Thermoplastic vs Thermosetting: Difference and Comparison

Since the growth of life, human beings have started to depend on plastic for their day-to-day chores. The inclusion of plastic has become hazardous and is a serious problem.

But not all types of plastic are harmful, and some are useful, like Bakelite. The two types of plastic prevalent in society are thermoplastic and thermosetting plastic. 

Key Takeaways

  1. Thermoplastics sand melt when heated, making them easily moldable and recyclable, while thermosetting plastics harden permanently after being heated and can’t be remolded.
  2. Thermoplastics have lower molecular weights than thermosetting plastics, resulting in a weaker structure.
  3. Thermosetting plastics exhibit higher heat resistance and dimensional stability than thermoplastics.

Thermoplastic vs Thermosetting

The difference between thermoplastic and thermosetting plastic is that they are made from different procedures. Thermoplastic is made up of straight or slightly branched chains,. Through addition polymerization, whereas thermosetting is highly branched along with that, it has cross-links and is made with condensation polymerization. 

Thermoplastic vs Thermosetting

Thermoplastic is a class of polymer that has been formed due to the difference in flexibility, elasticity, etc. Thermoplastic is an addition polymer of hydrocarbons and has the property that, on heating, it can be remoulded again.

Thermoplastic is used for various household activities like pipes, polythene, etc. A few of the common examples are polyvinyls, polystyrene and polyethene. 

Thermosetting plastic is another class of polymer that contains hydroxides and nitride polymers.

Thermosetting plastic is formed by condensation polymerization, and on heating, it does not have the property to be remoulded again.

There are various household activities like the handle of a pan; cookers are made up of thermosetting plastic like Bakelite, etc. 

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonThermoplasticThermosetting
Formation processOn the provision of heat, they melt and can be remoulded into another shape.Thermosetting plastic is made by the process of condensation polymerization. 
StructureThe structure of such polymers varies from straight to slightly branched. The structure is highly branched and has many cross-links. 
Property on heatingStrong forces of hydrogen bonds join them together. On heating, they cannot be converted into another shape. 
ForcesThe shape is formed and intact due to the Van der Waal forces. The fundamental property of thermoplastics is that they are soft and weak. 
NatureThe basic property of thermoplastics is that they are soft and weak. The properties that make them suitable for various procedures are hardness and brittleness. 

What is Thermoplastic? 

Thermoplastic is a polymer that is inherited from the roots of human beings. From simple polythene to major PVC‘s thermoplastic is used.

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Thermoplastic can also be called a class that contains various polymers with the same properties as softness and the ability to break easily. 

The process of addition polymerization forms thermoplastic. In addition to polymerization, the polymer is formed, and straight or slightly branched.

It also ensures that no sub-product is formed while the main product is created. In addition, they are linked by the Van der Waal forces of attraction that are less strong and can be broken easily. 

The polymer shows a variety of properties and has a less brittle nature. They are soft, weak and also can be moulded easily.

They are less elastic,, which means they can be easily broken on stretching them. Due to being straight chains, they have less molecular weight and are easy to carry, and this also provides them with the property to be soluble in organic solvents. 

They are available in various forms. Some examples are polyvinyls, polystyrene, polyethene, etc. The monomers also have only two reaction sites,; on heating, they can be easily remoulded into other shapes. 


What is Thermosetting? 

Thermosetting plastic is yet another class of polymers that are visible to us in our day-to-day lives.

They are available in many forms, like the lid of a pan, handle of a pan and cookers,, and used in conjugation with many other polymers to have a perfect balance. 

Thermosetting plastic is formed by the use of condensation polymerization. The process involves making sub-products during the primary reaction and includes various sub-products like water, alcohol, etc.

It can also be defined as a step-by-step procedure in which atoms shift, and then the main product is formed. They are held by more vital forces which are known as hydrogen forces. 

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Thermosetting plastic has various natures that are different for some polymers of that class, but the essential properties are the same. They are hard and brittle.

They have deficient elasticity and higher molecular weights, making them difficult to carry and lift. They are more robust due to strong forces. 

Examples of thermosetting plastics are Bakelite, urea-formaldehyde resins, etc. These monomers have more reaction sites as they can be nitrides, carboxylic groups, etc.

On heating, they lose their property of remoulding and are insoluble in organic solvents. 

Main Differences Between Thermoplastic and Thermosetting 

  1. Thermoplastic is formed due to addition polymerization, and thermosetting plastic is formed due to condensation polymerization. 
  2. The molecular weights of thermoplastic are less and thermosetting plastics have higher molecular weights. 
  3. Because thermoplastic is straight and slightly branched, chains are soluble in organic solvents, whereas thermosetting plastics are insoluble due to being highly branched. 
  4. The monomers of the two polymers have the difference that thermoplastic has two reaction sites, whereas thermosetting plastics have more than two. 
  5. On heating, thermoplastics can be remoulded, whereas thermosetting plastics cannot be remoulded or softened. 
Difference Between Thermoplastic and Thermosetting



Last Updated : 02 July, 2023

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9 thoughts on “Thermoplastic vs Thermosetting: Difference and Comparison”

  1. I find it fascinating how the different processes of addition and condensation polymerization lead to the creation of thermoplastic and thermosetting plastics.

  2. The comparison table is very well laid out and makes it easy to understand the differences between thermoplastic and thermosetting plastics.

  3. This post makes it clear how harmful plastic can be for the environment. We should find alternatives to reduce our plastic consumption.

  4. I had no idea about the many differences between thermoplastic and thermosetting plastics. Thank you for sharing all this valuable information!


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