A Technical Data Sheet (or TDS for short) is the basic, informative document released by the manufacturer of a material (whether it is a raw material or a semi-finished product such as a compound, intended as a material composed by a polymeric matrix to which additives and reinforcements of various kinds have been added).
The TDS reports the values of a series of properties of a material, described in statistical terms: that is, the reported values are the average values of the properties of the material.
These values are obtained by testing the material (several times, to obtain statistically significant average values) according to international test standards (or methods) (such as ISO and ASTM). Therefore in order to create a (meaningful) TDS, once the key properties of the material have been identified, the producer has to test these properties repeatedly, on different material batches and/or different moments to obtain average values which can be reasonably considered typical values for the tested material (general values of the material).
The test methods, the specific test conditions (in case the method admits different ones), and the measurement units must always be indicated to allow understanding of how the values have been obtained and to be able to properly compare TDS of different materials or manufacturers.
Based on the application for which the material could be considered and used, a (technical) preselection of the material, in general, is based exactly on a comparison of TDS of materials from different suppliers.
The main benefit of a tool such as the TDS is the possibility to have, through the numerical values (or graphs) of reported properties, a quantification of material behaviour. This is of uttermost importance because, as previously stated, it allows not only to compare different materials (of different suppliers too), but also to properly compare material property values against defined specifications (for example of a specific application). Indeed, quite often engineers incorporate TDS for screening purposes of materials suitable for a given application and to compare different materials.
The properties reported on TDS can consist of many types. The most common are:
Depending on material type and its possible applications, some specific properties may be reported (e.g. thermal or electrical conductivity or some mechanical properties, such as impact resistance, evaluated at temperatures below ambient).
The property values, reported on the TDS, are not even comparable to product specifications. Specifications, in fact, indicate the variability limits of the properties of a material (since each batch is not totally identical to other batches of the same material) that the manufacturer guarantees.
These limits are often also indicated on the CoA to demonstrate the conformity of the single batch of material to the defined specifications.
The TDS of a compound, in addition to property values, also reports:
In general terms there are also:
Currently, a lot of property databases (TDS) of materials from many manufacturers are available online, which allow to check and compare the values of the materials of interest. Some examples of these databases include the following:
Many material manufacturers report the TDS data of various products on a single summary document (such as a brochure or product catalogue).
The interpretation of the property values reported on the TDS (and sometimes of the properties themselves) is not always immediate as well as it is not easy to possibly verify them.
Independent laboratories can support in the interpretation and general evaluation of TDS as well as in the verification of the values of the properties reported on a TDS. They can support also in the determination of properties of specific interest for a material, not reported on the TDS.