Plastics are everywhere. From our dinnerware to our medical equipment, many of the items we use daily are made out of plastic. And yet, despite the ubiquity of plastic, very few people seem to know how they’re made. While there are different types of plastics, they are all generally produced through the same method.
Plastics are made out of raw materials
Believe it or not, but all plastic is made from natural, raw materials. These include natural gas, coal, salt, cellulose, oil, and more. The type of raw materials you use will depend on the type of plastic you intend to produce. In general, synthetic plastics use oil, natural gas, or coal; biobased plastics use starch, vegetable fats and oils, carbohydrates, and other organic substances.
The refining process
Once you have the appropriate materials on hand, it’s time to combine and refine them to create monomers. Monomers are individual molecules that group together to make up polymers. In other words, they’re the building blocks of plastic.
Once you have your monomers, they must be combined to create a polymer. This process is called polymerization. There are two types of polymerization: addition reactions and condensation reactions. Addition reactions are where one monomer links up with the next by using a catalyst, typically peroxide. Condensation reactions, meanwhile, involve joining the different monomers by removing another molecule, typically water.
Compounding and Processing
The final step involves compounding and processing. This is where the materials are melted, fed into a pipe, and allowed to cool. The cooled plastic is then cut into small pellets, which will then be melted and molded into whatever object you desire.
To learn more about the process of making plastics, contact Piper Plastics today.