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Silicone vs. Plastic: Material Comparison

Posted by Joe Hoffman
Silicone vs. Plastic: Material Comparison

Figuring out which material is right for manufacturing your parts is already difficult when comparing rubber compounds. It gets even trickier once you add plastics into the mix.

While some people may confuse silicone for plastic, it’s technically a synthetic rubber made by extracting silicon, passing it through hydrocarbons, and mixing it with other chemicals. Trying to figure out which is better for your needs? Let’s break down what differentiates silicone from plastic materials.

The Differences Between Plastic vs. Silicone

Silicone rubber is an excellent option for a variety of applications, but there are some situations where a plastic material like TPE or PVC would be a better fit for your needs. There are a few different criteria that help you decide whether silicone or plastic is right for your parts.

  • Resistances
  • Temperature tolerance
  • Sustainability
  • Cost


There are a variety of environmental factors that will impact your choice of material, so deciding between a performance plastic or silicone rubber can depend on what your part will need to withstand. For example, silicone is an excellent option for any parts that need to endure weathering, flame, and steam. However, a plastic material like PVC is going to be better suited for acids, alkalis, grease, oil, and chemicals.

Temperature tolerance

There are some specialty plastics available for high and low temperatures, but it’s hard to beat to withstand extreme environments. Silicone offers great thermal stability and is graded for temperatures ranging from -150 to 480 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition to being able to survive short periods of use at the extreme ends of that range, silicone can also withstand long-term continuous use at high temperatures without melting or becoming brittle.


If material sustainability is a major factor, silicone and various plastics can be attractive options. Plastics are generally recyclable, including more notable elastomers like TPR that can be melted down and reformed. It may surprise some people that silicone is recyclable, but you’ll need to take the scarp silicone to a specialized recycling program to properly break down the material.

The flipside of that argument is that part lifespan can limit just how much material is made over time. Silicone is a lot more durable and long-lasting than a lot of available plastics aside from performance materials like TPE and PVC. If the long-term durability of silicone is a major advantage, then you wouldn’t need to produce nearly as many replacement parts.


At the end of the day, the right part for your needs is the most cost-effective one. Determining which one is the best bang for your buck depends on your performance needs. Silicone is generally more expensive than plastic because it has a more complicated manufacturing process. However, that may be the right price if silicone covers your specific design needs, so make sure to closely evaluate which materials meet your parameters to make the most economic investment.

Which Type of Material is Right for You?

Whether you end up needing silicone rubber or a plastic solution, there are plenty of good materials available – it’s just a matter of finding the right one for your applications. The good news is that you don’t have to go through this search alone.

Identifying the specific rubber or plastic compound to address your exact pain points and budget takes a lot of knowledge and experience. At Timco, our experts can help guide you through the material selection process and design a custom part tailored to your needs and budget. Give us a call at 800-969-6242 or contact us online to talk to one of our experts about your rubber or plastic part needs.