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A red car on the road with a plastic bumper

Types of Plastics Used in the Automotive Industry

By Carter Kho

The automotive industry is one of the most profitable and productive industries across the world, with millions of vehicles being manufactured on a yearly basis. This is due to the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the automotive manufacturing process that makes use of various materials. These materials include steel, glass, and automotive industry plastics just to name a few. Each of these materials is designed to adapt to various manufacturing processes and be flexible enough to be used for different kinds of automotive parts and applications.

 

What are the types of plastics used in the automotive industry?

When it comes to flexible types of materials used in the automotive industry, plastic is seen as the most versatile. Being easy to shape and mold into different forms, plastic can be used to produce a wide variety of automotive parts and accessories. It can also be manufactured in a shorter period of time. Automotive plastic can be easily mass-produced as well, allowing manufacturers to produce parts and accessories in bulk.

This advantage allows the plastic to create some of the most important parts of a vehicle all while providing the same quality as other materials. There are a number of different plastic types used in the automotive industry. This is why it is best to identify each type being used to create parts, accessories, and components. Here are some of the types of automotive industry plastics:

 

ABS

Interior of a car with a plastic dashboard

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, also known as ABS, is a type of plastic that is created through a process called polymerization. This process combines acrylonitrile and styrene together with polybutadiene, ending with the material. This type of plastic has a shiny and rubbery surface, making it a very flexible material to use for certain types of automotive parts and accessories.

ABS plastic is known to have a significant amount of resistance to low temperatures and high impact, along with being known to be a good insulator. This type of plastic is used in parts such as vehicle dashboards, tire covers, and certain parts of the main body.

 

Poly-Vinyl-Chloride

Poly-Vinyl-Chloride, or PVC, is a type of plastic mainly used to manufacture piping for industrial purposes. It can also be used to manufacture different types of automotive parts and components. One advantage of using PVC plastic is that it can be used in different types of plastic molding procedures. This can range from standard plastic injection molding, blow molding, to even compression molding.

PVC offers qualities such as being a flame retardant, making it very useful in high-temperature areas of a vehicle. PVC plastic can also be either rigid or flexible depending on the process, providing both adaptability and high strength to each part and component. PVC is commonly used in parts such as protective covers for electrical wiring, car doors, and instrument panels.

 

Polypropylene

Pouring car liquids from a plastic container

One of the most versatile types of plastic used across various industries, polypropylene is also a type of material used in the automotive industry. Polypropylene is a very rugged and durable material to use for automotive parts and accessories. It is known for being highly resistant to different types of substances and liquids. Due to its chemical resistant properties, polypropylene is used for parts such as containers for automotive fluid and gas. Polypropylene is also used for external parts such as bumpers, which is an important safety feature for all vehicles.

 

Polycarbonate

Polycarbonate is one of the strongest types of plastic available. It is a material used for parts and accessories that are required to be durable and hard-wearing. The hardness of the material ensures that it can withstand different forms of impact while having superior wear and tear compared to other types of plastic. The high strength of polycarbonate makes it a suitable type to be used in parts and accessories such as bumpers, headlight lenses, and even driving helmets.

 

Polystyrene

Plastic window control buttons on a car

Polystyrene is another type of plastic that is flexible and resistant to a wide variety of substances. It is quick and easy to manufacture, allowing automotive companies to produce parts and accessories in bulk. Being a transparent type of plastic, polystyrene is commonly used in parts such as car buttons and display screens in certain components and instruments.

 

Key Takeaway

Plastic remains one of the most flexible and versatile materials used in various industries, providing a great degree of quality compared to other light materials. By identifying the types of plastic used in the automotive industry, you can distinguish which types of plastic are needed to manufacture different kinds of parts.