What is plastic?

What is plastic? Plastic is a material used for a variety of products. Think of garden chairs, chip trays and toys, but plastics are also used for cladding, floor finishing (PVC) and window frames.

At BMTEC, we process plastics by laser cutting. Our plastics are often used in construction, machine construction, the medical industry, shipbuilding and electrical engineering. Among other things, we make gears, filters and protective covers.

In this blog we will not only talk about the applications of plastics. We will also list the advantages and disadvantages of plastic and explain what types there are and how you can process them.

What is plastic made of?

The raw material of plastic is hydrocarbons derived from petroleum refining. During the production of plastic, these raw materials enter into a chemical reaction. This is how a solid is formed: plastic.


POM gear wheel

Thermosets, elastomers and thermoplastics

Plastic comes from the Greek word “plastikos”, which means kneading or shaping. While working plastic, you can in fact easily change its shape.

Thermoplastics are plastics that soften when heated. They can be recycled several times. Examples of thermoplastics are polypropylene and polyethene.

Thermosets remain hard when heated. An example is polyester.

Elastomers (synthetic rubbers) are elastic and rubbery. These often resume their normal shape after external stress. Examples of elastomers are: EPDM rubber, Nature rubber (NR) and SBR rubber. People use artificial rubbers, for example, to make cleaning gloves.

What is made of plastic?

Plastic has become increasingly popular over the years. Among other things, it replaces products previously made of wood, steel or glass. For instance, wooden garden furniture and window frames have largely been replaced by plastic.

Glass has also been partially replaced by plastic. Think of: sports bottles, milk bottles, verandas and aquariums. In addition, certain plastics are used to replace a steel, such as POM. This is because these plastics do not oxidise and are also chemically resistant.


40% of plastics are used for packaging materials, 20% for building materials, 10% for car parts and 6% for electronic devices. It is therefore used in various sectors, such as the food industry, automotive industry and in construction. Other sectors in which plastics are used are the:

  • Chemical industry
  • Mechanical engineering
  • Advertising industry
  • Medical industry
  • Agriculture
  • Energy industry
  • Shipbuilding
  • Electrical engineering

In these sectors, plastics are used to make jerry cans, toys and ice-cream and chip trays, among others. Other examples include:

  • Advertising signs and logos
  • Dashboards and gears
  • Garden chairs, flower pots and garden greenhouses
  • Coffee and measuring cups
  • (Storage bins
  • Stepping stones and artificial turf
  • Floors and frames
  • Balustrades, verandas and canopies

Sneakertube made out of PET-G

Properties of plastic

Plastic is a glass, steel, and wood substitute. This is not surprising, as plastic does not oxidise, is durable and lightweight. It is also flexible, chemically resistant and weatherproof. Moreover, it is more economical to buy.

However, these advantages differ for each type of plastic. This is because each type has its own properties. As a result, some are weather-resistant and others are not. On our plastics page, you will find the properties and applications for each plastic.

Advantages and disadvantages

With the exception of a few plastics, most plastics are:

  • Flexible and bendable
  • Insulating and heat-resistant
  • Chemical resistant
  • Weather-resistant
  • Lightweight
  • Strong and impact-resistant
  • Durable
  • Easy to process and available in several colours

Frequently asked questions

Below you will find answers to the questions: how strong is plastic? Is plastic durable, recyclable, flammable, heavy and does it conduct electricity and heat?

In general, plastic is strong. However, this depends on the type of plastic and the thickness of the material. Plastics such as PMMA and Polycarbonate, for example, are very strong.

For example, PMMA (Acrylic) is 30 times and Polycarbonate 250 times stronger than glass! Plastic is therefore difficult to break. If plastic does break, it does not form splinters but breaks off in large pieces.

Not all plastics are sustainable. Some plastics cannot be recycled or are short-lived. But there are also plastics that can be recycled or used for a long time.

Think of advertising letters, noise barriers, wall cladding or window frames. In that case, plastics last a long time and can be considered sustainable.

Plastics can be incinerated or recycled. Plastics that fall under thermosets and elastomers can only be produced once. So they cannot be recycled.

Thermoplastics, however, are recyclable. Take plastic bottles, for example. You can hand these in at a supermarket and they are then recycled.

Every plastic is flammable, yet there are differences in this. For example, PMMA has fire class B2 and Polycarbonate has fire class B1. B2 means it is normally flammable. B1 means that the material is hardly flammable.

Because Polycarbonate is flame-retardant, fire will spread less quickly than with PMMA (acrylic).

Compared to wood, glass or steel, plastic is lightweight. Plexiglas (PMMA/Acrylic) and Polycarbonate, for example, are 50% lighter than glass. As a result, you can easily fit these plastics.

Most plastics are insulators and do not conduct electricity or heat.

Differtent types

There are different types of plastics. A few well-known plastics are: PMMA (Plexiglas/Acrylate), HDPE, PET-G, HMPE, POM, Polycarbonate and PTFE. In addition, you have plastics such as:


Laser cut HDPE

Plastic processing

You can process (or have processed) plastic in various ways. The operations you could do yourself are: drilling, sawing, gluing and cutting. Note! These operations are not possible with all types and thicknesses of plastic.

Operations you can have a professional perform are:

BMTEC: Market leader in laser cutting of plasticlasersnijden van pet-g

At BMTEC, you can go for laser cutting, engraving and marking of plastics. Among others, we laser cut PMMA (Plexiglas), POM, HDPE and PET-G. Curious about which other plastics we laser-cut? Feel free to take a look at our plastics page.

Why laser cutting?

The advantage of laser cutting is that the laser beam is only 0.1 millimetres thick. This allows it to perform extremely precise operations. In addition, the laser head is flexible, allowing you to machine different shapes in the material.

Want to know more about laser cutting? Then take a look at our services page.

How much does laser cutting cost?

Would you like to know how much it costs to laser cut plastic? Calculate your price quickly and easily via our quotation and order system CutWise. You will receive a customised quotation within 10 seconds! Which you can then convert directly into an order.

Moreover, with CutWise we promise 100% delivery reliability. Is the confirmed delivery date not met? Then the parts are free of charge!

Any questions? Feel free to contact us. We will be happy to help.