Resistant Materials Technology



  • Bring hands-on learning experience to your classroom, unleash your students' creativity through a world of possibilities using fabrication techniques. Enable your students to develop skills and competencies that will form part of their 21st Century careers.

Our materials section has been hand-picked to meet the needs of your school’s workshop, with a selected range and great value assorted class packs for all projects.

Focus on plastic materials

There is a wide range of thermoforming polymers with varying properties and uses. Commonly used thermoforming polymers in schools include:

  • Acrylic

  • High Impact Polystyrene (HIPS)

  • Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

  • Styrofoam

There are two main groups of plastic which are thermosetting plastics and thermoplastics.


Thermoplastics can be heated and shaped many times. Thermoplastics will soften when heated and can be shaped when hot. The plastic will harden when cooled but can be reshaped because there are no links between the polymer chains. Some common thermoplastics are ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), Nylon (polyamide), acrylic (polymethyl methacrylate), uPVC (polyvinyl chloride), polystyrene, polypropylene, and cellulose acetate.

Thermosetting plastics

Thermosetting plastics can only be heated and shaped once. If re-heated they cannot soften as polymer chains are interlinked. Separate polymers are joined to form a huge polymer. The main thermosetting plastics are epoxy resin, melamine formaldehyde, polyester resin, and urea formaldehyde.

When choosing a material to manufacture product functionality is vital.

Thermoplastic Thermoplastic properties Thermoplastic uses Example of product
Polymethyl methacrylate (Acrylic) Stiff, hard but scratches easily, durable, brittle in small sections, good electrical insulator, machines, and polishes well. Used for signs, covers of storage boxes, aircraft canopies and windows, covers for car lights, washbasins and baths. Car headlight
High impact polystyrene (HIPS) Light but strong plastic. Widely available in sheet softens at about 95 degrees. Used for vacuum forming. Common for school projects which include products outer casings or packaging. Fridge lining
Polypropylene (PP) Light, hard but can scratch easily, tough, good resistance to chemicals, resists work fatigue. Used for medical equipment, laboratory equipment, containers – especially with built-in hinges, ‘plastic’ seats, string, rope, kitchen equipment. Climbing rope
Polythene:- low density (LDPE) Tough, good resistance to chemicals, flexible, soft, good electrical insulator. Used for packaging, especially bottles, toys, packaging film and bags. Plastic bags
Polythene:- high density (HDPE) Hard, stiff, able to be sterilised. Used for ‘plastic’ bottles, tubing, household equipment and milk crates. Bullet-proof vest
PVC Stiff hard-wearing. Plasticiser can be added to create a softer rubberier material. Used for air and water pipes, shoe soles, blister packaging. Flexible hose

Do they know?

A great quiz for students to test their knowledge of thermoplastics. Complete quiz.

Product Focus - High impact polystyrene (HIPS)

Styrofoam is an extruded polystyrene available in sheet form. It is lightweight and an excellent insulator. It is commonly used to make models as it can be quickly and easily shaped using hand tools, e.g. a hot wire cutter; however, the fumes given off are unpleasant and it should be cut in a well-ventilated space.

Polystyrene is available in two forms:

Rigid – A commonly used rigid form of polystyrene is high impact polystyrene (HIPS) available in granule and sheet form. The sheet form of HIPS is used for vacuum forming. HIPS is safe to use with food products and lightweight, and as such is used commercially to package food products, e.g. yoghurts.

Expanded – Available in sheets and balls, it is a good insulator, impact-resistant and lightweight. Expanded polystyrene balls can be used to fill stuffed toys, while sheets are used in packaging to protecting electrical products.

HIPS - The right materials for the task…

HIPS is a great versatile and economical plastic easy to form. You can TSL’s standard HIPS for all of your vacuum forming projects. Just remember to use ‘virgin grade’ material when working with food as it is food grade. We stock a complete range of HIPS in varying colours and thicknesses plus sheet sizes to ensure compatibility with the most popular vacuum formers.

View our range of HIPS including some money-saving bulk packs...

National Art Week!

TSL supports Children’s Art Week run by Engage – the National Association for Gallery Education. The initiative takes place across 3 weeks from 29th June to 19th July – schools, art galleries, museums and community groups are encouraged to plan and provide art activities and events to provide opportunities for children, young people and families to take part in practical activities with artists and art educators.

We have a comprehensive range of artists materials and supplies.

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