The evolution of polymeric materials: replacing metals in high-tech applications

Mechanical properties: comparison between polymers and metals

How plastics are replacing metals in high-tech industries

Polymeric materials are increasingly being used to replace metals in multiple applications, including in markets characterized by high technology content such as aerospace, the renewable energy sector, automotive, oil and gas, the chemical industry, the medical and pharmaceutical sector, the food processing and packaging industry, and the electronics and semiconductor sector.


Plastic materials can improve the performance of components and systems through

  • Reduction of weights and inertia
  • Absence of corrosion, high resistance to chemical attack
  • Low friction and low wear coefficient even in the absence of lubrication
  • Quiet operation
  • Thermal and electrical insulation

The market provides us with many dozens of different semi-finished plastic products (bars, sheets and tubes) suitable for tooling that can replace metals bringing advantages in various applications.

The following table compares schematically the mechanical properties of some polymers and metals*.


Properties U.M. UHMW PE PA6 G PEEK Bronze Steel Aluminum
Density g/cm³ 0.96 1.15 1.31 8.8 7.8 2.7
Tensile yield stress MPa 23 80 100 150 300 200
Relative strength to weight Acciaio = 1 0.62 1.85 1.98 0.44 1.00 1.93
Elastic modulus MPa 1100 3200 4200 110000 220000 70000
Coefficient of linear thermal expansion 10⁻⁵ K⁻¹ 18 12 5 1.8 1.7 2.4