Since the successful invention of a miraculous polymer by Alexander Parkes in 1856, commonly known as “plastic,” it has gradually become an integral part of our daily lives. Plastic itself is a polymer, a large molecular compound formed by the polymerization reaction of many identical or similar monomer molecules. In fact, whether you realize it or not, everything you see and use every day is entirely or partially made of plastic materials. Items such as your television, computer, mobile phone, house, refrigerator, and many other necessities utilize plastic materials. In the toy industry, especially, plastic toys constitute nearly 50% of the market.
However, not all plastics are manufactured in the same way. Manufacturers use various raw materials and compounds to produce plastics with different characteristics. Each material and compound has unique properties. This article will explore the advantages of using plastic in toy manufacturing and the diverse characteristics of different types of raw materials.
- Advantages of Crafting Toys with Plastic
- PVC（Polyvinyl Chloride）
- ABS（Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene）
- TPE （Thermoplastic Elastomer）
1. Advantages of Crafting Toys with Plastic
Lightweight and Portable: Plastic is a lightweight material, making toys manufactured from it easier to carry and manipulate. For children, lightweight toys are more manageable and conducive to play without being overly cumbersome.
Creative Design: Plastic is easy to process and mold, allowing the production of toys in various shapes and colors. This flexibility enables toy designers to unleash their creativity and come up with unique and innovative toy designs, providing children with fresh and exciting experiences. Additionally, it allows for the faithful recreation of popular animated characters, allowing children to grow up alongside their favorite superheroes.
Strength and Impact Resistance: Toys are often designed to withstand impact without breaking easily, and plastic is one of the most resilient materials for this purpose. Its high strength relative to its weight, coupled with flexibility, allows it to endure the playtime activities of children across different age groups.
Durability: Plastic toys typically exhibit high durability, with the ability to withstand various temperatures, humidity, chemical exposures, and other hazards. They resist wear, deformation, and breakage, significantly extending the lifespan of the toys. This durability ensures that the toys can withstand frequent handling and use by children.
High Production Efficiency: The plastic manufacturing process is relatively straightforward, with various production techniques contributing to significantly increased efficiency. This makes large-scale toy production economically viable, leading to relatively lower prices and widespread availability of toys, bringing joy to countless children.
Ease of Cleaning: Plastic surfaces are typically smooth and non-absorbent, making them easy to clean. This is crucial for children’s toys that frequently come into contact with food or other contaminants, reducing the effort parents need to dedicate to cleaning toys.
Diversity: Plastic allows for diversity in toy production by incorporating different colors, textures, and finishes. Even within the same plastic material, various textures can be achieved, enabling the production of toys in different types, shapes, and styles.
Safety: Most plastic toys undergo safety certifications, adhering to relevant child product safety standards. Plastics can be formulated as food-grade materials, ensuring that they do not pose health hazards to children during use. Moreover, the low thermal conductivity and electrical insulating properties of most plastics enhance their safety features.
Additionally, if you are interested in learning more about toy safety certifications, you can explore another article from our company: Global Toy Market Regulations Overview
Most plastic toys produced globally are made from various plastic materials, including the most common ones such as polypropylene (PP), high-density polyethylene and low-density polyethylene (HDPE, LDPE), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polystyrene (PS, ABS), polycarbonate (PC), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), and polyoxymethylene (POM), among others.
Polypropylene (PP) is a polymer formed by the polymerization of propylene. It is a white waxy material, transparent and lightweight in appearance. It has a melting point of 164-170°C, softening around 155°C, and a usage temperature range of -30 to 140°C. PP is a thermoplastic polymer and ranks as the second most widely produced synthetic plastic globally. Its widespread use and popularity are undisputed, as polypropylene is one of the most flexible thermoplastics on Earth. Despite having higher strength than polyethylene (PE), PP still retains flexibility and does not break under repeated pressure. Polypropylene sheets are durable, flexible, heat-resistant, acid-resistant, and cost-effective, making them suitable for manufacturing laboratory equipment, automotive components, medical devices, and food containers. In the toy industry, many plastic toy cars’ main bodies are often made from PP material.
Polyethylene (PE), abbreviated as PE, is a thermoplastic resin produced by the polymerization of ethylene monomers. Polyethylene is odorless, non-toxic, waxy to the touch, and exhibits excellent low-temperature resistance (usable at temperatures as low as -100 to -70°C), but its performance is less favorable in high-temperature environments. Polyethylene is the most common plastic on Earth and can be manufactured with different densities. Each density imparts unique physical properties to the final plastic. Therefore, polyethylene finds wide applications in various products.
Here are 4 common densities of polyethylene:
Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE): This type of polyethylene has flexibility and is commonly used in everyday products such as shopping bags, plastic bags, transparent food containers, disposable packaging, and more.
High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE): HDPE plastic film is stiffer than LDPE and MDPE. It is suitable for products like plastic bottles, water supply and drainage pipes, snowboards, boats, folding chairs, and more.
Ultra-High-Molecular-Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE): The density of UHMWPE is not much higher than HDPE. Compared to HDPE, this polyethylene plastic is more wear-resistant due to its extremely long polymer chains. UHMWPE has high density and low friction characteristics, making it suitable for military bulletproof vests, hydraulic seals and bearings, hip joints, knee joints, spinal implants as biomaterials, and artificial ice rinks.
4. PVC（Polyvinyl Chloride）
PVC, the third-largest synthetic plastic polymer by production volume, can be manufactured with either rigid or flexible characteristics. It is renowned for its ability to be blended with other materials. For instance, foamed PVC sheets are a type of foamed PVC material ideal for kiosks, store displays, exhibits, and more. The rigid form of PVC is commonly found in construction materials, doors, windows, bottles, non-food packaging, and similar applications. When plasticizers like phthalates are added, PVC becomes softer and more elastic, making it a popular choice for crafting the bodies and limbs of dolls and toys. This imparts a realistic skin-like feel to the dolls.
5. Acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS)
ABS, composed of styrene and acrylonitrile polymerized with butadiene, is robust, flexible, glossy, easily processable, and impact-resistant. The manufacturing thickness ranges from 200 micrometers to 5 millimeters, with a maximum width of 1600 millimeters. The production cost of ABS plastic film is relatively low, commonly used in industries such as automotive, refrigeration, and products like children’s toys. Many building blocks, such as LEGO, are predominantly made using ABS plastic. In the toy industry, toys manufactured with ABS plastic exhibit vibrant colors, resulting in an outstanding visual appearance. Despite ABS outperforming PP plastic in various aspects, its production cost is comparatively higher.
6. Polystyrene (PS)
Polystyrene (PS) is a synthetic polymer made from the monomer styrene, an aromatic hydrocarbon. Polystyrene can exist in solid or foam form. General-purpose polystyrene is typically a transparent, rigid, and relatively brittle plastic. It is widely used in the plastic industry, with millions of tons produced annually. Polystyrene is naturally transparent but can be colored by adding pigments. Its applications include protective packaging (such as packaging peanuts and jewel boxes for storing CDs and DVDs), containers, lids, bottles, trays, glassware, disposable cutlery, and model making. It is also used as an alternative material for phonograph records.
Polystyrene can be either thermoplastic or thermosetting, depending on the arrangement of its polymer. Thermosetting materials cannot be remelted after initial molding, while thermoplastics can be melted and reused multiple times. Therefore, thermoplastic polystyrene can be used for injection molding and subsequent recycling.
In the realm of solid polystyrene, two commonly used types are:
General-Purpose Polystyrene (GPPS): GPPS is a hard and brittle homopolymer, naturally transparent but capable of being colored through the addition of dyes.
High-Impact Polystyrene (HIPS): HIPS is opaque, less brittle than GPPS, and contains polybutadiene rubber as an impact-modifying agent. It is often used in household and food packaging.
7. Polycarbonate (PC)
Polycarbonate (PC) is a robust and stable engineering plastic known for its transparency, comparable to glass, and a strength 250 times that of glass. The strength of transparent polycarbonate sheets surpasses that of acrylic by thirty times, and it is easy to process, thermoform, or cold form. Despite its exceptional strength and impact resistance, polycarbonate possesses inherent design flexibility. Unlike glass or acrylic resins, polycarbonate plastic sheets can be cut or cold-formed on-site without the need for pre-molding and manufacturing. Polycarbonate plastic finds application in various products, including greenhouses, DVDs, sunglasses, police riot gear, and more.
In the realm of toy manufacturing, polycarbonate (PC) plastic is commonly used for crafting robust and durable components in toys like ride-on cars. This includes parts such as frames and wheel bearings. PC plastic is favored for its high strength, impact resistance, and transparency, making it a common choice for components that need to withstand significant forces while maintaining a transparent appearance.
8. Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE)
Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE) combines the characteristics of thermoplastic plastics and elastomers, exhibiting a unique property of maintaining elastic solidity at room temperature and enhanced plasticity when heated. This makes TPE an ideal material for toy manufacturing. Its tactile feel is similar to natural rubber, making it widely used in toys that require a soft and comfortable touch, such as baby and children’s toys. In addition to its excellent tactile properties, TPE is generally considered a relatively safe plastic, free from harmful substances, and suitable for manufacturing products that come into contact with children. Its superior wear resistance and weather resistance make toys manufactured with TPE more durable, and capable of withstanding daily use by children and exposure to outdoor environments. As a recyclable plastic, TPE also aligns with the principles of modern sustainable development, contributing to the reduction of adverse environmental impacts.
9. Polyoxymethylene (POM)
Polyoxymethylene (POM), also known as acetal plastic, is a semi-crystalline thermoplastic material with high mechanical strength and rigidity. POM exhibits excellent sliding properties, outstanding wear resistance, and low moisture absorption. The material’s dimensional stability, particularly good fatigue strength, and exceptional machinability make POM a widely used engineering material, especially for complex components.
POM finds extensive applications in the consumer goods industry. It is used in various applications such as zippers, buckles, handles, knobs, fasteners, and toys. The durability, low friction, and ability to withstand repeated use make POM suitable for these applications. Additionally, due to POM’s excellent mechanical strength and rigidity, its performance can even rival that of metals. In the toy industry, POM is often used for gears and connectors in children’s vehicles.
However, everything has its pros and cons. While plastic toys bring immense joy to our children, they also have many negative impacts on our lives. The disadvantages of plastic toys mainly focus on environmental effects, degradability, and potential health risks. Firstly, traditional plastics often take hundreds of years to degrade, causing long-term pollution to the environment. Additionally, the production and processing of plastics involve energy consumption and emissions, negatively impacting the atmosphere and water sources.
On the other hand, some plastics may contain harmful chemicals to health, such as Bisphenol A (BPA), posing a potential threat to the health of children and other users. Therefore, choosing safe and environmentally friendly plastic materials is crucial.
In this context, eco-friendly plastics become especially critical. Eco-friendly plastics are typically biodegradable or made from renewable resources, capable of degrading more rapidly, reducing the burden on the environment.
ZHXTOYS has over 30 years of injection molding experience in the toy industry. Our stringent requirements and quality supervision for raw materials are of the highest standards. In order to meet the toy testing standards of different international regions, we exclusively use top-notch raw materials for production. If you have the opportunity, we welcome you to visit our ZHXTOYS factory, where we will showcase our top-quality manufacturing capabilities and the most professional team.
If you have any questions regarding toy materials or importing toys, feel free to consult with us. We are committed to providing you with comprehensive services.