The World of Plastics: From Industrial Plastic to Thermoforming

Industrial Plastic, Thermoforming & More - Seraphim Plastics - Bales of plastic bottles at processing plant behind worker.

Would you agree that the average person’s knowledge of plastic goes no further than acknowledging he uses a lot and throws most of it away? We are convinced that’s the case. We are also pretty sure that the world’s collective perception of plastics would change dramatically if the average person only knew all the details. Suffice it to say there is more to the world of plastics then most people know. A fair amount of people don’t know that there is a difference between post-consumer and post-industrial plastic.

Plastic is arguably the most revolutionary manufacturing material ever created. It revolutionized the industrial revolution itself. And of course, it is our bread and butter. Here at Seraphim Plastics, we make a living by recycling industrial plastic. We buy scrap industrial plastic from customers in seven states, and we sell recycled material as industrial plastic regrind. We would be a company without a business if plastic suddenly went away.

Forget Those Recycling Numbers

The average consumer is familiar with the seven recycling numbers commonly found on plastic products. Forget those numbers. They meant something when they were first introduced some 50 years ago; they are largely meaningless today.

Did you know that there are over 10,000 plastic resins in use today? Each one of them is uniquely designed based on certain characteristics the manufacturer desires. The fact that there are so many only proves just how versatile plastic is.

Plastics Are Based in Nature

Believe it or not, plastics are not entirely synthetic. They have their roots in nature. In fact, the biggest component of plastic, by volume, is oil. That’s right. Plastics are petroleum-based. They are made from the byproducts of oil refining.

Plastics are manufactured by subjecting the petroleum by products to processes that force their molecules to align themselves in long chains of polymers. A few chemicals are added to create plastic resins that are then formed into various materials. Though the process is simple in principle, it can be rather complex in practice.

How Plastic Parts Are Formed with Industrial Plastic

Turning plastic resin into usable parts requires a bit of manipulation. This manipulation is what we refer to as plastics manufacturing. There are more than a dozen different manufacturing processes to work with; here are some of the more common choices:

  • Injection MoldingMelted plastic is forced into a stainless steel mold through injection. It quickly cools and is then ejected from the mold.
  • Rotational Molding – Plastic powder is poured into a mold. The mold is mounted on a rotating frame and placed in an oven. As the plastic heats up and melts, it adheres to the sides of the mold.
  • Vacuum Casting – Liquid plastic is poured into a mold and sealed with urethane or silicone. As a vacuum removes all of the air, the plastic is forced against the sides of the mold to cool and cure.
  • Thermoforming – A thin sheet of plastic is placed over the top of a die and heated. A vacuum then pulls the plastic down over the die so that it can take the necessary shape.

Regardless of how plastic parts are manufactured, the finished products are durable and strong. They are perfectly formed into the intended shape. Finally, they are incredibly lightweight compared to similar parts made with metal.

As a company that specializes in industrial plastic recycling, we have come to appreciate just how important plastic has been to our nation’s manufacturing. To date, no other manufacturing material has proved as valuable. And until something better comes along, plastic will remain the material of choice for most of the world’s manufacturers. If the average person only knew that, our collective perceptions would be different.