What is Plastic?

Plastics are a wide-range of polymer-based materials that are lightweight, durable, flexible, typically inexpensive to produce, and easily molded, extruded, or pressed into various shapes. There are different types of plastic, categorized by their structure, how they respond to heat, and whether they are naturally- or synthetically-derived.

  • Structure: Plastics can be categorized by how their monomers are structured, and which monomers are used. For instance, polyester, polyethylene, and polyurethane are polymers created by repeating different monomers.
  • Response to Heat: Plastics are placed in two different categories, based on how they respond to heat. If the plastic softens when heated, it is a thermoplastic. If it does not soften, it is a thermoset – these plastics never soften after their initial molding.
  • Natural vs Synthetic Plastic: Natural plastics are derived from plants, animals, or renewable materials, such as corn, cotton, or cellulose. Synthetic plastics, on the other hand, are derived from fossil fuel-based chemicals, such as natural gas or petroleum.

Plastic is made through polymerization in chemical plants. Petroleum, natural gas, or crude oil go through a process called fractional distillation to produce hydrocarbons. The hydrocarbons then undergo polymerization and receive additives for color, stability, and/or additional plasticity. Finally, the material is shaped by injection molding, blow molding, extrusion, or calendaring.

There are many uses for plastic, depending on the additives and other properties. Uses include:

  • Clothing, such as nylon or polyester
  • Packaging, such as bottles, bubble wrap, or containers
  • Construction, such as piping, insulation, paints, or roofing
  • Automotive parts
  • Epoxy resin
  • Fiberglass
  • Electrical cables

We provide a range of flexible plastic extrusions and moldings to meet the requirements of a wide range of industries and applications. Contact us today to discuss your project requirements.

NW Rubber Extruders