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What Is Vespel® and How Do You Use It?

Since 1956, COMCO Plastics, Inc., has been a trusted fabricator of high-quality plastic components. Our team has pioneered the use of innovative new plastics for over 65 years, including phenolics, nylon, thermosets, and thermoplastic materials. COMCO has grown alongside the plastics industry, and today, Vespel® is one of the many plastics that our team is experienced in working with. Read on to learn more about this resin’s unique properties, benefits, and applications.

What Is Vespel?

Identifiable by its molecular structure, which is ring-shaped and partially made up of nitrogen, Vespel is an innovative, durable polyimide resin that’s designed to withstand extreme environments. It offers the collective advantageous qualities of popular manufacturing substrates like metal, ceramics, and other plastics in a single material, making Vespel a high-performance yet cost-effective choice. Its thermal resistance to high temperatures surpasses that of thermoplastics, and its light weight lends it more versatility than metal in many applications. It also offers optimal strength and resistance capabilities, so it’s ideal for industrial use cases like aircraft and avionic components.

What Are the Properties of Vespel?

This industrial resin offers a unique combination of characteristics in a single material, with Vespel properties including:

  • Thermal resistance. This material maintains its performance and dimensional stability at continuous-use temperatures as high as 550° F, as well as intermittent exposure to temperatures of 900° F.
  • Strength. Vespel plastic is mechanically strong and stiff enough to resist damage from continuous handling, cleaning, or mechanical stresses like impact or crushing.
  • Abrasion resistance with low friction. With good wear resistance and a low friction coefficient, Vespel doesn’t generate much heat or friction against a mating surface. It can slide without requiring lubrication and won’t add heat in high interfacial temperature applications.
  • High pressure resistance. Among engineered plastic materials, Vespel is superior in its performance at high unlubricated PVs (pressure-velocities). It’s capable of operating in PVs up to 0.29 -3.5 MPa-m/s.
  • Chemical resistance. Vespel components can withstand contact with a wide variety of chemicals without sustaining damage. This includes exposure to solvents, hydraulic fluids, fuel, and other industrial-strength chemicals.
  • Dielectric characteristics. Vespel’s dielectric nature means it conducts little to no heat or electricity, making it a great choice for insulation in electrical applications.
  • No brittleness. While some materials become brittle at subzero temperatures, Vespel can withstand temperatures as low as -400° F.
  • High purity. With practically zero particulate shedding in the presence of plasma and only insignificant traces of metal in its composition, Vespel is a highly pure, clean material.
  • Minimal outgassing. This resin won’t release potentially hazardous gases from within like some other materials. The US Air Force and NASA have both approved Vespel for aerospace applications.

What Are the Benefits of Using Vespel?

With all its beneficial properties, Vespel offers several advantages for applications across diverse industries. These benefits include:

  • Good strength-to-weight ratio
  • Ability to handle heavy loads while maintaining high performance and stiffness
  • Resistance to wear, creep, chemicals, electricity, thermal conditions, hydrolysis, flame, melting, and radiation
  • Compatibility with rugged conditions ranging from cryogenics and high oxygen concentrations to fire exposure and hard vacuums
  • Long operational life due to its durability
  • Dimensional stability and ability to achieve tight tolerances
  • High machinability
  • Cost-effectiveness, especially compared to materials like ceramics
  • Low outgassing

What Manufactured Products Can Use Vespel?

Vespel is a popular material in the aerospace, military and defense, transportation, and electronics industries, to name a few. Manufacturers can construct rugged, high-performance Vespel components for everything from cars and off-road vehicles to jet engines and semiconductors.

Vespel parts can maintain their performance even under the harshest conditions, like in reactor chambers or outer space. Some of the most common parts of Vespel construction include:

  • Bushings and bearings
  • Washers and thrust washers
  • Gaskets
  • Seal and piston rings
  • Valve seats and disks
  • Test sockets
  • Insulators

Partner With COMCO Plastics for Precision-Machined Vespel Components

At COMCO Plastics, we use advanced, high-performance materials like Vespel to meet or exceed our clients’ application requirements. We specialize in quality manufacturing and machining services, with capabilities for component finishing, inspections, and more. Contact us online today to request a quote or call our team at (718) 849-9000 for more information on our capabilities and material options.

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