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What is Polyester material? What material is Polyester?

Polyester is a group of polymers, a generalised term for any fabric or textile derived from coal, air, water and petroleum. Polyester is a chemical term which can be broken down into poly, meaning ‘many’, and ester, a basic organic chemical compound. The chemical process that produces very long, stable and strong Polyester fibres is called polymerization.

Polyesters include naturally occurring chemicals, such as in the cutin of plant cuticles, which are biodegradable, as well as synthetics which usually are not biodegradable.

Polyester was first synthesized in North America in the mid-1940s by DuPont. Searching for new synthetic fibres, the chemists working at DuPont successfully produced PET, a Polyester also known as Polyethylene Terephthalate. Today, more than half of the world’s synthetic fibre is made from PET. When used for fibre or fabric applications, it is commonly called “polyester”. When used for containers and other purposes, it is called PET or PET resin.

Is Polyester plastic?

Plastic is just a term for a polymer that often-contained other substances. Plastics are synthetic, man-made material. All plastics are made from polymers, but not all polymers are plastics. Polymers can be produced organically or synthetically and consist of joined individual molecules or monomers chains. Plastics are a type of polymer composed of polymeric chains which can be either partially organic or fully synthetic. Polyester is a polymer that is used to make plastic fibres and other materials including fabrics.

Does Polyester stretch?

With the exception of rubber-like fibres, such as Lycra and Spandex, it normally isn’t the fibre itself that provides stretch, rather than the structure of the textiles made from these yarns that provides the capacity to stretch.

When drawn into fibres, Polyester does have a limited amount of stretch, but not enough to be considered an elastic fibre. However, when these fibres are spun into yarns, then woven or knitted into different fabrications, its matrix can provide a significant degree of stretch.

A Polyester stretch blend is produced by combining small amounts of Lycra or Spandex, typically four or five percent, with Polyester fibres. The addition of stretch to Polyester garments improves comfort for the wearer by providing greater ease of movement.

What is Polyester used for?

Polyester is recognised worldwide as a material that is used in fashion and textiles to produce a range of products, including clothing, home furnishings, industrial fabrics and sportswear.

As a plastic resin, Polyester is commonly used to manufacture products such as packaging for consumer goods, food, electrical insulation, automotive parts, aeronautics and other technical applications.

Polyester material properties

PET or Polyethylene terephthalate is a thermoplastic, which refers to polymeric materials that become pliable or moldable at a certain elevated temperature and solidify upon cooling. In the case of PET, This occurs between the glass transition temperature and the melting point, which for PET are 75 oC and 255 oC respectively One of thermoplastics’ key attributes is that they can be heated to their melting point, cooled, and reheated again without significant degradation. Although each time plastic is reheated for recycling it does degrade slightly, therefore it cannot be recycled indefinitely. Instead of burning, thermoplastics like Polypropylene liquefy, which allows them to be easily injection moulded and then subsequently recycled.

There are a number of reasons that Polyester has gained such widespread appeal, both as a fibre as a resin or film. Polyester is very durable and is resistant to many chemicals and it is incredibly strong, despite it being very lightweight.

As a fibre, it has become a go-to material for fashion and homeware, since polyester fabrics are resistant to stretching and wrinkling, retaining their shape very well. It is practically maintenance free, easy to wash and quick drying too, making it ideal for outdoor sportswear. The fibres are easily dyed and do not easily absorb moisture. Its low absorbency also makes it naturally resistant to stains.

As PET resin, it is a highly versatile material that may be combined with other materials like glass fibre or Carbon Nanotubes to significantly increase the material’s strength. Some of its most important characteristics include its resistance to water, high stiffness, the fact that it is virtually shatterproof and its wide availability as an economic and recyclable plastic. Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE or PET) is naturally transparent, which allows it to colour it using even bio-derived pigments.

Polyester in Art and Design

Due to increasing awareness that the increased use of PET bottles is harming our environment, there is a new generation of artists that are working with recycled PET bottles, melting and remelting the pieces as they are moulded and shaped into sculptures and art installations.

Recycled PET is also becoming a popular material in fashion and textiles, with more and more brands incorporating plastic waste into their garments and collections, supporting waste plastic clean-ups on beaches and in the oceans.

Artists who need a very regular painting surface are using the material too, as a surface that is free from weaving defects. Primed Polyesters are extremely strong and are also unaffected by humidity, something that causes problems with natural fabrics. The canvases are also ideal for muralists, as they can be stuck directly onto the wall.


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