What Plastic Materials Are UV Stable?

Some of our most popular questions are “Is this material UV stable?”, or “How long will this last in direct sunlight?”, or some similar themed question. These are great questions. Just look at the ‘cheap’ backyard furniture you bought last season, yep, it is faded and cracking or broken. Why is that?

The quick answer is the material had either no UV (Ultra Violet Light) stabilizer or very little – or it was simply the wrong plastic for the part. Most plastic materials are not UV stable to start with, other than Acrylic which is invisible to UV. All other materials need a little something (an additive) to give it the protection it may need from the sun. Many plastic materials, if given the proper UV resistant additives, can be used in direct sunlight for 10 – 15 years, or more, providing excellent performance in harsh environments.

The first factor in picking such a material is the intended use. Not all materials are good choices for all applications. While some materials will perform exceptionally well, others plastic materials under the same conditions will fail. Many plastic materials are not well suited to: high temperatures, chemical exposure, UV light, high impact, or electrical applications. Please contact us for details on a material that may meet your needs.

HDPE sheet is one of the best materials for long term outdoor use, if given the proper additives (without UV inhibitors it will fade and crack quickly). Next time you drive by a children’s playground in your local city, look at the brightly colored panels used to make the play equipment. This is a HDPE sheet with heavy UV additives, and this makes an excellent application. Available in a rainbow of colors and able to be fabricated easily, this material is excellent for many outdoor applications.

If your application is more mechanical, other materials that might be used would be: Polycarbonate, UHMW, ABS (especially with Korad – Acrylic cover), Acetal, Noryl and many more.

Our standard Makrolon Polycarbonate is a UV stable material in sheet, and is frequently used in replacement glazing applications. The remaining materials on the list are available in Black (a carbon black pigment) which extends outdoor usage. While still not recommended for direct sunlight, they can be used with a good possibility of success – depending on design. Plastics can become brittle or lose properties over time if material does not have UV stabilization, with the proper material and the proper additives, you can get years of trouble free service.

Additionally, many materials will work well if they are painted to cover the plastic surface. Many spray paints, especially Acrylic paints, last many years in the sun. Please check with us, as some material do not accept paints or coatings.

Take some time to review your requirements, and the properties of the plastic you intend to use. The right material will provide the best performance. Contact any of our Plasticologists for assistance, call 866-832-9315 or email us. You can always do research on plastic materials at Industrial Plastic Supply.