Before ordering a hard shell suitcase, you are pretty confused and searching for the best material for hardside luggage, which actually leads you here on this website. Am I right?
Don’t worry, you are absolutely in the right place. Here, you’ll get detail idea about all the materials that are used to prepare hard-shell suitcases. This article will make it absolutely easy to choose a perfect suitcase as per your requirements and budgets. After reading this in full you must gather a very clear idea about the hard shell of a suitcase.
Why Search for the Best Hardside Material?
There are many other criteria to choose a suitcase, among those shell material is one of the major facts, especially for hard side luggage. Size, compartment decoration, wheel type, handle etc., are important too, but never buy a suitcase without checking the shell material; because it the case break down or crack through, that is useless then. You have to buy another immediately. And think how will you feel if this happens in the middle of your tour!
Every life and every matter resides on this earth must have a lifetime. So, a suitcase also has to be a certain lifetime, but, nobody wants it to get broken within just 1-2 years. So, always read the material details and then decide.
There are mainly 6 types of material used to make hard-shell suitcases.
Among the above 6, aluminium is almost rare nowadays, because other polymers proved themselves either much harder or lighter.
From the following description, you can choose the best material for hardside luggage as per your requirements.
Details of the Hardside Materials
People always look for three major criteria to differentiate the shell type:
- The ability resistance impact
In the following sections, the facts are described very well, including the details of chemical components, which may help you to realize the matters more clearly.
The term ABS stands for Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, a thermoplastic synthesized from Acrylonitrile, 1,3-butadiene, and styrene. Sometimes other ingredients are mixed with pure ABS to make the material stronger.
This is relatively cheaper than other materials and level of strength flexibility are low. Pure ABS is lighter, but not harder than polycarbonate. But often it gets combined with other materials such as polycarbonate to make more durable; the combined material becomes much harder but cheaper in cost, and hence popular too.
The following parameters may be considered for pure ABS:
- Strength: ABS < Polycarbonate and Polypropylene; but ABS > PVC
- Weight: ABS < Polycarbonate; but ABS > PVC and Polypropylene
- Cost: ABS < Polycarbonate and polypropylene; but ABS > PVC
If you are looking for budget suitcase ABS made hard shell is not a bad choice, but you should look for combined ABS polymer rather than pure ABS. The Cost may be a bit higher than pure ABS, but that’ll be much more resistant against impact.
PVC, a chlorine-containing long-chain hydrocarbon polymer and was discovered by Eugen Baumann in 1872. This is a popular material as an alternative of leather due to its flexible nature and lightweight. PVC often used in the preparation of water pipes.
A few cheaper and smaller hard side suitcases are available in the market, but to be frank this is not a great choice for hardside luggage used on a long trip. Those are okay for travel within a shorter distance, and for regular use because PVC is lighter in comparison to others.
The following parameters may be considered for PVC:
- Strength: PVC < ABS, Polycarbonate, Polypropylene
- Weight: PVC < Polycarbonate, ABS, Polypropylene
- Cost: PVC < Polycarbonate and polypropylene, ABS
Polycarbonate is one of the most popular and best materials for hardside luggage. The thermoplastic is made from the condensation reaction of bisphenol and chloroformate. Nowadays few companies adopted a newly developed method to derive polycarbonate, where carbon dioxide is used instead of chloroformate. This new method is a really sustainable one. Do you know why?
In one hand, this new method does not produce contaminated water, and on the other hand, it utilizes the carbon dioxide that produces in petrochemical or in other industry in excess.
Anyway, let’s walk back to the main fact. Polycarbonate is a high impact resistant, extremely durable and lightweight thermoplastic. Because of such characteristics of polycarbonate, in 1955 NASA had chosen it for the preparation of helmets and visors. So, you can realize the safety of your stuff inside a polycarbonate based suitcase. These are actually hard to break and also scratch resistant.
However, several grades of polycarbonates may be prepared by combining with other ingredients. The combined materials may be less impact resistant, high or low scratch resistant, more lightweight, cheaper etc. So, check this carefully before buying.
The following parameters may be considered for pure polycarbonate:
- Strength: Polycarbonate > ABS, Polypropylene, PVC
- Weight: Polycarbonate < ABS; and Polycarbonate > Polypropylene, PVC
- Cost: Polycarbonate > PVC, ABS, polypropylene
It is recommended to buy 100% polycarbonate based suitcases. This is the best material for hardside luggage in terms of durability, impact resistance power, cost and also weight (though there are lighter materials).
Polypropylene is another very lightweight and flexible material for hardside suitcases, in fact, this is the lightest among impact resistant materials. Though toughness of polypropylene is a bit lower than polycarbonate, still this thermoplastic wins the battle against ABS and PVC. Not only luggage but many other lightweight products get prepared by polypropylene (Chair, Table, rack etc.).
Polypropylene gets prepared from a monomer of propylene over heterogeneous catalyst particles. The long and branched hydrocarbon chains provide the toughness of polypropylene, while the absence of relatively heavyweight molecules (Chlorine, Oxygen) offers the lighter weight.
Pure polypropylene starts to degrade above 100 degree C temperature, the long chains start to break down from the reaction with aerial oxygen. Pure polypropylene also gets affected by the exposure in UV-ray / sunlight. To overcome these problems protection procedures often applied during the preparation of polypropylene suitcases. To save it from UV ray, UV absorbing additives, antioxidants, polymer stabilizer are used as protecting materials.
From the above discussion, there is no need to be worried about polypropylene. Industries know, a suitcase must be exposed in UV ray, raindrops, high pressure. So, they prepare a suitcase hard shell by considering all these, and always add the required additives and take all the required precautions.
If you are looking for a lightweight suitcase with high impact resistant ability you can choose polypropylene based hardside suitcase without any hesitation.
The following parameters may be considered for pure polypropylene:
- Strength: Polypropylene < Polycarbonate; but Polypropylene > ABS, PVC
- Weight: Polypropylene < Polycarbonate, ABS; but Polypropylene > PVC
- Cost: Polypropylene < Polycarbonate; but Polypropylene > ABS, PVC
Tegris is a modified polypropylene polymer which has been evaluated for its ballistic performance. This is an extraordinary material discovered by Millikan and company, while the high-end luggage manufacturer ‘Tumi luggage collection’ used tegris in their product for the first time in 2012. Tegris material is very much durable and also lightest.
To prepare Tegris a polypropylene tape yarn embedded into a lower melt polymer matrix. Further, via the combination of those two polypropylene a composite material form which is known as tegris.
Nowadays tegris used in various serious items such as luggage, vehicles, watercraft, helmets, outdoor furniture, Aero splitter bumper etc.
Without any confusion, tegris is the best material for hardside luggage, but the luggage is expensive too. If you are looking for a great piece of suitcase when money doesn’t matter, you can check in Tumi luggage collection for tegris based suitcase.
So, among 4 major types of materials, sequences can be set as follows:
- Strength: Tegris > Polycarbonate > Polypropylene > ABS
- Weight: Tegris < Polypropylene < Polycarbonate < ABS
- Cost: Tegris > Polycarbonate > Polypropylene > ABS
I hope, you are now aware of the materials for the hard shell. Aluminium has not been included in the discussion list, because you’ll rarely get an aluminium based suitcase nowadays.
All the major hard case materials are discussed above. But, you have to decide now, what is your budget and basic needs. If you can fix these two factors in your mind, you can easily select the best material for hardside luggage. To get some more idea about the best suitcases in the market you can click here.
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