Plastic, synthetic material, thermoplastics - our topic today has many names and forms, but enjoys a more than bad reputation. So it makes sense to take a detailed look at the topic in a blog post. Because if the manufacturing industry regularly proves something unequivocally, it is the fact that one does not allow oneself to be undermined by a bad reputation and negative reporting. Dieselgate and the Bosch disaster are just the latest examples of an easily expandable list of misdemeanors that would probably have long since led to nationalization in any other industry. So why not take on board the scourge of environmental sustainability that currently dominates and explore ways of integrating plastics even more closely into industrial production? It can't get any worse in terms of publicity anyway, can it?
Is plastic the metal of the future?
Despite all the prophecies of doom and exaggerations, the attempt to replace metal with technical thermoplastics or high-performance plastics is an understandable development. Let's just look at some of the advantages, such as the fact that plastic is lighter in weight, which makes it easier to handle and reduces transport costs for parts and raw materials. High performance resins also offer corrosion, chemical and rust resistance, reducing the need for secondary coatings and sprays. UV-resistant properties also ensure long product life. Over the last few years, plastics production technology has evolved to such an extent that more and more products can meet the mechanical requirements of metal parts. Here are some polymers that will certainly influence the future of manufacturing.
Bioplastics and synthetic composite materials
Innovations in processes for the use of enzymes and catalysts are making it increasingly possible to transform renewable raw materials such as biogas into the most important building blocks for the production of plastics and synthetic rubbers. These substances are sustainable because they conserve fossil resources. However, this only partially solves the problem. As long as these substances are not biodegradable, they still pose a problem for the environment.
Plastic composites are another category. These are materials that have been supplemented with various fibres to make them stronger or more elastic. For example, you can make a polymer stronger by embedding carbon fibers, which results in a lightweight material that is ideal for modern, fuel-efficient transport.
Intelligent and reactive polymers
Gels and synthetic rubbers can easily adjust their shape in response to external stimulation so that they can respond to changes in their environment. For example, the external stimulus may be a change in temperature or acidity/alkalinity, light, ultrasound, or a chemical reaction. This is proving extremely useful in the development of intelligent materials for sensors, drug delivery devices and many other applications. The natural ability of a polymer to react to such stimuli can also be significantly enhanced. Mechanophores, for example, are molecular units that can alter the properties of a polymer when exposed to mechanical forces.