the resulting product takes on the shape of the mold itself.

More recently, however, ABS has also become a key material used in new 3D printing technologies. Because it can be manipulated easily when it is heated to a high enough temperature, ABS is an ideal material for 3D printers that lay down layers of heated material that then cool to form a single three-dimensional object. ABS, being strong enough to be functional in many different applications yet printable in this fashion, has become one of the most commonly 3D printed materials. Unlike injection molding, which uses ABS pellets, 3D printing requires long spools of the raw material.