Modern plastics have been revolutionising the world for over 100 years. The first modern plastic, bakelite, was invented in 1909 and led the way to a whole family of plastics but it wasn’t until the late 1950s that improvements in the manufacturing process brought the cost of production down dramatically and paved the way for cheap mass production of plastic. Plastic quickly caught on as an immensely useful material due to its toughness, low weight, transparency and its naturally waterproof properties.
You’d struggle to find a home in the developed world totally devoid of plastic, but how exactly is plastic produced?
Whilst plastics can be made out of a variety of organic materials such as coal, natural gas, salt or plant cellulose, the vast majority of plastic starts its life as crude oil. Crude oil is a complex mixture of thousands of compounds found in sealed, deep underground caverns. Only a few of these compounds are useful in the production of plastic so the crude oil must be sent to an oil refinery. Here a process called Fractional Distillation is used to separate the compounds into ‘fractions’ utilising the distinct boiling points of the compounds. One of these fractions, naphtha, is a crucial compound in the production of plastics and can also commonly be found in petroleum-based lighters.
Once the fractions have been separated out they can be extracted, mixed and chemically processed to make hydrocarbon monomers and other carbon monomers. After this, the monomers carry out polymerisation reactions to produce polymer resins which are further processed to include dyes or flame-retardant chemicals. The final product is usually pellets which can be further melted down and moulded.
Plastic extruders such as Euro Extrusions take the pellets and put them through a process known as extrusion. During extrusion pellets are mixed and heated in a long chamber, forced through a small opening and subsequently cooled with water or air. This method results in plastic sheet or films which can then be used in vacuum formers or thermo-formers to create plastic products such as blister packs, food trays, carrier trays, point of sale displays and many more.
Vacuum forming and thermoforming is a process whereby a plastic film or sheet is heated up until its malleable and lowered onto a positive mould. Air is then forced out from under the mould through small holes until there is no air gap in-between the plastic and mould – thus the term ‘vacuum forming’.
The resulting products are then cooled, trimmed, filled (if appropriate), sealed with further plastic or foil and sent to market.
Euro Extrusions Ltd. is a leading plastic extruder and supplier of both thermoplastic sheet and film. Euro Extrusions’ decades of combined experience and knowledge is backed up by its ISO 9001:2015 certification.
Based in Great Harwood, Lancashire, Euro Extrusions has the capability to create roll and sheet high impact polystyrene (HIPS) and a range of other plastic film and sheet. Euro Extrusions Ltd produces both virgin and recycled plastic sheet and film in an effort to reduce its environmental impact and offers customers the ability to recycle their own waste plastic.
To find out more about Euro Extrusions’ products and services, including their HIPS sheet and HIPS film, speak to the team on 01254 886 662 or contact them by clicking here.