Initially, the things that were made of plastic were considered as cheap and people preferred to use their metal counterparts. However, today, the scenario is very different. The plastics have entered all the parts of our daily life. From computers to automobiles and from cookware to the sports equipment, you cannot deny the use of plastics. Even clothes have some plastic designs on them. So, you can assume how rapidly the industries which manufacture are growing. But wait, do you actually know what these industries do? What are the raw materials used to make plastic and what is the entire Plastic Manufacturing process? Well, go through this article and all your doubts would be cleared.
What are Plastics?
Plastics, when first manufactured, did not appear as we see them today. In fact, the plastics available today are known as synthetic plastics. Earlier on, the horns of the various wild animals, gutta-percha and other things like shellac were used to make plastics. Some of these things were hard, for example, the horns of the animals. In order to use them as plastics, it was required to boil them in water so as to soften them.
The Making of Synthetic Plastics
As far as the synthetic plastics are considered, they are made up of cellulose, which is actually a plant material. It was in the year 1869 that an American inventor named John Wesley Hyatt discovered the use of the cellulose nitrate as a substitute for ivory. Everybody knew that ivory is really expensive and if a cheap substitute is available for that, people got attracted to it very quickly. Later on, with the help of various experiments, it was found that if camphor is added to cellulose nitrate, celluloid can be formed. Then, for years, this cellulose came to be known as the new plastic.
Since then, cellulose was used in the things that are made up of the modern day plastic, such as buttons, billiard balls, dentures, frames and everything. Then, afterwards in the year 1951, polypropylene and polyethylene were studied in greater detail and the modern shape of the plastics was discovered.
The Process of Manufacturing Plastics
Plastics come from petroleum. You might be shocked to know this fact, but it is indeed true. To convert petroleum into the finished plastic, following steps need to be followed:
• By extensive drilling, petroleum is extracted out from the earth and then, it is immediately transported to the refineries.
• Then, the normal petroleum processes are carried out so as to get crude oil, natural gas, propane and many others. The fuel that is used in public transport vehicles is also refined at this stage.
• The ethane and propane that are refined in the previous step are now made to “crack” so as to form ethylene and propylene out of them. Since this process requires very high temperature, it could be carried out only in certain high temperature furnaces.
• Then, a catalyst is used to speed up the reaction, which otherwise would take many years. In a reactor, the ethylene, propylene and the catalyst are added along with the other necessary chemicals. The results of this step would be a polymer in a powdered form. This is known as “fluff” in the industrial terms and when somebody sees it for the first time, he might confuse it with a detergent.
• The fluff would now need to be blended extensively and in eth blender, some other additives might also be put.
• After that, extrusion process is carried out and it would take place in the extruder. The blended polymer has to be carefully transferred to the extruder, so that it melts properly.
• Once the molten stuff is cooled down, it would solidify and as soon as it solidifies, it is made to cut in small pellets so that it gets into a usable form.
• Customers who make products out of plastics are provided with these pellets only.
• To make plastic materials out of these pellets, various other plastic processes might be applied, for example, extrusion, blow modelling, injection modelling and many others.