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Lecture 9

Polymeric Materials(CH 7)
Date 15-9-2014

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Learning objectives
Learning objectives

To understand the differences between

thermoplastic and thermosetting plastics.
To become familiar with the properties of different
types of plastic, and know what each is typically
used for.
To be aware of the origins of plastics and with the
range of industrial processes used to manufacture
plastic products.

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What is Polymer?????
Long chain molecule, often
based on organic chemical
building blocks (monomers)
Long molecules (Mw ~100,000)
have solid-like properties
The chain may be amorphous
(no regular structure), crystalline
(a regular repeating structure),
Dendrimers and oligomers have
different properties
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‘Building’ methods

• Chain (addition) • Step (condensation)

• Example – polyethylene (PE) • Example – poly(ethylene

from ethylene terephthalate) (PET) from
• Small number of reacting chains terephthalic acid and ethylene
at any one time, which can grow glycol
into long molecules prior to • Endgroups react to build the
termination chain; long reaction times needed
• Long reaction times needed to to achieve high polymer eg H2o
achieve high conversions removed during condensation eg

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Homopolymers and copolymers

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Homopolymers and copolymers

Random Copolymer where different unit

randomly distributed
Alternating units arrranged alternatively
Block A groups of same units are
alternatively arranged.
Graft: Appendages (long line)of one type of
monomer are grafted to the long chain of

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Multiphase systems

Dispersed lamellae, cylinders, spheres

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. Why do we use polymers?
Compete well on a strength/weight
Easy to form into 3D shapes
Creep under load is usually poor; this
behavior is usually corrected by adding
fillers or fibers
Low corrosion in the environment
compared to metals
Generally good solvent

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Types of Polymeric Materials
thermosetting The word
thermoplastic. What does
‘plastic’ the
word ‘plastic’
‘easily shaped
Thermoplastic :
or mean?
Formed by heat

Soften when heated

Made of long
polymer chains
with few cross links

Can be reheated
and reshaped
Mostly recyclable
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Thermosetting :

Initially set by heat

Consist of polymer Cannot be

chains with strong reshaped once set
bonds between
each chain

Strong and durable Common in powder

or resin forms

What items do you have in your possession that are

made of plastic? Are they made from thermoplastic
or thermosetting plastics?
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Plolymeric Materials
Thermoplastic plastics are made of long chains of polymers
which don’t cross over very often. When heated, the molecules
slip easily over one another.
Thermosetting plastics also have lots of long chain molecules,
but there are links between them. These cross links prevent the
molecules from moving over one another.

individual monomer molecule individual monomer molecule

Which of these diagrams depicts a thermoplastic
and which depicts a thermosetting plastic?
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The majority of common plastics are thermoplastics.

Thermoplastics can be heated and reshaped because of the
ways in which the molecules are joined together.
This can be repeated many times (as long as no damage is
caused by overheating).


Harden Soften


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Thermosetting plastics are those which are set with heat and
have little elasticity. Once set, they cannot be reheated and
They are heated and moulded Burn
during manufacture.
Once cooled, they will not
soften again when heated.
This breaks the potentially
unending cycle that Harden Soften
thermoplastic plastics are
capable of.
If heated too much, they burn. Cool

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Thermosetting plastics

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Uses of plastics (thermoplastics)
Here are some common products made from thermoplastics. Can
you say which type of thermoplastic each one is made of?

Polystyrene High density

Polypropylene polythene Low density polythene

Why do thermoplastics make good materials for
What other usesthese
do these thermoplastics have?
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Uses of plastics (thermosets)

Thermosets have different qualities to thermoplastics. Can you

say which thermoset each of these products is made from?

resin Phenol
formaldehyde Urea


Why are thermosets good materials for these

What other uses do these thermosets have?
particular products?
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Working with plastics – considerations

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Why do we use plastics?
Think of five reasons why we use plastics. How many of
them are mentioned below?

They are soft to the touch.

They can be
shaped into very
complex shapes.

They are tough and durable.

They are strong.

They are light in weight.
They can be shaped easily,
quickly and cheaply.

They are available in a large range of colours.

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Early and modern Plymeric materials

Polymeric materials were first used at around

Polymers can occur naturally in trees or even milk;
amber is an example (a resin from trees and
insects). Amber was used by early Egyptians to make
jewellery and is still used for this purpose today.
Today, numerous different Polymers are
available. Some are still made from natural
materials but most modern plastics are
manufactured from chemicals obtained
from crude oil. Polymers manufacturers
convert chemicals into plastics.

What implications do you think this has for the

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Oil - the raw material for Polymers
We obtain crude oil from
Oil well under ground, either on
land or at sea.

Layers After it has been pumped,

of rock it is heated in a
fractioning tower and
broken down into
Gas chemicals.

Oil The chemicals consist of

nitrogen, carbon,
chlorine, sulfur and water.

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Acrylic is available in
many different colours.

Acrylic is stronger It comes in sheets

than glass, but or as round rods.
scratches easily.

It is also used to
These properties Acrylic can resist the
make many outer
make acrylic ideal weather very well.
cases for toys.
for shop signs.

It can be softened and bent, blown or

twisted into many different shapes.
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Polystyrene foam

Polystyrene foam can be easily shaped and is very light. This

makes it suitable for modelling three-dimensional objects.

Which other uses for polystyrene can you think of?

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Bakelite – a very early plastic

Bakelite was one of the first artificial plastics

and was created in 1909 by Leo Baekeland.
It is used for telephones, radios and electrical

Bakelite is a hard, brittle plastic that

has a natural dark glossy colour.
It resists heat without softening.
It is a good thermal insulator and a
good electrical insulator.
When overheated, it burns and

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Melamine plastics have similar properties to Bakelite.

However, they have the added advantage of being able to be
coloured during processing.

Melamine Urea
formaldehyde formaldehyde

Melamine formaldehyde and urea formaldehyde are two

types of melamine plastics.

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Polyester resin

Polyester resin is a Polyester resin can be

chemical hardener. reinforced with glass fibre.
It will set at room Glass-reinforced polyester resin
temperature. or glass-reinforced plastic
(GRP) is used for making motor
When set, the plastic is stiff,
cycle fairings and boats.
hard and brittle.
When working with it in
large projects, it is advised
to use gloves and a
chemical respirator to
protect yourself from the

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Polymerization Reactions

• Covalent Bonding structure Of an Ethylene

• Covalent Bonding Structure of an activated
Ethylene Molecule.
• General Reaction for the Polymerization of
Polyethylene and degree of Polymerization.

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Processing Of Plastic Materials

•Process used for thermoplastic

1.Injection molding
2.Blow molding and thermoforming

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Vacuum forming
When plastic is used to make a large number of identical
products, industrial processes are used. Specialized
machines are used to mass produce products. Press play
to see a video of the vacuum forming process.

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Injection moulding

What similarities and differences can you identify between

the vacuum forming and injection moulding processes?
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Blow moulding

What similarities and differences can you identify between

the blow moulding and vacuum forming processes?
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Processes Used for thermosetting Materials

•Compression Molding
•Trnsfer Molding
•Injection molding

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Compression moulding

What is the difference between male and female

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moulds? © Boardworks Ltd 2005

Can you think of any other products that are

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manufactured using extrusion? © Boardworks Ltd 2005
Finishing techniques
Plastics have excellent surface qualities. As they are
self-finishing, plastics require little or no surface finish.
However, when designers want a specific colour or texture,
spray paints can be used.
Use wet and dry paper (wet) to smooth the surface down
and create a ‘key’ for the primer to grip to.
Primer is used to create an undercoat to protect the plastic
and provide a good surface finish for the top coat. The
primer should be rubbed down using wet and dry paper
between coats.
Top coat is applied once the primer has completely
hardened. There are different surface textures; gloss, matt
and metallic being the most common. Top coat is applied in
several layers to build up a thick, tough surface layer on the
top of the primer.
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Plastics combined with other materials
Plastics are very useful materials. They are durable, easy to join,
self-finishing, easy to mould and not susceptible to rot or sust.
However, sometimes their properties are enhanced by
combining them with other materials.
Carbon fibre can be added to thermosetting plastics to improve
their strength. Golf clubs, tennis racquets, cycle frames and
fishing rods are made using carbon fibre composite.

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Working with plastics – keywords

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Key points

Plastics can come under the categories of

thermoplastic and thermosetting plastics. Both have
very different properties.
Key points

Most modern plastics are manufactured from

chemicals obtained from crude oil.
Plastic can be shaped or formed using a variety of
industrial processes such as vacuum forming,
injection moulding, blow moulding, line bending,
compression moulding and extrusion.
There are also a number of finishing techniques that
can be used to give a particular colour or texture to a

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