Have you ever wondered what these polymers are and what makes them so unique and often spoken about? If you are curious to learn more about polymers, then you just found the right article. We will share with you what polymers are, polymer manufacturing process and polymer products around you.
What Are Polymers?
When molecules join in a repeated pattern to form a long chain of molecules, the resultant material is called a polymer. Polymers have varying properties that are distinct from one group to another, depending on the nature of the molecules being bonded.
Some polymers are capable of bending and stretching (like rubber), while others are stiff and tough like glass. Everyday polymer products that we see every day include water bottles, car tires, stationaries, plastics, toys, and even ropes.
Some other applications of polymers are in the manufacture of drainage/sewage pipes and as insulators for electric cables.
How Are Polymers Produced?
The polymer production process is quite interesting as it involves the bonding or joining of small molecules called monomers.
The chemical reaction process that joins these monomers together is called polymerization. Some polymers occur naturally, while others are artificial. A typical example of a natural polymer is rubber, while plastics are man-made polymers.
Over the years, the process polymer manufacturing has evolved – thanks to modern technology and expertise! Thermoplastic manufacturers no longer require extended work time to churn out vast amounts of polymer products.
The most consumed type of polymer is thermoplastic, a synthetic polymer that can be melted and reused. Another product of polymerization is the thermoset – unlike thermoplastics, thermosets get degraded when heated.
During the thermoplastic manufacturing process, a lot of consideration goes into what properties are desired from the resultant products. These properties include:
- Melting points;
- Impact resistance,
- Chemical resistance.
After polymerization, the next critical stage in the polymer manufacturing is forming and molding.
During molding, the molten polymer is poured or injected into a mold where it’s given shape. This is where polymer products are also cut into different sizes and designs; either simple or complex designs.
Think of plastic molding as placing liquid polymer into a mold, and using different ranges of temperature and heat to give shape to the polymer.
Depending on the nature of the items being produced, there are different types of molding techniques that polymer manufacturing companies use. They include rotational molding, injection molding, blow molding, and compression molding.
Rotational molding is suitable for manufacturing sizeable hollow plastic products like storage tanks, car parts, pet houses, recycling bins, road cones, kayak hulls, and playground slides.
Common applications of injection molding are in the making of car parts, bumpers, medical devices, surgical equipment, plastic bottle caps, and electrical switches.
Blow molding is suitable for making hollow, thin-walled, custom plastic parts like bottles, plastic drums, traffic cones, and fuel tanks.
Compression molding is mainly used in making small plastic parts that are needed in high volume.
Plastic forming is another interesting aspect of plastic processing. Recall that in traditional molding, the polymer has to be in either liquid or semi-liquid state. In plastic forming, the polymer material only needs to be soft and pliable enough to be formed into any desired form.
Polymer Manufacturing Companies
In recent years, there’s been a high demand for polymer products all over the globe. This increasing demand has opened vistas for thermoplastic manufacturers, especially in North America.
Being the third-largest manufacturing industry in the United States, the plastics manufacturing industry boasts of high production volume with a record of about 55 metric tons in 2012.