The word plastic originates from ‘plastikos’ which means to mold in Greek. The capability to preserve deformation, after the removal of the load that produced this deformation, is called Plasticity, as we saw in The Properties of Metals. Before the use of synthetic plastic materials, translucent slices of animal horns were used for lantern windows. The Palaquium Gutta tree possessed latex called gutta-percha, which was used extensively for cable insulation. The lac bug’s secretion called shellac was also used. The first synthetic plastic was developed by John Wesley Hyatt. It was a cheap replacement for ivory. Created from plant cellulose, it was named Celluloid and patented in 1869. John Wesley Hyatt (1837 – 1920) Leo Henricus Arthur Baekeland founded the modern plastic industry by developing a material named Bakelite. The first completely synthetic plastic material. It was created from phenol-formaldehyde. It is quite brittle and generally used with mica, asbestos or wood flour as filler material. Generally employed in electrical moldings, wire insulation, brake pads etc. Leo Baekeland (1863 – 1944) However, nowadays the word plastics has become a generic name used to define carbon polymers (molecules with long chains), whether synthetic or natural, that can take any shape by being cast, pressed or molded. They can also be employed as fibers when elongated into filaments. Thermoplastic and Thermosetting compositions are two important groups of plastics but Elastomers, which are synthetic rubbers, are also accepted as a component of the plastic industry. Thermoplastic materials become soft and malleable when heated, hence their prefix thermo- (which is Greek for heat), but in contrast they are hard in their normal state. Thermoplastic materials moldable and they can be given any desired shape when softened. Once cooled, they preserve their new shape. This procedure can be applied again and again as long as their heat limit isn’t exceeded. Aircraft wi
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