From the bottles and packaging that hold food to the clothes people wear and the furniture inside homes, plastics are frequently used. Because of the versatility and flexibility of plastics, almost every industry has adopted this material for producing various goods. Here’s how plastic is made.
Ingredients. Plastics are basically made from monomers, which are atoms that form long lines of molecules that are called polymers. The monomers are derived from various natural ingredients, ranging from sap to oil. In the past, celluloid was the most common type of plastic and was derived from the sap of certain trees. Today, however, petrochemicals from oil are the most commonly used sources of plastic. Petroleum from oil reserves are drilled and then refined.
Refining. There are plenty of products that are derived from petrochemicals, such as propane and ethane. These two products are the basic substances in oil that are used to create plastic. The propane and the ethane are placed in furnaces with high temperatures in order to break down the substances. Afterwards, the broken down substances are placed in a reactor, where the two substances are combined with catalysts that create polymers in powder form. These polymers are called fluff. The fluff is then mixed with additives to create the desired quality for the plastics. For example, some plastics are meant to be heat resistant while others are meant to be cold resistant.
Melting. After the fluff has been prepared, the next step is to place the fluff in an extruder that melts the fluff into blocks of plastic. These blocks of plastic are then cut into small pieces or pellets that are later on shipped to various industries that need the plastic.
Molding. The pellets are then molded into whatever shapes are needed. This is what makes plastics very useful, since they can be transformed into almost any type of shape. Plastics are flexible enough to be injected into thin molds to make plastic bottles. Plastics can also be transformed into microwave resistant plastics by mixing the fluff with other additives. The plastics can also be softened or hardened, made lighter or heavier, made more flexible or brittle, and almost every other attribute that can be thought of.
Extrusion. One of the common types of molding for plastics is through extrusion, in which hot plastic is forced into a die that holds the desired shape. Afterwards, the mold is then moved in a conveyor belt where cold air or water is used to cool down the plastic pipes, sheets, and films are all made through extrusion.
Injection and blow molding. In injection molding, semi fluid heated plastics are forced into molds using high pressure. The plastic are only semi fluid, which means that they harden quickly. This makes injection molding suitable for mass production of heavy plastic objects such as cups and toys. In blow molding, air pressure is directed at dollops of plastic in a hollow mold. The pressure forces the plastic to spread on the mold, forming hollow objects such as gallon containers and milk bottles.
Inexpensive and highly versatile, plastics are now one of the most commonly used materials in the planet. Although plastics are highly indispensable, however, it is important to note that plastics are non-biodegradable, which is why plastics should be recycled.