This last April, British environmentalist and adventurer David de Rothschild set sail in a catamaran he had constructed entirely from recycled PET bottles. As a statement to the growing global problem of ocean pollution and the need for higher recycling standards, de Rothschild planned to sail to what Planet Green Bottle calls ‘Plastic Soup’, a floating mass of plastic waste nearly the size of Texas suspended in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. This British adventure-seeker may have found the most creative way yet to call attention to this pending environmental risk, but plastic engineers and manufacturers have been working towards a solution in more conventional ways for many years. Polyethylene terephthalate, or ‘PET’, is a petroleum-based resin and may be broken down and recycled almost indefinitely. The addition of dies, fiberglass and other composite materials reduce PET’s recyclability, but the majority of PET materials, such as the beverage bottles out of which Mr. de Rothschild constructed his boat, are recycled at a cost relative or lower than that of purchasing virgin materials. Still, many water bottles, soda bottles and other beverage containers never make it to the recycling bin, ending up in landfills, or worse: the Pacific’s Plastic Soup.
Few materials influence our daily lives more than plastic. As consumers, we don’t often stop to think about how a huge percent of the objects we use are made from plastic. In my office alone I count 32 individual plastic objects – and that’s not counting my pencils, pens and binders. Plastic manufacturers, however, must be acutely aware of the vast range of plastic materials and applications, as they are constantly designing and fine tuning new products with specific shape, strength, transparency and chemical properties. With the countless number of products – from disposable packaging to critical automotive parts – that can be made from plastic, it’s no wonder there are such a wide range of plastic materials, all with a very distinct set of properties. Understanding the difference between, say, polyethylene and polyvinyl chloride is crucial for engineering products that will withstand their environments. Acrylic could never provide the strength and structural support of PVC, but polyvinyl chloride would be a clumsy and unattractive replacement to acrylic point of purchase displays. Let’s take a look at the most important polymer types and their properties.
Vacuum forming is a simpler process than injection molding, involving less equipment for the production of parts and requiring less tooling. Vacuum forming companies offer services that are economical yet still give customers the desired design flexibility for a wide range of plastic products because of low-cost tooling modifications. If you are looking for a cost-effective process for creating three-dimensional plastic products with sharp, precise details plus the option for trim and other visually appealing decoration, vacuum forming might just be the ticket. Known as a thermoforming process because it utilizes heat to make the plastic sheet or film pliable enough to form over and around a mold, vacuum forming serves industries such as food, cosmetics, medical, electronics, consumer products, toys, athletic equipment, appliance, automotive, office supplies, etc. The packaging industry deserves a separate mention because it relies heavily on vacuum formed items such as blister packs, inserts, trays and clamshells, all of which act to hold products in place as part of overall packaging protection, plus offer aesthetic appeal.
Have you ever ordered hundreds of feet of rubber tubing or hose and then discovered it wasn’t right for your application? Did you experience downtime while you waited for a replacement? Additional costs? The boss’s anger? A headache? The buying errors and their solution listed below were developed to help avoid this situation…