Thermosetting Plastics

General properties of thermosetting plastics are described in Art. 4.68. Following are properties of several thermosetting plastics used in buildings:
Phenol Formaldehyde. These materials provide the greatest variety of thermosetting molded plastic articles. They are used for chemical, decorative, electrical, mechanical, and thermal applications of all kinds. Hard and rigid, they change slightly, if at all, on aging indoors but, on outdoor exposure, lose their bright surface gloss. However, the outdoor-exposure characteristics of the more durable formulations are otherwise generally good. Phenol formaldehydes have good electrical properties, do not burn readily, and do not support combustion. They are strong, light in weight, and generally pleasant to the eye and touch, although light colors by and large are not obtainable because of the fairly dark-brown basic color of the resin. They have low water absorption and good resistance to attack by most commonly found chemicals.
Epoxy and Polyester Casting Resins. These are used for a large variety of purposes.
For example, electronic parts with delicate components are sometimes cast completely in these materials to give them complete and continuous support, and resistance to thermal and mechanical shock. Some varieties must be cured at elevated temperatures; others can be formulated to be cured at room temperatures.
One of the outstanding attributes of the epoxies is their excellent adhesion to a variety of materials, including such metals as copper, brass, steel, and aluminum.

Polyester Molding Materials. When compounded with fibers, particularly glass fibers, or with various mineral fillers, including clay, the polyesters can be formulated into putties or premixes that are easily compression- or transfer-molded into parts having high impact resistance. Polyesters are often used in geotextiles (Art. 6.11.2).
Melamine Formaldehyde. These materials are unaffected by common organic solvents, greases, and oils, as well as most weak acids and alkalies. Their water absorption is low. They are insensitive to heat and are highly flame-resistant, depending on the filler. Electrical properties are particularly good, especially resistance to arcing. Unfilled materials are highly translucent and have unlimited color possibilities.
Principal fillers are alpha cellulose for general-purpose compounding; minerals to improve electrical properties, particularly at elevated temperatures; chopped fabric to afford high shock resistance and flexural strength; and cellulose, mainly for electrical purposes.
Cellulose Acetate Butyrate. The butyrate copolymer is inherently softer and more flexible than cellulose acetate and consequently requires less plasticizer to achieve a given degree of softness and flexibility. It is made in the form of clear transparent sheet and film, or in the form of molding powders, which can be molded by standard injection-molding procedures into a wide variety of applications. Like the other cellulosics, this material is inherently tough and has good impact resistance. It has infinite colorability, like the other cellulosics. Cellulose acetate butyrate tubing is used for such applications as irrigation and gas lines.
Cellulose Nitrate. One of the toughest of the plastics, cellulose nitrate is widely used for tool handles and similar applications requiring high impact strength. The high flammability requires great caution, particularly in the form of film. Most commercial photographic film is cellulose nitrate as opposed to safety film.
Polyurethane. This plastic is used in several ways in building. As thermal insulation, it is used in the form of foam, either prefoamed or foamed in place. The latter is particularly useful in irregular spaces. When blown with fluorocarbons, the foam has an exceptionally low K-factor and is, therefore, widely used in thin-walled refrigerators. Other uses include field-applied or baked-on clear or colored coatings and finishes for floors, walls, furniture, and casework generally. The rubbery form is employed for sprayed or troweled-on roofing, and for gaskets and calking compounds.
Urea Formaldehyde. Like the melamines, these offer unlimited translucent to opaque color possibilities, light-fastness, good mechanical and electrical properties, and resistance to organic solvents as well as mild acids and alkalies. Although there is no swelling or change in appearance, the water absorption of urea formaldehyde is relatively high, and it is therefore not recommended for applications involving long exposure to water. Occasional exposure to water is without deleterious effect.
Strength properties are good, although special shock-resistant grades are not made.
Silicones. Unlike other plastics, silicones are based on silicon rather than carbon.
As a consequence, their inertness and durability under a wide variety of conditions are outstanding. As compared with the phenolics, their mechanical properties are poor, and consequently glass fibers are added. Molding is more difficult than with  other thermosetting materials. Unlike most other resins, they may be used in continuous operations at 400F; they have very low water absorption; their dielectric properties are excellent over an extremely wide variety of chemical attack; and under outdoor conditions their durability is particularly outstanding. In liquid solutions, silicones are used to impart moisture resistance to masonry walls and to fabrics. They also form the basis for a variety of paints and other coatings capable of maintaining flexibility and inertness to attack at high temperatures in the presence of ultraviolet sunlight and ozone. Silicone rubbers maintain their flexibility at much lower temperatures than other rubbers.

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