Many different construction materials are used today for making everything from houses to cars to appliances to kids’ toys, and some of them date back to antiquity or further. Concrete can be used as sidewalks or house foundations, among other uses, and glass is used to make windows and lenses of all sorts. Metal is essential for larger buildings and making cars and electronic goods, and wood is used for furniture and the handles of some tools. Plastic, meanwhile, is a relatively new material but has already found its way into nearly every industry there is. Plastic cannot literally be used for everything, as plastics and polyurethane have their limitations. Still, these materials are produced in vast amounts per year and can be used to make a staggering variety of goods. Such plastic is made with the encapsulation molding process, and that encapsulation molding process may be polyurethane injection molding in particular for some industries. Such encapsulation molding allows manufacturers to make goods of a particular shape and dimension in vast quantities, and encapsulation molding allows many casings for electronic devices or plastic kids’ toys to be made.
Making That Plastic
Plastic is not mined out of the ground or harvested from a forest. Rather, plastics such as polyurethane are made in factories, and encapsulation molding is used to shape that liquid, hot plastic into particular shapes to make finished goods. In particular, reaction injection molding, or RIM, is the process that allows polyurethane goods to be made. During this process, two different liquid components are mixed together and injected into a mold. This encapsulation molding method allows the compounds to chemically react, fill the mold, and cool and cure into a finished product. Mass production of nearly plastic item is possible that way. A lot of pressure is needed to do this; when those liquid components are mixed, the machine may create as much pressure as 1,500 to 3,000 psi to blend those plastics with impingement.
Finished goods made this way may have wall thickness as little as one eighth of an inch in many cases, though some products may have walls as thick as 0.5 inches if need be. Meanwhile, all RIM products will have microcellular systems in their material, and cells can be as tiny as 0.001 inches across. A microscope will be needed to observe them. Overall, this makes for a quite impressive industry around the world, and the United States in particular is making a lot of plastic. In 2015, for example, American plastic generation came out to 34.5 million tons, and the containers and packaging industry is the single largest user of that plastic. That year in 2015, some 14 million tons of plastic was dedicated to containers and packaging.
Use and Reuse Plastic
What is plastic good for? In short, a lot. While plastic has not fully replaced all other products since wood, glass, or metal can endure some extremes that plastic cannot, this material has many advantages. Plastic is tough but very light, much lighter than metal or glass and won’t shatter or crack as easily as glass, for example. While many applications still call for metal, such as cars or printed circuit boards or skyscraper construction, and windows are still made of glass, plastic has plenty of use. It is typically the casing for most electronic goods ranging from laptops to TV remote controls to game consoles, and plastic is also useful for making kids’ toys. Plastic is also widely used to make beverage bottles, commercial liquids containers (such as for household cleaners or car oil) and for food leftovers containers. After all, plastic is lightweight, doesn’t break easily when dropped, and is leak-proof, making it ideal for using as liquid and food containers. Plastic bottles can be molded into any shape necessary and may also have handles and screw-on caps.
Plastic can and often is recycled, which helps reduce pollution and is resource-efficient. Plastics, when melted down at a recycling center, can be remade into nearly anything, such as plastic timbers. These timbers take the place of wooden ones in some cases, such as making park benches or some components in kids’ playgrounds or even landscaping. Better yet, plastic timbers aren’t harmed by water and aren’t as easily vandalized as wooden ones.