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Plastics is a generic name for a large group of synthetic or semi-synthetic materials made of large hydrocarbon chains; molecules structured around a skeleton of carbon atoms.
The potential variations are almost endlessly large for how these chains can be structured, and each variant, depending on its structure, gets special properties that distinguish it from other plastics. This breadth of variation makes plastics extremely useful in our modern society.
Plastics are primarily divided up into two main groups, thermoplastics and thermosets. The definition of a thermoset is that it cannot be melted or transformed after curing without being destroyed. Thermoplastics are defined as plastics that become plastic when heated up and that can be transformed between a solid state and a plastic state several times. When it comes to specific properties and advantages, both types differ from one another. The strengths of thermosets include excellent material properties with regard to mechanical strength, heat resistance and chemical resistance. The main advantages of thermoplastic include superior cost-efficiency and processability suitable for mass production. There has been a desire in the plastics industry for a long time to be able to combine the advantages of both these types of plastics and thus creating a solution that combines excellent material properties with an attractive price and high processability. Nexam Chemical's innovations and value offers for users of its technology and products are directly linked to the ability to convert thermoplastics into thermosets.
The term "plastics" comes from the fact that all plastics can be made liquid or "plastic" during production. The word plastic comes from the Greek "plastikos", which means suitable for moulding.
The history of plastics is longer than many people think. The first attempt to produce an artificial material was made as early as 1530. In the beginning of the 1860s, the first artificial plastic material that could be used in practice was developed, but it was not until the 1920s that a plastics industry based on thermosets began to emerge. During World War Two, the shortage of resources and the need for new products spurred the development of many new plastics. What these new plastics had in common was that they were thermoplastics, in other words, plastics that after being made into a part can be melted down again and reused. New raw materials in the form of oil and gas began to replace the traditional ones, which were coal and cellulose. This resulted in plastics becoming cheaper to produce, which led to increasing use on a large scale. In the 1960s, polyethylene and polypropylene were introduced, which are our largest commodity plastics at this time.