Summary

Overview

From the initial development of plastics and particularly since the last half of the 20th century one can say it was extremely spectacular based on its growth rate but more important on how they have helped worldwide. The plastic industry is a worldwide multi-billion dollar business. Exciting discoveries and inventions have given the field of plastic products vitality. In a society that never stands still, plastics are vital components in its increased mobility.

Plastics surpassed steel on a volume basis about 1983 and by the start of this century plastics surpassed steel on a weight basis (Fig. 8.1). Plastics and a few other materials as shown in Fig. 8.1 represent about 10wt% of all materials consumed worldwide. The two major and important materials consumed arc wood and construction or nonmetallic earthen (stone, clay, concrete, glass, etc.). Volumewise wood and construction materials each approach about 70 billion ft3 (2 billion m3). Each represents about 45% of the total consumption of all materials.

A continuous flow of new materials, new processing technologies (Chapter 1), and product design approaches has led the industry into profitable applications unknown or not possible in the past. What is ahead will be even more spectacular based on the continuous new development programs in materials, processes, and design approaches that are always on the horizon to meet the continuing new worldwide industry product challenges.

As an example the University of Massachusetts Lowell received patents pertaining to a method of bonding plastic components developed by Avaya, Inc., a Basking Ridge, NJ based provider of corporate net-

Estimated plastic consumption through year 2020

200 x 103

10 x 10

1 x10J

200 x 103

10 x 10

1 x10J

1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1940 1990 2000

Year

1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1940 1990 2000

Year working solutions and services. Reportedly valued at about $23 million, the patented technology was developed in the early 1990s for the highspeed bonding of thermoplastic parts, and has been used to assemble millions of telephones, etc. The University plans to license the technology to others for use in a wide range of commercial applications. UMass-Lowell also will commit resources to further develop the technology and incorporate it into the school's curriculum and design solutions.

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