Why high performance polymers are replacing metals in demanding applications

Posted on 16 Dec 2014 by Tim Brown

Manufacturers in the aerospace, automotive, electronics and energy industries are making the choice to specify metal alternatives to take advantage of the greater design freedom, significant weight reductions, and improved properties of performance polymers.

Unlike with metal components, by using high performance polymers, engineers can reduce processing cycle times and increase durability in demanding environments. Some of the key benefits of replacing metals with polymers include:

  • Weight reductions of up to 80%
  • 30% faster installation times
  • Up to 5x higher mechanical properties

One of the leading suppliers of performance polymers is UK firm Victrex, who supply materials to a range of different industries. TM spoke to Victrex who provided a list of applications where polymers are now commonly replacing metals as a preferred choice of material.


Aerospace components made with polymer rather than metal.
Aerospace components made with polymer rather than metal.

High performance polymers are shaping future performance and are replacing metals in the Aerospace industry due to the need for more fuel efficient and environmentally-friendly aircraft, faster assembly times, greater reliability and lower operating and manufacturing costs.

According to Victrex, more than 15,000 aircraft rely on its solutions today. The value that these lightweight solutions deliver is significant as a 45 KG weight reduction from each aircraft in a fleet of 500 can result in up to $5,000,000 in annual fuel cost savings.

A recent case study demonstrated the benefits of metal replacement in aircraft system attachment clamps. One of the world’s leading suppliers of interconnected products was looking for a replacement for aluminium, stainless steel wire and tubing clamps. Using a Victrex polymer, they were able to achieve a 20% weight reduction and also improved the ease of installation.


The automotive industry benefits from high performance polymers as they enable greater fuel efficiency through weight reductions but also improved durability and driving comfort through reduced vibration and noise.

In addition, a polymer based valve cones can deliver an 80% cost savings compared with conventional stainless steel due to a more simple fabrication process and generally has better corrosion resistance


Polymer componentry is becoming increasingly common in the electronics industry.
Polymer componentry is becoming increasingly common in the electronics industry.

High performance polymer solutions offer greater versatility, reliability and design freedom for next-generation electronic devices and enable leading brands to produce cutting-edge products that are thinner, lighter, smarter.

Such solutions are used in multiple consumer electronics and appliance components.  Here, direct metal replacement is one approach, but it is also possible to integratepolymer with metal components to enhance performance and realise significant value.

From mobile device enclosures, switches, circuit boards, batteries and audio speakers to printers, sensors and connectors, polymer solutions are increasingly being specified by industry leaders to solve engineering challenges and differentiate a products’ ultimate performance and reliability.

For smartphone enclosures, polymers enable designers to achieve the premium, high tech look and feel of anodized aluminium with structural integrity to handle abuse, both in the manufacturing process and in the hands of the consumer.

In the appliances market, a 3.5dB (or 50%) noise reduction and 2% efficiency gain are realized when polymers replace metal in refrigerator compressor valves, delivering real economic and consumer experience benefits for the consumer.

In the semiconductor market, more than $2m is saved annually in wafer fabrication processing costs due to high-wear of Victrex wafer polishing rings that are easily overmolded onto stainless steel backbones.


Polymer piping is able to withstand trying conditions associated with oil and gas extraction.
Polymer piping is able to withstand trying conditions associated with oil and gas extraction.

Durable polymer-based solutions are extending the scope of oil and gas exploration and are helping to optimise production efficiency in hot, corrosive environments. High performance thermoplastic delivers long-term reliability and reduced downtime due to its excellent resistance to sour gas and harsh fluids.