Difference Between Thermoplastic and Thermosetting (With Table)

Since the growth of life, human beings have started to depend on plastic for their day-to-day chores. The inclusion of plastic has become hazardous and is a serious problem. But not all types of plastic are that harmful and some of them are useful like Bakelite. The two types of plastic that are prevalent in society are thermoplastic and thermosetting plastic. 

Thermoplastic vs Thermosetting

The main difference between thermoplastic and thermosetting plastic is that they are made from different procedures. Thermoplastic is made up of straight or slightly branched chains and through addition polymerization, whereas thermosetting is highly branched along with that it has cross-links and is made with condensation polymerization. 

Thermoplastic is a class of polymer that has been formed due to the difference in flexibility, elasticity, etc. Thermoplastic is an addition polymer of hydrocarbons and has the property that on heating it can be remoulded again. Thermoplastic is used for various household activities like pipes, polythene, etc. A few of the common examples are polyvinyls, polystyrene and polyethene. 

Thermosetting plastic is another class of polymer that contains hydroxides along with the polymers of nitride. Thermosetting plastic is formed by condensation polymerization and on heating, it does not have the property to be remoulded again. There are various household activities like the handle of a pan, cookers are made up of thermosetting plastic like bakelite, etc. 

Comparison Table Between Thermoplastic and Thermosetting Plastic

Parameters of Comparison



Formation process

Thermoplastic polymers are made by the process of addition polymerization. 

Thermosetting plastic is made by the process of condensation polymerization. 


The structure of such polymers varies from straight to slightly branched. 

The structure is highly branched and has many cross-links. 

Property on heating

On the provision of heat, they melt and can be remoulded into another shape

On heating, they cannot be converted into another shape. 


The shape is formed and intact due to the Van der Waal forces. 

They are joined together by strong forces of hydrogen bonds. 


The basic property of thermoplastics is that they are soft and weak. 

The properties that make them suitable for various procedures are hardness and brittleness. 

What is Thermoplastic? 

Thermoplastic is a polymer that is inherited from the roots of human beings. From simple polythene to the major PVC‘s thermoplastic is used. Thermoplastic can also be called a class that contains various polymers with the same properties as softness and the ability to break easily. 

Thermoplastic is formed by the process of addition polymerization. In addition to polymerization, the polymer is formed and it is straight or slightly branched. It also ensures that no sub-product is formed while the main product is being formed. In addition to this, they are linked by the Van der Waal forces of attraction that are less strong and can be broken easily. 

The polymer shows a variety of properties and has a less brittle nature. They are soft, weak and also can be moulded easily. They are less elastic which means on stretching them they can be easily broken. Due to being straight chains they have less molecular weight and are easy to carry and this also provides them with the property to be soluble in organic solvents. 

They are available in various forms. Some examples are polyvinyls, polystyrene, polyethene, etc. The monomers also have only 2 reaction sites and on heating, they can be easily remoulded into other shapes. 

What is Thermosetting? 

Thermosetting plastic is yet another class of polymers that are visible to us in our day-to-day lives. They are available in many forms like the lid of a pan, handle of a pan and cookers as well as used in conjugation with many other polymers to have a perfect balance. 

Thermosetting plastic is formed by the use of condensation polymerization. The process involves the making of sub-products during the main reaction and also includes various sub-products like water, alcohol, etc. It can also be defined as a step-by-step procedure in which there is a shift of atoms and then the main product is formed. They are held by stronger forces that are known as hydrogen forces. 

Thermosetting plastic has various natures that are different for some polymers of that class but the basic properties are the same. They are hard and brittle. They have very low elasticity and have higher molecular weights that make them difficult to carry and lift. They are stronger due to strong forces. 

Some of the examples of thermosetting plastics are bakelite, urea-formaldehyde resins, etc. These monomers have more reaction sites as they can be nitrides, carboxylic groups, etc. On heating, they lose their property of remoulding and are insoluble in organic solvents. 

Main Differences Between Thermoplastic and Thermosetting 

  1. Thermoplastic is formed due to addition polymerization and thermosetting plastic is formed due to condensation polymerization. 
  2. The molecular weights of thermoplastic is less and thermosetting plastics have higher molecular weights. 
  3. Thermoplastic due to being straight and slightly branched chains are soluble in organic solvents whereas thermosetting plastics are insoluble due to being highly branched. 
  4. The monomers of the two polymers have the difference that thermoplastic has two reaction sites whereas thermosetting plastics have more than two. 
  5. On heating thermoplastics can be remoulded whereas thermosetting plastics cannot be remoulded or softenned. 


Polymers have a very important part of life that is made up of monomers of different compounds. They have provided various properties that are very useful and cannot be found without them. They show elasticity, rigidity and flexibility. The addition polymerization is used for the formation of thermoplastics whereas the process of condensation polymerization is used for the formation of the thermosetting plastic. Thermoplastics and thermosetting plastics are less flexible and more brittle. Thermoplastics also have the property that they can be softened and remoulded whereas thermosetting plastics cannot be softened and remoulded. Thermoplastics include polyvinyl, polystyrene, polyethene and have lesser molecular weight whereas thermosetting include bakelite, urea-formaldehyde, etc.


  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780128168745000013
  2. https://aip.scitation.org/doi/abs/10.1063/1.4750064