Plastics are obtained from organic products. Materials such as cellulose, coal, natural gas, salt and of course crude oil used in plastic production are natural products.
Crude oil is a complex mixture of thousands of components. To be useful, it must be processed.
Plastic production begins with the distillation process that takes place in an oil refinery.
In the distillation process, the work of separating the heavy crude oil into lighter groups called fractions is done. Each fraction is a mixture of hydrocarbon chains (chemical compounds made of carbon and hydrogen), differing in molecular size and structure. Naphtha, one of these fractions, is an extremely important element in plastic production.
Polymerization and polycondensation processes, which require certain catalysts, are the two main processes used in the manufacture of plastics. Monomers such as ethylene and propylene are linked together in the polymerization reactor to form long polymer chains. Depending on the type of monomer used, each polymer type has its own characteristics, structure and size.
Since there are many different types of plastics, they can be grouped under two main series of polymers:
Thermoplastics (melt when exposed to heat and harden again when cooled)
Thermosets (cannot be remelted after molding)
Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene – ABS
Polycarbonate - PC
Polyethylene - PE
Polyethylene terephthalate - PET
Polyvinylchloride - PVC
Polymethylmethacrylate - PMMA
Polypropylene - PP
Polystyrene - PS
Expanded Polystyrene - EPS
Polytetrafluoroethylene - PTFE
Unsaturated polyester resins (UP)
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