Since the early 1900s, the use of plastic materials in a variety of applications has forever changed the way the world's industries produce and manufacture their products and materials. In 1907, Dr. Leo Hendrik Baekeland accidentally created the first plastic material, phenol-formaldehyde, also known as Bakelite. The invention of Bakelite was considered to be the beginning of the Plastic Age, and Dr. Baekeland famously became known as the Father of Plastic.
"The word plastics means capable of being shaped or molded."1 (Granulated plastic molding compound is the base material for molded plastic products. In general, plastic molding compounds are formed when phenol and formaldehyde are mixed, and a filler material is added. As recently as the mid-1980s, asbestos was commonly used as a filler material. Asbestos is known to cause mesothelioma, lung cancer and other asbestos-related diseases. Workers who manufactured plastic molding compound, as well as those who converted plastic molding compounds into hardened plastic products, were exposed to dangerous asbestos fibers.
The industrial molding of plastic allows for the mass production of consumer goods. Plastics are also used in a variety of materials that are not molded, including paints and adhesives. Molded plastic products are the largest single use of plastic materials. Thermosetting compounds and thermoplastic materials are the two general classes of molding compounds typically used to form plastic materials. Thermosetting compounds utilize phenol-formdehyde resins (or plastic compounds) mixed with a filler material, such as asbestos. These compounds are then pressed to shape in heated dies. Thermoplastic materials are plastic compounds that can be heated, cooled and re-heated again.
Plastic materials have come a long way since Bakelite, but the way in which plastic is molded and produced has remained elementally unchanged. Compression molding and injection molding are the two systems typically used to form products from plastic molding compounds. Compression molding is generally used for thermosetting materials, and injection molding is used for thermoplastic materials.
For more information on each process, click below:
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, lung cancer or another asbestos-related disease because you worked with asbestos-containing plastic molding compound, please contact us today.
1 J.H. Dubois, Plastics, (Great Britain: American Technical Society, 1943) 3.