Plastics Industry Information
The term “plastics” refers to a broad group of materials and products that are derived from the processing of polymer resins. These long chains of molecules consist of several smaller monomers held together by covalent bonds. This generic formula underlies a tremendous number of specific chemical formulations that create a diverse field of different plastics, including such things as acrylics and polystyrene products. Each type of plastic has unique properties, such as varying levels of tensile strength, wear resistance, dimensional stability, machinability, temperature resistance, chemical resistance, impact resistance, transparency, moisture absorption, and electrical properties.
Quick links to Plastics Information
- The History of Plastics
- The Benefits of Plastic
- Plastic Production Process
- Types of Plastic Produced
- Applications of Plastics
- Plastic Products Produced
- Things to Consider When Purchasing Plastic
- Global Plastics Market
- Plastic Terms
The History of Plastics
Early Use of Plastics
While many people tend to think of plastic as a relatively recent invention, it is actually neither recent nor an invention, per say. Rather, the use of natural plastic materials goes back thousands of years. Early plastics were bio-derived, organic polymers, such as egg and blood proteins. Also, around 1600 BC, native peoples living in the region between present-day central Mexico and northern Costa Rica were using natural rubber figurines, bands, and balls. By the Middle Ages, people were using cattle horns treated with material derived from casein (milk proteins), a component of early plastics.
Plastics in the 1800s
It was in the 1800s that chemical engineers began developing synthetic plastics as we know them today. One important mile marker in plastic’s history was Charles Goodyear’s discovery of vulcanization. He discovered that you can thermoset plastic materials derived from natural rubber, via vulcanization. Nitrocellulose, or Parkesine, is widely considered the first man-made plastic. It was made from cellulose treated with a chemical solvent of nitric acid, then dissolved in alcohol. When dissolved, it would harden into an elastic, transparent material that one could heat up and mold. It could also accept pigments. Patented in Birmingham, England by Alexander Parkes in 1856, he revealed his invention to the public in London at the 1862 Great International Exhibition. That same year, Parkesine won a bronze medal at London’s World’s Fair. In 1868, John Wesley Hyatt invented a synthetic plastic called celluloid, which was similarly derived from cellulose and alcoholized camphor. He invented this plastic in order to replace ivory billiard balls with something else. Next was the invention of casein plastics, which were milk proteins mixed with formaldehyde. This took place in 1897 in Germany. In 1899, Arthur Smith received a British patent for processing formaldehyde resin to make electrical insulation. His process was improved upon a bit later, in 1907, by a man named Leo Hendrik Baekeland. Using his own techniques, Baekeland invented the first commercially successful fully synthetic plastic resin, which he later named “Bakelite.”
Plastics in the 1900s
In 1908, Swiss textile engineer Jacques E. Brandenberger invented a plastic product we still use today, cellophane. His goal was to invent a clear, flexible film to put on top of cloth and make it waterproof. While his invention did not end up being used for that purpose, it ended up being quite popular for others. For example, his first American customer was Whitman’s Candy Company, who used Cellophane to wrap their chocolates.
After World War I, thanks to advances in chemical technology, the world experienced a huge boom in plastic materials development. Then, around World War II, mass plastic materials and product production began. Some of the earliest mass-produced plastic polymers were polystyrene (PS), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyethylene and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). The 1950s saw great plastic development as well. For example, in 1954, Dow Chemical invented expanded polystyrene, which they used for cups, packaging, and building insulation. In 1957, mass production began on polypropylene, which had been discovered three years earlier by Giulio Natta.
Since the 50’s, scientists and chemical engineers have continued to diversify the polymers and plastics industry. They’ve also found ways to produce plastic products with more consistent and precise results. In the last 20 years or so, they have turned their eyes to sustainability of polymers and polymer production. Because plastic is so pervasive and rarely biodegradable, we now have great concerns over their potentially harmful impact on the environment. To that end, chemical researchers are now looking into bioplastics made from synthesizing polyethylene from ethanol obtained from sugarcane. There could soon be a present where all plastic products are biodegradable. However, until bioplastics are developed enough to be mainstream, it is the responsibility of each consumer to diligently recycle the thermoplastics used on a daily basis so they might be reused.
The Benefits of Plastic
Though you must be diligent to recycle them, there are many benefits to plastics. First, they are incredibly versatile. They can take on virtually any shape, color, texture, and dimensions. Plus, they can be made to exhibit nearly any property under the sun. Next, they are lightweight, yet durable. In addition, they are easy to work and quite inexpensive. Finally, they are recyclable, a quality that is of the utmost importance.
Plastic Production Process
Raw Material Production
The processes required to form specific plastic materials vary significantly. Suspension, emulsion/dispersion, mechanical mixing, solution, and mass methods are commonly used to produce the resins, liquids, gels, and powders that manufacturers distribute. While this raw form is used for thermosetting plastics that undergo only one manufacturing process, most plastic suppliers provide thermoplastics in stock solid shapes that have undergone some initial processing. The shapes and performs provided are more easily handled that way, and in some instances, may be used as the final product.
Plastic manufacturers can combine the raw plastic materials with a number of additives such as heat stabilizers, lubricants, fillers, and plasticizers for custom plastic fabrication. These can have a significant impact on the color, strength, density, working temperature range, structural integrity, and corrosion and heat resistance of a polymer.
Thermoplastics vs. Thermosetting Plastics
Plastics made of synthetic, natural, and organic monomers are divided into two categories: thermoplastics and thermosetting plastics. While the names are very similar, it is important to distinguish between the two when selecting the proper material for a given application. The former, thermoplastic, is more commonly used because it can be melted and remolded numerous times. The composition is formulated to become pliable when heated and rigid when cooled. The pitfall of thermoplastics is that they may become glass-like and fracture at extremely cold temperatures. Thermosetting plastics are more adept to cold applications but chemically deteriorate when subjected to high heat. While thermoplastics can be purchased as pellets or any number of stock shapes for secondary processing, thermosets are available only in two-part liquid resins or non-flowing mass premixed blends. Far more limited in their possibilities, thermosets cannot be remolded after curing and must, therefore, be supplied in raw form or finished products. Cure technology is as diverse as plastic itself and includes air setting, film drying, anaerobic, hot melt, cross-linking, room temperature curing, and vulcanizing. The cure technology and type of polymer used depends largely on the manufacturing processes and purpose of the complete product.
Plastic sheets, pipes, profiles, and rods, which are the most common stock shapes, are usually produced through manufacturing processes like plastic injection molding or plastic extrusion. Films are made using blown film extrusion, in which an extruded tube of plastic is inflated to stretch the material to the desired length and thickness. Some films are available as thin as .0004 inch.
Manufacturing processes plastic manufacturers use in addition to plastic injection molding and plastic extrusion include foam extrusion, rotational molding, precision plastic machining, vacuum forming, pressure forming, thermoforming, casting, pultrusion, welding, and grinding. Each method uses heat and pressure to combine the resins before cooling to create the final form.
Types of Plastic Produced
There is a wide variety of plastic materials on the market today. Some of these include polyethylene, polystyrene, high-density polyethylene, low-density polyethylene, polyoxymethylene, polyvinyl chloride, and more.
Polyethylene is the most commonly used member of the plastics family. It is being used to produce a plethora of products, from artificial knees to shampoo bottles and milk cartons.
Polystyrene is also ever-present in modern life, though more frequently referred to as the trademarked extruded foam, StyroFoam™. Styrofoam is highly useful for insulation, but it is not recyclable.
High-Density Polyethylene HDPE
HDPE is a thermoplastic made from petroleum. It is known for its high strength-to-weight ratio and solvent resistance. It is often found used to make bottle caps, swimming pool components, vehicle fuel tanks, and food storage containers, among other things.
Low-Density Polyethylene LDPE
LDPE was the first grade of polyethylene ever mass produced. Though a wide range of other plastics have been invented since it was first sold on the mass market, it remains popular today. It is known for its chemical resistance, flexibility, and toughness. Most often, it is used to make all-purpose containers, soft parts like snap-on lids, plastic wrap, and packaging.
Polyoxymethylene, also known by names like acetal and Delrin, is another common plastic, often used as a metal substitute and therefore very popular in the automotive and construction industries. It has good tensile strength and excellent machinability.
Polyvinyl Chloride PVC
Polyvinyl chloride, known more commonly as PVC or vinyl, is a thermoplastic that comes in two basic forms: rigid and flexible. PVC is the third-most produced synthetic polymer in the world, and it is popular for use in construction, packaging, card fabrication (credit cards, debit cards, etc.), plumbing, electrical insulation, inflatables construction, and more.
ABS is a popular family of resins that is strong and resistant to most chemicals and stains. ABS is created by the polymerization of acrylonitrile and styrene (liquids) and butadiene (a gas).
Acrylic is made of clear, thermoplastic resins that are found in acrylic acid and natural sources like petroleum.
Fluoroplastics, such as Teflon, are heat, moisture, wear resistant, and thus are used for many different valve, gasket, and bearing applications. Fluoroplastics are flexible thermoplastics.
Phenolic plastic is in the categories of polyester and vinyl ester. It is composed of phenol and formaldehyde, has the same strength as iso-polyester, and is the best material for fire safety.
Polycarbonate has good light transmission and stability and the highest rating of all transparent thermoplastics. Some applications for polycarbonate include electronic housings, machine guards, and aircraft panels.
Polypropylene is a kind of plastic that is very flexible at low temperatures and resistant to chemicals. PP is frequently used for banner materials.
Polyurethane is used for bumpers, gears, gaskets, and roll covers. Polyurethane is a tough and durable plastic that has good abrasion resistance and a high flex-life.
Applications of Plastics
There are limitless industrial, commercial and residential applications for plastic. Virtually every industry utilizes some form of it. Chemical and food processing, water treatment, gas and oil, medical, pharmaceutical, aerospace, automotive, building and construction industries are among those that utilize the common applications for plastic parts and products.
Plastic Products Produced
Highly diversified, plastic materials can be purchased in supply stock forms such as plastic rods, plastic sheets, and plastic films. While these items may be used as the finished product, they easily comply with secondary processing such as plastic fabrication and precision plastic machining, in order to make a myriad of other products. Some of the countless plastic products available to industrial, commercial, and retail markets include flexible tubing, packaging material, storage containers, dishes, mechanical gears, electronic insulators, insulin pens, inhalers, toys, some instruments, shieldings, plastic wraps, milk cartons, toothbrushes, aircraft panels, windows, bottles, and pipes.
Things to Consider When Purchasing Plastic
If you’re searching for a plastic or plastic product, it’s important to know that you must carefully consider the unique properties of each specific plastic available to you. You need to think about requirements such as heat resistance, pliability, biodegradability, wear resistance, sterility, corrosion resistance, etc. You also need to consider any quality/performance standards to which you are beholden.
Once you know the general type of plastic in which you are interested, or at least your specifications, you need to bring your project to a reliable plastic provider or plastic product manufacturer. To make your life easier, we’ve compiled a list of those plastics companies and fabricators in whom we have the most confidence. You will find it near the top of this page. Check out the company profiles we’ve provided or go straight to their individual websites to learn more about them. Choose from among them by first narrowing them down to your top choices, and then reaching out these top choices individually. Talk to them about your application specifications, your design requirements, your budget and timeline, and their delivery options. Make sure to note the tone of which they speak or write to you, as you want to find a manufacturer that is both technically capable and a good customer service provider. After speaking with each of them, compare and contrast your notes, and choose the best fit, and give them a call.
Global Plastics Market
The global plastics market is booming, and competition is great. It’s undeniable that looking to overseas plastic engineering options can offer significant savings. Many customers, for example, now turn to companies in China for their plastic goods. However, before you take your business out of the country, consider these points:
Because we’ve come to understand the detrimental effects of plastics on the environment, both in waste and energy consumption, researchers have spent a lot of time coming up with more sustainable ways to manufacture and consume plastics. If you seek a manufacturer overseas, you have to be extra careful to make sure that they are using the latest sustainable technologies.
Clarity of Costs
Submitting bids to companies overseas is not always easy, and the answers you get are not always clear. You have to ask extra questions about factors like: warehousing and warehousing security, fair currency exchange, customs, and freight carriers and restrictions.
Regulations and Tariffs
Another thing you have to think about is regulations and tariffs. Has the US recently enacted new regulations related to your material or product? If so, does the company with whom you want to work honor these regulations? Do they use certification programs that will be accepted in the US? Are there any large tariffs or import fees?
When you work with a company overseas, you will likely run into all sorts of communication challenges. These include different language skills, time zones, and cultures. Even when you believe you’re communicating clearly, you may not be in the eyes of your manufacturer, and vice versa. Miscommunication can lead to all sorts of headaches. Imagine if your manufacturer gets your order wrong. If you’re working with someone internationally, you cannot simply ship it back to them and get it exchanged. Instead, you’ll have to go through all the international trade paperwork, fees and long wait periods that you did before.
In the end, the hassles and pitfalls of doing business overseas often far outweigh the benefits. So much of the exchange between the client and the manufacturer comes down to trust, and trust is much harder to gain and maintain with all of the challenges of international business. That’s why we recommend working with one of those regional companies we’ve listed above.
- A substance that is added to a resin to enrich particular characteristics.
- The chemical and physical changes a material undergoes over time, due to environmental forces that will deteriorate or improve the material.
- Combinations of polymers or copolymers with other elastomers or polymers.
- A resin or other substance that unites particles. Binders supply mechanical strength and guarantee solidification, consistent uniformity or adhesion to a surface coating.
- The lack of cloudiness in a plastic material.
- A plastic structural substance that is comprised of a blending of materials.
- Compressive Strength
- The capacity of a plastic material to withstand crushing forces.
- Different monomers that chemically react with one another, resulting in a compound.
- The process of altering properties of polymers into a state of greater stability and usability. Curing is achieved through radiation, heat or reaction with chemical additives.
- Cure Cycle
- The period of time at set conditions in which a reacting thermosetting material is cured.
- A change in the original color of a plastic material due to environmental conditions, such as light exposure and chemical attack.
- The procedure in which an existing plastic shape is changed into another one.
- The tendency of certain plastic materials to absorb water.
- A concentration of material in a base polymer, such as pigments, additives and fillers.
- Plastic materials that will not transmit light.
- A high-boil organic or liquid low-melt solid, the addition of which gives flexibility to hard plastics. Plasticizers differ in their solvating capabilities and softening actions, due to the reduction of intermolecular pressures in the polymer.
- A blend of resins and plasticizers that can be transformed into continuous films through the application of heat.
- A synthetic or natural compound of high molecular weight, which is comprised of long chains of repeating units, each relatively light and simple, including polyethylene and elastomer.
- Reinforced Plastics
- Plastic materials with increased mechanical properties, resulting from the embedding of high strength fillers in the composition.
- A solid or pseudosolid organic material that typically has a high molecular weight with a propensity to flow when stress is applied and generally has a melting or softening range.
- Chemicals that permit the formation of a close mixture or emulsion of usually mismatched substances by the alteration of the surface characteristics and the manipulation of the flowing and wetting characteristics of liquids.
- Plastic compounds or resins that in their last stage are insolvable and infusible. After curing is complete, thermosets cannot be softened through heat.
- Virgin Material
- Plastic material, such as granules, pellets, floc or liquid, that has not had any processing applied to it other than what is needed for initial manufacturing.
Diving Deeper – What are Plastics?
A proper understanding of plastics in general begins with an understanding of their natural counterpart. The scientific term resin refers to specific types of organic compound mixtures that are not soluble in water. Resins are usually secreted by plants (especially woody plants) as a type of natural “bandage” to aid recovery when the plant has sustained harm in some way. These substances are very viscous, transparent to yellowish-brown in color, and flammable. They are notable – and have historically been economically valued – for being able to convert to arrangements of polymers (long chains of organic substances) and harden into solids.
At risk of oversimplification, plastics can simply be conceived of as synthetic versions of resins. Like natural resins, synthetic substances known as “plastics” comprise thick liquids which can harden under certain conditions. Although they share behavioral similarities with natural resins, it is important to note that plastics possess chemical makeups which are substantially different.
The rise of plastic in modern manufacturing is one of the most profound economic changes in recent history. Over the past one and a half centuries, plastic has gradually risen to replace a host of other materials (e.g. metal, wood) as a preferred material of choice. Because of its versatile and efficient characteristics, there has been an especially high demand for plastic containers spanning a wide range of industries for the past half century. Today, plastic has virtually wiped out other material competitors in many economic sectors in societies all across the world.
In its earliest form, plastic appeared in 1862. In that year, Alexander Parkes displayed an invention called “Parkesine” at the Great International Exhibit in London. This early form of plastic was derived from cellulose. (Today it is known as celluloid.) Initially, one of Parkes’ main goals was to provide a cost-effective alternative to rubber.
The modern age of plastic did not start to really develop until the early twentieth century. The first fully synthetic plastic came about as an accidental discovery in 1907. During that year, chemist Leo Baekland discovered how to create a synthetic polymer from coal tar. Although plastic did not replace other materials immediately, the invention of “Baeklite” can be justly considered the start of the modern plastic era. Economic deprivations from the two world wars and the switch to petroleum over coal (for obtaining synthetic polymers) helped to spur increases in plastic usage and development. (During World War II, American plastic production and usage tripled from previous levels.) After World War II, plastic development accelerated with the introduction of well-known plastics today such as polypropylene, PVC, “polyester”, etc. By the 1960s, plastic had largely replaced older materials as a hallmark of consumerism in developed societies.
Although plastics are found in a dizzying variety of forms, some basic categories can be applied to them. At a fundamental level, plastic materials composed of natural, organic, and synthetic monomers can be organized into two large groups: thermoplastics and thermosetting plastics.
Of the two groups, thermoplastics are the most widely used. This is largely due to the reality that they are easy to work with. When heated, thermoplastics become pliable. Under normal conditions, however, thermoplastics are very hard – and when cooled from a heating process, they become rigid again. The process of heating and shaping thermoplastic material can be performed over and over again, meaning that the same material may be recreated many times. Thermoplastics may be acquired as preformed stock shapes, or in resin form, from which shapes may be made. A rare drawback of thermoplastic products is tied to very low temperatures: if a user places the product in an extremely cold environment, the thermoplastic may become glass-like and runs the risk of fracture.
In contrast to thermoplastics, thermosetting plastics fare quite well in the cold. Generally speaking, they are actually stronger than thermoplastics and become quite hard when heated above a certain temperature. A major structural difference between thermosets and thermoplastics is their polymer length; overall, thermosetting plastics possess shorter polymer chains. Examples of thermosetting plastics include polyurethane, Bakelite, Duroplast, epoxy resin, cyanate esters, and polyester resins. Unfortunately, these types of plastics do not fare well in the face of high heat, which degrades them chemically. Furthermore, once they have been cured, thermosetting plastics cannot be remolded. Instead, manufacturers must acquire new material, which is available only as non-flowing mass, premixed blends or two-part liquid resins. Thermosetting plastics may be cured via air setting, anaerobic, cross-linking, hot melt, room temperature curing, or vulcanizing methods.
Plastic resins represent the core ingredient of any plastic production. Thus, their creation is the first step in plastic production. This initial step of resin creation is known as the cracking process. It consists of obtaining various hydrocarbons (such as propylene and ethylene) by heating larger compounds derived from petrochemicals (crude oil and natural gas). The variety characterizing hydrocarbons obtained from cracking (e.g. types, amounts) is dependent on the heating temperature used during the process. The second step revolves around reassembling hydrocarbons into compound chains identified as polymers. (Naturally speaking, the term polymer refers to a very common, chain-like type of organic compound containing many low-mass molecules.) The third and final step in resin creation can justifiably be considered the heart of the plastic industry since it consists of reassembling polymers into different types of plastic resins – the core ingredient of plastic production as a whole.
The material variation that marks plastic production is a direct result of different plastic resin combinations. During plastic formation, manufacturers may use pure resins or they may combine the resins with additives such as fillers, heat stabilizers, lubricants, or plasticizers, as needed. Additives may be used to change any number of plastic material properties, including density, color, structural integrity, corrosion resistance, heat resistance, strength, and working temperature range. Changing colors for aesthetic purposes actually represents a major use of additives. (While pre-colored resins and/or compounds can be used, this method is generally not as efficient as using additives. One of the most efficient methods for color changing is known as masterbatching.) With the aid of computer programming and numerous quality control checks (both visual and instrument-driven), plastic products can assume virtually any color to aesthetically please end users in addition to offering pragmatic usage.
Plastic (and especially thermoplastics) can be molded into a wide range of products using a myriad of processes. Manufacturers often produce stock forms and more advanced plastic products through some type of extrusion or injection molding. Other plastic fabrication processes that manufacturers may use include blown film extrusion (used to fabricate plastic film), foam extrusion, pultrusion, precision plastic machining, pressure forming, vacuum forming, thermoforming, welding, grinding, and casting.
Injection molding and blow molding are two of the more common manufacturing processes used for plastics. Injection molding, in particular, is the main mode of formation for thermoplastics. It involves placing raw plastic material known as stock in a conveyance channel, where the stock is forced into a mold by a long screw located in the chamber. (The resin and accompanying dyes can also enter the channel in pellet form.) The stock is liquefied by a combination of the heat from heating elements in the channel and the pressure and friction caused by the turning screw. The molten plastic is then shot into a mold, which gives the plastic a certain shape. (If the molten plastic is combined with fibers designed to reinforce the plastic, the product is known as plastic bushing.) The blow molding process differs slightly. The way that the plastic enters the mold is the same, but the final shaping of the plastic is assisted by compressed air which is directed into the mold. The air expands the melted plastic and hollows it out in specific places. Once the plastic cools and hardens, it is removed from the mold, and the process is complete.
Compression molding represents the main mode of formation for thermosetting plastics. In this method, resin is also transported into a mold to assume a desired shape. However, compression molding uses resin in a powdered form and heats it until the resin hardens (instead of becoming pliable). Under heat, thermosetting resins decompose and cross-link to create a closely intertwined molecular structure. Due to this molecular process, thermosetting plastics do not become pliable again even once cooled.
Plastic materials are available in a number of stock forms, such as films, rods, sheets, pipes, and profiles. These stock shapes may serve as a finished product, or they may go on to receive more processing.
Types of Plastics (individual)
As alluded to previously, plastic is a general term denoting an extremely broad range of synthetic material. Descriptions of some of the more common or useful plastics follow below.
Polyethylene is the most popular member of the plastics family, with an average annual global production of 80 million tons. Most of its applications are related to packaging. It is used to make products such as shampoo bottles, milk cartons, plastic bags, plastic films, filters, and geomembranes. Broadly speaking, PE can be divided into two major families: high density and low density. Low density polyethylene (LDPE) is used for highly ductile applications like grocery bags, while high density polyethylene (HDPE) is used to fabricate more rigid constructions, such as detergent containers. (The highest density polyethylene is Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene or UHMW. It is used to manufacture extremely rigid devices such as artificial knees or hips.) Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) has the distinction of being the single most widely used plastic in the world. Because of its moisture and breakage resistance, it is commonly used for applications such as water bottles and waste bins.
Polystyrene is more commonly known by its trademarked name Styrofoam. In its official form, Styrofoam is composed of close-celled extruded polystyrene foam, mostly used for thermal insulation and craft applications. However, in North America, “Styrofoam” has become the generic name for any kind of expanded polystyrene foam. The latter Styrofoam is the material used to make coolers, disposable coffee cups, and cushioning beads, or pellets for packaging.
Non-foam forms of polystyrene are used for soft consumer products like test tubes or certain drink lids.
Polypropylene is a thermoplastic that is low friction and more resistant to solvents, chemicals, acids, and bases than most plastics. As such, it is used to make automotive components, various textiles (e.g. diapers, thermal underwear, sanitary pads), electrical insulators, carpet, and some types of rope, stationary, laboratory equipment, and more. This plastic’s ease of manufacturing is another factor contributing to its popularity.
A common synthetic plastic is Delrin, which is also known by the names polyoxymethylene (POM), polyformaldehyde, polyacetal, and acetal. Delrin is characterized by extremely high strength, rigidity, and hardness (due to a simple molecular chain structure). With these qualities, it is often used as a metal substitute and is used to fabricate precision automotive and construction parts, as well products like small gear wheels, ball bearings, eyeglass frames, fasteners, and lock system components. Acetal is sometimes described as a “bridge” type of plastic that occupies a special position between average plastics and metals.
PVC, or polyvinyl chloride (mostly known in North America as vinyl) is the third-most widely produced synthetic plastic polymer in the world. Consisting mostly of chlorine converted from industrial salt (57%) and carbon derived from petroleum using ethylene (43%), it is available in both flexible and rigid forms both of which are very popular in their own right. Flexible PVC is made possible through the addition of plasticizers and is often used in electrical cable insulation, plumbing, imitation leather, inflatables, and in many applications as a rubber substitute. Rigid PVC (RPVC) is used to create bottles, non-food packaging, plastic cards, construction components like pipes, and door and window profiles. Clear plastic wrap (used for food packaging) is, in all likelihood, the most familiar form of PVC to average consumers.
Acrylic, or poly methyl methacrylate (more commonly known as Plexiglass) is a transparent thermoplastic frequently used in sheet form as a glass substitute. Shatter-proof acrylic plastic, (also known as acrylic glass) is used to create many necessarily strong products, such as bullet-proof security barriers and glass, skylights, rear lights and instrument clusters for automobiles, bathtubs, signs and displays, and LCD screens.
Plastics in the polycarbonate family are simply thermoplastic polymers that contain carbonate groups in their chemical structures. Generically, a plastic in this group can simply be called polycarbonate. Polycarbonates are noted for possessing high impact strength in comparison with other plastics. Additionally, polycarbonates are known to have good heat and flame resistance and to be good electrical insulators. Manufacturers mainly use them to produce electrical components, construction materials, aircraft and automobile parts, security components and personal security apparel, including riot gear, sunglasses, swim goggles, scuba masks, and safety glasses.
Epoxy resins or epoxies are the most widely used type of thermoset resins. They are valued for their high strength and chemical resistance. Both of these properties are behind epoxies’ common use as sealing mechanisms. For example, flooring and airline companies highly value epoxies (for adhesive purposes and sealing aircraft components, respectively) because of their waterproof and chemical proof characteristics.
Plastic materials are highly valued for a variety of reasons. Efficiency is an appropriate term to convey many of plastic’s beneficial characteristics. This synthetic material is capable of being manipulated or shaped into any configuration possible. In addition to its customizability and versatility, plastic is a light, strong, and durable material that very inexpensive. Furthermore, plastic is generally impervious to environmental breakdown and safer to handle than metal or wooden counterparts. Because of these numerous benefits, plastic is more favorable on many counts than other materials.
In terms of economic history, the “plastics revolution” has marked a watershed in human development. In the past, the economic potential of individuals and societies as a whole was severely bounded by the availability of natural resources that were directly attainable. With the invention of plastic, humans discovered the ability to create a completely new resource at a much lower cost than traditional sources and methods. The universal adoption of plastic has enabled consumers worldwide to share in a level of material wealth unknown to previous societies.
If the right processes are implemented and implemented well, plastic materials can be turned into countless invaluable products in every industry – including aerospace, food processing, automotive, medical, industrial, packaging and water treatment (to name only a few). In fact, plastics have virtually replaced naturally occurring resins across every sector of global commerce.
Some types of plastics are better suited for specific industries. For example, although thermosetting resins are not as popular as thermoplastics, they are useful for heatproof applications such as coffee mugs. Another example of industry-specific resin usage can be found in the food industry. Plastic resins used in this field require high chemical and temperature resistance. Thus, materials such as PET (which has high moisture resistance) are used for applications such as water bottles.