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Tensile Property Testing of Plastics

Ultimate Tensile Strength

The ability to resist breaking under tensile stress is one of the most important and widely measured properties of materials used in structural applications. The force per unit area (MPa or psi) required to break a material in such a manner is the ultimate tensile strength or tensile strength at break . The rate at which a sample is pulled apart in the test can range from 0.2 to 20 inches per minute and will influence the results. The analogous test to measure tensile properties in the ISO system is ISO 527. The values reported in the ASTM D638 and ISO 527 tests in general do not vary significantly and either test will provide good results early in the material selection process. Separate tensile test methods are commonly applied to polymer films (ASTM D882) and elastomers (ASTM D412).

The figure below, from Quadrant Engineering Plastic Products, shows the test geometry.

Test geometry to measure ultimate tensile strength, tensile elongation, and tensile modulus in plastics; ASTM D638 ASTM D638:
For this test, plastic samples are either machined from stock shapes or injection molded. The tensile testing machine pulls the sample from both ends and measures the force required to pull the specimen apart and how much the sample stretches before breaking.

Tensile Elongation

The ultimate elongation of an engineering material is the percentage increase in length that occurs before it breaks under tension. Ultimate elongation values of several hundred percent are common for elastomers and film/packaging polyolefins. Rigid plastics, especially fiber reinforced ones, often exhibit values under 5%. The combination of high ultimate tensile strength and high elongation leads to materials of high toughness.

Tensile Modulus of Elasticity

The tensile modulus is the ratio of stress to elastic strain in tension. A high tensile modulus means that the material is rigid - more stress is required to produce a given amnount of strain. In polymers, the tensile modulus and compressive modulus can be close or may vary widely. This variation may be 50% or more, depending on resin type, reinforcing agents, and processing methods. The tensile and compressive moduli are often very close for metals.

The table below lists average ultimate tensile strength, elongation at break, and tensile moduli values for some filled and unfilled polymers.

Typical Tensile Strength, Elongation, and Tensile Modulus of Polymers

Polymer Type Ultimate Tensile Strength
(MPa)
Elongation
(%)
Tensile Modulus
(GPa)
ABS 40 30 2.3
ABS + 30% Glass Fiber 60 2 9
Acetal Copolymer 60 45 2.7
Acetal Copolymer + 30% Glass Fiber 110 3 9.5
Acrylic 70 5 3.2
Nylon 6 70 90 1.8
Polyamide-Imide 110 6 4.5
Polycarbonate 70 100 2.6
Polyethylene, HDPE 15 500 0.8
Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) 55 125 2.7
Polyimide 85 7 2.5
Polyimide + Glass Fiber 150 2 12
Polypropylene 40 100 1.9
Polystyrene 40 7 3
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