Mr. Spock will walk us through 721 years of “Fascinating” developments and commercial applications which have led to increasingly rapid changes in the plastics industry from 1284 to 2005.
In fact many ancient peoples worldwide used naturally occurring plastics for a range of decorative and functional purposes.
These included materials such as bitumen, amber, waxes, lac and rubbers and especially horns of different types were molded or shaped, some being filled and used as coatings.
1284 The Horners Company was recorded and it was awarded a Royal Charter in 1638. By 1725 London was a major center for molding of horn.
1850s Shellac compounded with wood flour was patented in the USA (S. Peck, J. Critchlow) and molded into union cases, picture frames, etc.
1855 Bois durci was patented by Francois Lepage, being hard dark moldings of albumen or blood with wood flour capable of durable fine replication under heat and pressure.
1880 Phonograph records (Berliner) based on shellac compounds were introduced and continued until PVC was used in the 1950s.
1897 Casein plastics derived from milk patented by Adolph Spitteler (Bavaria). This important material was developed by Erinoid (1909) for a range of pastel and colored items.
1656 John Tredescant introduced gutta percha from the Far Eastern Palaquium ree bark. This produced a hard material moldable by heat to soften and rovide products which proved to have unique properties.
1843 Dr William Montgomerie introduced GP to the Royal Society of Arts and illustrated its molding properties. Excellent electrical and chemical resistances underpinned technical progress, whilst imitation wood mouldings provided artistic outlets. Montgomerie used GP for handles and golf balls which, in 1846, revolutionized the game.
1845 Gutta Percha Co. (C. Hancock, H. Bewley) was founded in London and developed an extrusion process for rods and tubing. Bewley, 1845-50, designed the first extruder for applying GP and rubber insulation to copper cables used in submarine telegraph links. The company became The Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Co. Ltd. (Telcon) which continued manufacturing submarine cable for over a century.
1846 R. and J. Dick Ltd., founded in Glasgow, are still making belting from GP.
1849 The first temporary dental filling compound employed GP.
1851 The Great Exhibition featured over 100 applications of GP.
1730 Charles Marie de la Condamine reported long established rubber uses in the Amazonian basin, e.g. bottles. Imports to Europe developed from his work with Francois Fresneau.
1770 Joseph Priestly (of oxygen fame) gave rubber its name because of its ability to rub out charcoal marks on paper (India Rubber).
1820–43 Thomas Hancock investigated intensively the molding of masticated rubber and its many uses.
1839 Charles Goodyear (USA) revealed vulcanization of rubber with sulphur, allowing formulation variables to provide a wide range of resilience in moldings.
1843 Hancock refined and patented vulcanization, establishing the UK rubber industry with products including boats, springs, hoses and bands. Vulcanite (hard rubber or ebonite) was an important innovation.
1846 Charles Macintosh bought Alexander Parkes’ ‘cold cure’ vulcanization process which allowed production of brightly colored fabrics using organic dyes.
1851 Nelson Goodyear (USA) patented ebonite primary thermosetting material for demanding applications, e.g. battery boxes, pumps, telephones, dental plates and fountain pens.
1861 Francis Shaw introduced the first screw extruder for rubber production.
1920 Peter Schidrowitz prepared prevulcanized latex, leading to the ‘dipped rubber goods’ industry.
1846–68 Alexander Parkes followed Schonbein’s earlier work with detailed studies of nitro-cellulose as a thermoplastic base material. A great stride forward was made with Parkesine molded from doughs to resemble ivory or horn. New products in controlled volume outputs became possible. Over 20 patents were filed. Parkesine was introduced at the 1862 London Exhibition.
1869-70 John Wesley Hyatt (USA) patented Celluloid – a camphor modified cellulose nitrate – a readily moldable material for billiard balls, spectacle frames, photographic film, etc.
1877-84 Extensive legal actions between Hyatt and Spill established Parkes as the true inventor of camphor modified cellulose nitrate. In 1878 J. W. Hyatt was granted US Patent 202441 for injection molding thermoplastics.
1880 Cellulose nitrate combs began to be mass produced by BXL which by the 1890s caused a decline in the crafting of tortoiseshell and horn products. By 1920 celluloid replaced such combs and its use continued until the 1950s.
1887 The Revd. Hannibal Goodwin patented celluloid film for photographic and other uses.
1892 Cross, Bevan and Beadle patented cellulose acetate regenerated from chemically treated wood pulp for fibers and threads. This was followed by Cross and Bevan producing tough, fire resistant thermoplastic products many colours for applications spanning some 50 years.
1905 J. Edwin Brandenberger (USA) invented cellophane used in thin films for fabrics and packaging providing major applications for many years.
1900 J. Kondakov (Ger.) synthesized methyl rubber poly (dimethylbutadiene).
1910 S. V. Lebedev (USSR) produced (BR) rubber from poly (1, 3 butadiene).
1915 Synthetic methyl rubber production began in Leverkusen.
1930 E. Tschunker developed nitrile rubbers (BUNA) produced in 1939 in the USA.
1931 W. Carothers et al (Du Pont USA) produced polychloroprene rubber (Neoprene).
1937 O. Bayer (Ger.) developed urethane rubbers introduced in the same year by R. M. Thomas ((USA).
1939-40 Waldo Semon (Goodrich) developed viable polybutadiene and styrene-butadiene rubbers which made major contributions to World War II.
1943 Silicone polymers were introduced by Dow Corning Corporation following much earlier work by Frederick Kipping on organo-silicon compounds.
1899 Arthur Smith patented phenol-formaldehyde resins to replace ebonite for electrical insulation.
1904 The Fireproof Celluloid Syndicate (later became the Damask Lacquer Co. Ltd. – Sir James Swinburne) developed phenol-formaldehyde lacquers for metal.
1907 Leo Baekeland (USA) formed phenol-formaldehyde resins (p/f) and produced over 100 patents.
1909 Leo Baekeland patents Bakelite, the first major thermoset material to replace wood, ivory, ebonite, etc.
1910 Formica electrical insulation laminate was produced by H. Faber and D O’Conor (USA) using p/f resin impregnated paper plies.
1912 I. Ostromislensky (Russ.) patented the polymerisation of vinyl chloride to give unstable PVC polymer (unstable when not modified).
1913 Klatte produced polyvinyl acetate.
1918 Hans Johns patented urea-formaldehyde resins.
1922 Herman Staudinger (Ger.) proposed long chain molecular structures for polymers and synthesized rubber.
1924-28 Edmund Rossiter developed water-white transparent moldings from thiourea-formaldehyde resins (marketed as Beetle resins from 1928).
1926 The first truly successful commercial injection molding machine was produced in 1926 by Eckert and Ziegler (German Patent 495362).
1927 Otto Rohm (Ger.) developed poly (methyl methacrylate) clear plastic.
1927-37 Wallace Carothers headed major Du Pont team into ‘designed’ macromolecules, e.g. Neoprene rubber introduced in 1931 followed in 1934 with Nylon fiber (Nylon 66; Hill).
1931 Heidrich (Germany) produced the first screw extruder specifically for thermoplastic processing.
1938 Nylon 6 fiber (Schlack, I. G. Farben) commercially produced as Perlon.
1932 J. Crawford, R. Hill, ICI, introduced PMMA – Perspex, followed by others.
1933-40 Henkel patented melamine production for melamine formaldehyde resins. Developed by Ciba, American Cyanamid as basis for molding powders (Melaware) and M-F surfaced laminates (Formica).
1933 W. Semon produced stable PVC polymer (Goodrich).
1933 R. Whiley (Dow) discovered polyvinylidene chloride (Saran).
1933 First injection molded polystyrene articles produced following earlier work by BASF and Dow Chemicals (produced in scale in 1937).
1933 Fawcett and R. O. Gibson (ICI) discovered low density polythene, full commercial production in 1939.
1933 Carlton Ellis patented unsaturated polyester resins, introduced commercially into the USA 1941. (Cold-cured styrenated polyesters introduced in 1946 for fibre reinforced plastics.)
1937 Hans Kellerer (Austria) introduced a fully automatic injection molding machine capable of continuous operation. R. Colombo and C. Pasquetti (Italy) produced the first twin screw extrusion machines.
1938 R. Plunkett (Du Pont) discovered PTFE.
1939 Bayer, I. G. Farben introduced polyurethane systems.
1939 Castan in Ciba (Swiss) produced foundation epoxy resins. 1945 Ciba produced epoxy resins following pre-cursor work by Schlack (Ger.) using bisphenol A/glycidyl ethers.
1940 Du Pont introduced Polyacrylonitrile (PAN) polymer, an early engineering product.
1940 PET – poly(ethylene-terephthalate) synthesized by J. R. Whitfield and J. T. Dickson at Calico Printers Association. ICI Terylene fibres and Melinex films followed (also Dacron and Mylar from Du Pont). In 1977 oriented blow molded drinks containers were launched based on PET polymers and other types, e.g. PBT – poly(butyl-terephthalate).
1947 Formica melamine faced decorative p/f laminates were introduced to the UK.
1953 Karl Ziegler with E. Holzkamp produced high molecular weight, low pressure poly(ethylene) using organo-metallic catalysts; a major step forward.
1953 Drs H. Schnell (Bayer) and D. Fox (General Electric) independently produced polycarbonate pioneering engineering polymer. Industrial production after 1958 provided the basis of optical discs and high impact resistant applications.
1954 Isotactic polypropylene discovered by Guilo Natta, Montecatini, using Ziegler type catalysts. ICI produced ‘Propathene’ used in high volumes for demanding domestic and engineering applications.
1955 Du Pont patented EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate copolymer) with the Elvax range launched in 1960. This is a versatile range of products.
1959 Du Pont launched Delrin – polyformaldehyde polymer based on work under Robert McDonald since 1947. This proved to be a valuable light engineering polymer.
1961-62 Du Pont introduced polyimide films (Kapton) and varnishes and later foams for composite structures. The resins are capable of high insulation, fire resistant and mechanical properties.
1964 Polyphenylene oxide (PPO) polymers were patented by General Electric (USA) and introduced as the Noryl range in 1966. These were widely used as high performance engineering thermoplastics.
1965 Union Carbide, 3M and ICI produced polysulphone thermoplastic engineering polymer.
1965 PEEK – Poly(ether.ether ketone) resistant chemical and engineering polymer produced by ICI.
1966 Fekete et al synthesized vinyl ester polymers (bisphenol A/acrylic variants). Produced by Dow Chemical Co. as the Derakane series.
1961 The First Century of Plastics – Celluloid and its Sequel; Morris Kaufman; (Fundamental landmark publication.)
1962 Paint Technology Manuals series – Oil and Color Chemists Association; Chapman and Halley
1974 The Technology of Adhesives; Delmonte; Reinhold Publishing Corp., (Wide ranging details of many thermoplastic/thermosetting polymers.)
1980 Developments in Reinforced Plastics; ed. G. Pritchard; Applied Science Publishers, 1980. (Reviews of many resin/reinforcement systems.)
1981 Fibre Composite Hybrid Materials; ed. N. L. Hancox; Applied Science Publishers, 1981. (High performance polymers, adhesives and reinforcements etailed for design and moulding of composites for demanding applications, e.g. prosthetics.)
1994 Early Plastics; Sylvia Katz; Shire Publications Ltd., (Illustrated guide to plastics and design.)
1997 Early Plastics – Perspectives 1850-1950, ed. Susan Mossman, Leicester University Press 1997.
1999 ‘Plastics- The Layman’s Guide’ by James Maxwell, IOM Communications Ltd., 1999.
2005 Tears of the Tree; John Loadman; Oxford University Press, (Definitive rubber history and technology.)