Laminating refers to any process of fusing, under heat and pressure, layers of paper that have been impregnated with phenolic resins and melamine. There are two categories of plastic laminate, high-pressure and low-pressure laminate. High-pressure laminates are molded and cured with 1,200 to 2,000 pounds per square inch of pressure. The resulting product is 1/i6 inch thick. High-pressure laminates are used for horizontal surfaces such as countertops and table tops. Low-pressure laminates are molded and cured at a maximum of 400 pounds per square inch of pressure. Low-pressure laminates are Vn inch thick and are used for vertical and low-wear applications.
Foamed plastic, or foaming or expanding, is a process of adding air bubbles within the polymer solution. The bubbles, or the holes left by the bubbles, remain. The result is a cellular structure. Styrofoam is an open-cell foamed product. Closed-cell foamed plastic is more solid and is rigid, but still lightweight. Expanded, closed-cell PVC, most often known by the trade name Sintra, is used to make signs. It is lightweight, resistant to moisture, and easy to shape.
In 1953, polycarbonate was developed almost simultaneously by Dr. Daniel Fox, working for General Electric in the United States, and Dr. Hermann Schnell, working for Bayer in Germany. Dr. Fox was searching for a coating for wire, and his discovery of this exceptionally strong product led to the development of Lexan. This polycarbonate resin is a thermoplastic that combines bisphenol A and carbonyl dichloride. It is produced in sheet form and as a resin to be molded into a number of lightweight, extremely durable products, including sports helmets, computer and cell phone components, and compact discs. Lexan is used by NASA for space helmets and in buildings for bullet resistance and extremely durable domes and glazing.
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Polyethylene Terephthalate (Polyester)
Wallace Caruthers at DuPont was working on the development of the polymer that became known as polyester before he turned his focus to nylon. Building on Caruthers’ work, English scientists John Rex Whinfield and James Tennant Dickson of Imperial Chemical Industries in Britain developed the first polyethylene terephthalate (PET) polyester in 1941. Used initially for fabrics, the earliest polyester in the United States was DuPont’s Dacron. Polyester is used for fibers, resins, and plastics. It can also be used as a plasticizer. Some solid surface countertop material is made from polyester. Polyester has become the primary material for plastic bottles. Plastic bottles made of PET polyester can be recycled, which has resulted in the production of polyester fabrics and carpet fibers made from recycled bottles. Polyester as a fiber is often mixed with other materials. Polyester resin combines with glass fibers to make fiberglass. Alkyd paints are oil modified polyesters.
Developed in the early 1900s as a cellulosic product, and used for such varied items as hairbrushes and film, acetate is combined with other polymers to make fabrics (cellulose acetate) and plumbing pipes (polyvinyl chloride acetate).
Silicone is made from sand or silicon dioxide, and is not carbon based. It is used for gaskets, joint sealants, and elastomeric membrane roofing. Silicone is also used as a water-repellent coating for fabrics. Silicone resists weather, temperature variations, and ultraviolet radiation.